07 February 2014

We roar onto the stage and too soon we're dead centre

XTC are a long-lasting and habit-forming addiction. At their peak the verve and wit of their spiky, erudite new wave pop brightened the late 1970s and early 1980s, but sadly the prevailing tastes seldom aligned with their deep and enduring talent. They earned five top 40 UK singles at their commercial zenith from 1979 to 1982 - Making Plans For Nigel, Generals And Majors, Towers Of London, Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) and the perfect Senses Working Overtime - plus a solitary return to the charts a decade later in 1992 with The Disappointed. Their highest album chart position was a respectable no.5 for English Settlement in 1982, but if Wikipedia is sufficiently comprehensive their only chart-topping album was 1980's Black Sea, which hit no.1 here in New Zealand (but only no.16 in the UK).

Relations between the band's founders, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, sundered in the 2000s, which means their last album was 2000's Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) and there are unlikely to be any more. When Partridge was interviewed by Popdose in 2009, he summed up the situation fairly definitely: 'We’re going through divorce at the moment. So he’s not my favourite individual, and I’m sure I’m not his ... we just send bad-tempered e-mails to each other at the moment'.

Wasp Star contains a deftly-made batch of tunes with plenty of traditional XTC hooks. Nine of the tracks were Partridge-written, while three came from Moulding's pen including the thrillingly Beatlesque track Standing In For Joe. One of the album's highlights is the Partridge's jaunty philosophising in We're All Light, in which a camouflage of deep and meaningful theories about life disguises, at the heart of the song, a cynical chat-up-line. It's the answer to every question! We're All Light is a proper jangle-pop gem that deserves a much broader audience - not just for Partridge's marvellous vocals and lyrics but also for Chuck Sabo's nimble drumming.
Don't you know
'Pon the pillion of time's bike
We roar onto the stage and too soon we're dead centre
Don't you know
Buffalo Billion's raised his sight
He's picking off the whole herd as soon as we enter
So you won't mind if I kiss you now
And maybe come on in for the night
Don't you know in this new Dark Age
We're all light 
- Andy Partridge, 'We're All Light' 

See also:
Music: Split Enz '79, 24 January 2014
Music: The Selecter - On My Radio, 17 January 2014
Music: Talking Heads '75, 5 July 2013
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