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Friday, November 10th, 2006

The Mayor Of Simpleton

There’s no making sense of XTC’s recent output, so don’t even try. After going on strike against their label for seven years following 1992’s Nonsuch, they released two albums in Apple Venus and Wasp Star, albums of demos for those two albums (Homespun and Homegrown) and then a box set collecting those four records plus a couple new songs (Apple Box). Also released over the past seven years was a career-spanning box set (Coat Of Many Cupboards) as well as a series of demos dubbed Fuzzy Warbles.

Released under Andy Partridge’s name (Colin Moulding chose not to contribute his naked baby photos to the set) but still really XTC in all ways that matter, the original issues were eight individual CDs, released over the past four years and obtainable only as import or via the XTC website so very much for collectors only. But now that the set is complete, it has been collected together as the Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album in a glorious philately-themed box set along with an extra bonus disc and copious liner notes for a total of nine – NINE – CDs of XTC ecstasy.

Keeping in mind that I’ve only waded through maybe just under half of this set, I can say that while there are the requisite number of walkman-fidelity sketches, hissy bedroom throwaways and general goof-offs that are mandatory with sets of this size and nature. But the good material – and there’s a lot of it, ranging from early versions of album tracks to songs that are as good as anything that did make the album cuts – are superb and the overall level of quality is really quite remarkable though not surprising considering Partridge’s perfectionist nature. It’s a bit cliche to say but even Partridge’s castoffs are compositions that a lesser songwriter would give his left arm to have written.

Interestingly, you can’t easily pinpoint from what era each song comes by its sonic signature as Partridge has taken the time to polish up the goods before putting them on display – relics from their early New Wave days could well sit side-by-side with ideas that will appear on the next XTC record or a forthcoming Partridge solo record. It’s a glorious, technicolour pop adventure that’s not turning out to be nearly as overwhelming as I’d feared – though check back with me when I onto disc seven or so. I may well have gone insane by then, but what a way to go.

And you too can now die of XTC overload. I have a copy of the Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album box set to give away and it can be yours. To enter, leave me a comment telling me what your favourite XTC album is and why (if you want this box set, I’m assuming you’re a genuine fan and therefore would have a favourite album), and be sure to use your correct email address. The contest will run for one week and close at midnight, November 17. Get cracking.

PopMatters has an expansive interview/podcast with Partridge about his and XTC’s past, present and future that’s definitely worth reading while the Los Angeles Times also talks to him about the box. And you want media? Here’s one new song from the Fuzzy Warbles box, another that was included with the Apple Box and the theme from the late, lamented Wonderfalls, for which Partridge composed the theme (segue – Comic Book Resources recently talked to creator Bryan Fuller about many things including the rise and fall of Wonderfalls. There’s also the complete original unaired pilot available on YouTube, see below). I’ve also dug up a slew of XTC videos – though Partridge and co gave up live performance many many moons ago, they made up for it with some brilliant promo clips. “The Disappointed” is gorgeous – both sonically and visually – but I couldn’t find the one for “Peter Pumpkinhead”. Alas.

MP3: Andy Partridge – “Sonic Boom”
MP3: XTC – “Spiral”
MP3: Andy Partridge – “Wonderfalls”
Video: XTC – “Are You Receiving Me?” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Making Plans For Nigel” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Life Begins At The Hop” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Senses Working Overtime” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Mayor Of Simpleton” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Dear God” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Grass” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Disappointed” (YouTube)
Video: Andy Partridge – “I Wonder Why The Wonder Falls On Me” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Road To Oranges & Lemons” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Fuzzy Warbles commercial” (YouTube)
Video: Wonderfalls unaired pilot

One of Partridge’s projects this year was working with fellow Englishman Robyn Hitchcock, including co-writing “‘Cause It’s Love (Saint Parallelogram)” off of Ole Tarantula, which Hitchcock will be performing tonight at the Mod Club. eye has an interview with Hitchcock, who is apparently a fan of the TTC, as does The Toronto Star, who gets him to declare his love for his Venus 3 and The National Post, to whom he shrugs off the “British eccentric” label assigned to him (and Partridge).

And in completely XTC-unrelated news… NEW SPIDER-MAN 3 TRAILER. Jinkies! It’s got the Sandman, symbiote costume… whew. Bring it on. And one to file under, “yeahbuhwha?” – Alan Moore to guest star on The Simpsons.

np – Shearwater / Palo Santo

By : Frank Yang at 8:52 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post32 Responses.
  1. Brent Uptain says:

    "Black Sea" has to be my favorite XTC record. For it’s huge drum sound (even bigger than on Drums and Wires), snakey, dueling guitar figures (which would all but vanish by Skylarking), and overall heft of good material. Heck, even "sgt. Rock" is a pretty good song. But, opener "Respectable Street" is pure perfection. "Sunday Church and they look fetching. Saturday night saw them retching over our fence."
    Not coincidentally my first XTC purchase?

  2. Tony Romaker says:

    I also agree that "Black Sea" is my favorite album by XTC. "Generals and Majors" is a timeless track along with "Living Through Another Cuba" – both so appropriate today. The drum sound is booming and the mix is perfect. This is XTC at their best. I do love "Drums and Wires" and "English Settlement" but I think "Black Sea" rocks the hardest and has Andy’s best writing ever.

  3. Matt says:

    I’m so happy to see Andy and the Warbles getting some love here – thanks Frank. This is an absolute gold mine of great music. Sure, there are some throwaways, but so much of it is excellent. Even a number of the throwaways, such as "That Wag", from one of the early Warbles discs, are worthwhile, for comedy value alone (Partsy with dead-on imitations of Robert Smith and Dylan). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by discs 7 and 8 – the quality remains high. Give a listen to "I’m Unbecome" from disc 7, for example. What a gorgeous tune!

  4. Frank in Atlanta says:

    God, I love ’em all, but I guess I have to pick English Settlement as my absolute favorite, followed closely by Black Sea and Skylarking.

  5. Matt Berlyant says:

    It’s very tough for me to pick a favorite XTC album. Drums and Wries was the first one of theirs that I bought and I immediately loved it, so it’s tempting to say that. However, if it comes down to the one I’ve played the most over the years, it’s gotta be Black Sea. I agree with Brent regarding its drum sound (courtesy of future Police and Phil Collins producer Hugh Padgham, who was the engineer and Steve Lillywhite’s assistant along with the producer of English Settlement) and I agree with Tony that it may be Andy’s finest set of songs. Colin is also great on it, though. "Love at First Sight" has always been a favorite of mine along with the more oft-cited songs.

    On a different day, I could pick English Settlement for its diveristy, excellent production or for "No Thugs in Our House" alone (not to mention the lyrics of "Snowman"). "Senses Working Overtime" is my ringtone, so obviously that’s a big favorite here, too.

    The other ones I’ve gone to the most over the years are Skylarking and their last album, the hugely underrated Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume Two. Pretty much everyone loves Skylarking, so I won’t talk about it too much here, but as for Wasp Star, I could never figure out why more people didn’t embrace it. It was by far their best album since Skylarking (which I know isn’t saying that much, but still) and far better than the inconsistent Apple Venus, Vol. 1. Perhaps I say this because I prefer the more rockin’ XTC to the more orchestral one, but how can you argue with songs like "Playground," "Boarded Up," "I’m the Man Who Murdered Love" or "We’re All Light"? Also, it’s notable for having 2 great Colin songs ("In Another Life" and "Standing in for Joe"), by far his best songs on an XTC album since "King for a Day" on Oranges & Lemons.

  6. Kristin Knaus Satterlee says:

    Wow, what a hard question. I’m going to buck the early-XTC trend and pick Apple Venus for its lush orchestration and nature/seasonal imagery.

  7. Larry Fiore says:

    Thanks for posting about my all-time favorite band.
    I’ve been a fan of XTC ever since a promo copy of "Drums and Wires" came across my desk at a college radio station in ’79. So much so that I named my son Collin(wife’s spelling and she didn’t really like the name Andy)and also visited Swindon(!) on my trip to England in ’87.
    My favorite album is hard to choose, as they’ve released so many great ones.
    However, if pressed, I’d have to say "Skylarking", mainly for the way the whole album flows together, especially with the addition of ‘Dear God’. The results are even more amazing when you consider the animosity that was present between the band and producer Todd Rundgren.
    "Black Sea", "English Settlement"(the two-disk, of course) and "Oranges and Lemons" are next in line.
    Like you’ve mentioned, even their weaker albums are head and shoulders about most groups best offerings.

  8. joe gumbo says:

    Oranges & Lemons posesses the largest collection of songwriting masterpieces in one place since maybe Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds. You can hear it in your head just reading the titles. The spectacular opener Garden of Earthly Delights, followed by Patridge’s greatest song: The Mayor of Simpleton, the classic King for a Day, the still timely Here Comes President Kill Again, the layers & levels of The Loving, the jaunty Poor Skeleton Steps Out, Colin Moulding’s heartbreaking One of the Millions, the cruel & beautiful Scarecrow People, the unpredictible moodshifts of the next three: Merely a Man, Cynical Days, Across This Antheap, the uplift of Hold Me My Daddy, Pink Thing which would’ve been vulgar in anyone else’s hands, the elegiac love of Miniature Sun, and closing with the pensive majesty of Chalkhills and Children. It was the one-two punch of this album & Skylarking that made me a convert… I’ve loved everything before & since.

  9. Jim Santo says:

    Black Sea, definitely! It was the first of their albums to capture my ear (specifically "Burning With Optimism’s Flame," which at that time aired regularly on Frank O’Toole’s radio show on WFMU in East Orange, New Jersey), and to my mind, is one of the great pop albums of all time. Brilliantly loud production by Steve Lillywhite (Terry’s drums just EXPLODE), biting lyricism, excellent vocals by Andy…just perfect. English Settlement is a close second with some fabulous songs, but in retrospect, it was the harbinger for the solipsistic mannerism that gradually crept into XTC’s music over the ensuing decades. With Black Sea, Andy, Colin, Dave and Terry were at the top of their game, poised for the worldwide stardom that, alas, eluded them.

  10. David says:

    Consider it cheating if you want, but I’m going to go with the 60s-psych of "Psonic Psunspot." Sir John Johns and the Red Curtain deliver big time, here, and make what might be XTC-snarky turn into Dukes-funny; XTC-cynical turn Dukes-warm.

    "Vanishing Girl" and "You’re a Good Man Albert Brown (Curse You Red Barrel)," in particular, never cease to amaze. And any album that apes Syd Barrett, years before Pitchfork would instruct bands to do so… well, hoorah for the Dukes. Pip, pip, and all that.

    That said, everyone above me and below me also has a perfectly great answer, too.

  11. Grant Mabie says:

    Thanks for this excellent post! As many of your readers have noted, choosing a favorite XTC album is no small task — close, in fact, to having to choose a favorite child. But, if pressed, I would have to choose ‘English Settlement.’ So many great songs! The music is more varied than their earlier works, but they are still writing great topical material. Favorite songs include ‘Senses Working Overtime,’ ‘No Thugs in Our House,’ ‘All of a Sudden,’ ‘Knuckle Down, and ‘Fly on the Wall’ — and my absolute two favorites on this record, ‘Melt the Guns’ and ‘It’s Nearly Africa.’ Add to that the great b-sides and the material on the ‘Drunken Jam Session,’ and you have a sense of an amazingly creative free-for-all tempered by a perfectionist’s sense of craft.

    Close seconds for ‘Skylarking’ (with ‘Mermaid Smiled’ or their best song of all ‘Dear God’) and ‘Oranges and Lemons,’ for reasons others have mentioned.

    Thanks again!

  12. Richmeister says:

    I’m going to have to go with Drums and Wires, even though I found it around the time English Settlement came out. It was such the soundtrack for my high school years in the early ’80s. Still fumbling with the newness of physical maturity, "Life Begins at the Hop" perfectly expressed for me all the hope and potential of new social interaction with the opposite sex. "When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty" accurately expressed the reality of that situation, and "Ten Feet Tall" was the sound of incremental success in the arena. "Complicated Game" was sort of a signpost on the road into the unknown, along which, what at the time seemed like life and death decisions had to be made — where to go to college, what to study — balanced against the worry that other plans were being made for you ("Making Plans For Nigel"). Drums and Wires is a record that I still pull out, and like no other record I can think of, puts me right back in that space and time.

  13. Michael says:

    I’ll go with Oranges And Lemons because of its great depth. It covers so much ground and has some of the band’s best songwriting, including ‘Chalkhills and Children’ which was a regular feature of my mixtapes for quite a long time. And almost every person who got one of those mixtapes wanted to know what that song was and where they could get it.
    But as for my favourite XTC song that isn’t one of the usual suspects, I would have to go with ‘Your Dictionary’ because it is the cleverest bitter song I have ever heard. Andy spits out the words with such venom that I almost feel guilty listening to something so personal.
    They are quite simply a great band and I can’t think of a better way to spend ten or so hours than working my way through Fuzzy Warbles….

  14. J. Herzog says:

    Another vote for Black Sea for me, though English Settlement was the record that hooked me into the XTC universe. I was a Beatles fanatic as a young kid, and it seems that XTC carried on that tradition with a bit more angular punk edge.

    ‘Towers of London’ is probably my favorite song by them.

  15. Frank says:

    wow, great answers everyone – thanks. My XTC collection is pretty slim, I’ve got everything from Skylarking on but only "The Compact XTC" to represent the earlier years. It’s a great collection when I want something pocket sized but you’ve persuaded me to start digging out the full-lengths. Thanks.

    And to Matt – I actually always rather disliked Wasp Star because the guitar tones, which Andy Partridge recorded almost entirely with a POD, sounded too synthetic to me but as I listen to it now it doesn’t bother me nearly as much and the songs are indeed great. I still prefer volume 1 – I recall writing a review for my university newspaper declaring it a classic for all time alongside Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds (I was young, leave me alone) – but have probably been too dismissive of the companion album.

    Doesn’t mean I’m going to bother with Homegrown or Homespun, though.

  16. David says:

    I’ll pick Skylarking only because I associate it with such fond memories. I think it was the summer of ’88 when that record was on all my friends’ stereos non stop. We used to congregate in the parks around town because there wasn’t much for goofy kids to do on the prairies except for light stuff on fire or get in fights with idiots in muscle cars so we hung out in the park and light stuff on fire. We had this Mexican exchange student who would bite beer cans and shotgun them. We vandalized the neighbourhood. We carried slingshots. Threw molotov cocktails. The usual crap. Anyways, I always associate everything we did that summer with XTC. Be it Oranges & Lemons, Drums and Wires, it didn’t matter as long as it was XTC. It’s weird, we were total punk rock kids, we’d switch up Cro Mags, Crumbsuckers, Dayglo Abortions with XTC. The weirdest thing but it made the melodies sound so sweet. One kid always talked about getting thier logo tattooed on his leg but never did it. Anyways, we got wasted and wondered how they made those sounds. We discovered Dukes of Stratosphere, got drunk, tried to land kick flips, got in fights, made out with girls. It was awesome. Hope that’s a decent enough reason to like XTC albums. I could go into the lame production geek out talk but that’s snoresville.

  17. NathanJ says:

    My favorite XTC album is the much-maligned The Big Express, from the band’s often-misunderstood and under-appreciated middle period. I’d guess that many listeners, even XTC fans, have trouble getting past the overall sound of the album. The production style sounds dated at first gloss (particularly the drum sounds), but repeated listens can be rewarding, revealing the the material itself works best in the context of this style. It’s the sound of XTC returning to the jumpy, jerky new-wave style of the earlier albums, with the benefit of the lessons learned from the pastoral pop of Mummer and English Settlement.

    Songs like "Shake You Donkey Up", "Wake Up", and "You’re the Wish You Are I Had" could not have emerged fully formed as they do here except at this juncture in their career. They have a maturity not found in the earlier albums, but they still have a soupcon of the nervous energy that was extinguished completely the following year by Skylarking, the beginning of a new period and direction for the band. This isn’t what makes it essential, though – the important thing is that the songwriting is fun and interesting, coming from a singular place, and the melodies are consistently good and often superior, if you can overcome sound biases and really give in to them. Also, it has the best song titles of XTC’s whole career – you can’t beat "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her" and "Train Running Low on Soul Coal".

  18. Jeffrey says:

    Gosh, its been fun reading the comments and letting them cue all these songs in my head. At one time English Settlement would have been my favourite, hands down. The whole album, but Yacht Dance was a favourite of mine I haven’t seen mentioned – always thought that one was really reminiscent of David Crosby’s Deja Vu. Melt the Guns used to play at top volume in my corridor sophomore year at uni, and no one ever complained. Snowman! Black Sea, yeah, another favourite at a different point in time, and Skylarking too. Respectable Street – one of the greatest pop rock (and its both pop and rock) songs of all time. Grass – still get that pleasant-goose- bump feeling when that slides in out of Summer’s Cauldron. And the Dukes! Vanishing Girl is another one of those songs that I could probably here non-stop for hours and not think any differently of it. There was an AM oldies station in Cleveland that used to play 25 O’Clock in amongst the Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Outsiders, etc. and I always wondered how many people knew that it was really a ‘new’ song. So many contenders, but in this space and time – and its been this way for a while now – I gotta say Drums And Wires. I still pull that out and play it at least once a year, and am always surprised at how fresh it still sounds to my ears – even though I know almost every single note, lick, hook, vocal inflection, etc. by heart. That album, in its entirety, is ingrained in my memory, for now and forever. I don’t think I could undo it if I tried. Scissor Man! Real by Reel! I feel like I’m walking round Ten Feet Tall!! When Your Near Me I Have Difficulty!!! Just thinking of that one makes me want to crank it up right now. Wait….Helicopter. Helicopter!! How can you argue with that one?!? Four of the most exciting minutes in your life – and you can play it over and over again if you’d like. (I know I have.) And here I haven’t even mentioned Nigel or Life Begins at the Hop, two undeniable ‘big ones’. Yep, its gotta be Drums And Wires for me.

    Did I mention Helicopter? (Oh heli, Oh heli!………)

    Love the blog btw.

  19. Tedz says:

    Good lord! To pick just one would be like Sophie’s Choice!?! XTC were a huge part of the soundtrack to my teenage years, so I’d agree with all of the above….Black Sea, Skylarking, the Dukes… However, the 2 Apple Venus volumes are my picks only because how great it was to hear new, official releases from them after all that silence…

  20. stewrat says:

    I was lucky enough to see XTC in 1980 in Boston during the drums and wires tour. It was the first show I went to where is was obvious that there were people that were living different lives than me. This was no "dress up for the concert" crowd. They were people that had chosen alternative lifestyles and were proud of it. To this day it remains a landmark show for me and drums and wires remains my personal favorite. Music has not been the same for me since that time.

  21. Albert says:

    My favorite XTC album is Skylarking, the most audacious and shining swirl of notes, chords and poetry ever captured, an album that quite literally changed my life. That’s a cliché but I use it unashamedly. Skylarking saved me from the dreary Nine Inch Nails and Orgy and, yes, Korn records I’d held so dear until the first swelling strings of "Summer’s Cauldron" wept into my ears. There simply isn’t a bad song, a wrong note, an awkward phrase on the entire thing, and I listen to it for the most part as a whole. I don’t think in all of recorded music there is as perfect a lineup than songs 3-8, five exquisite gems one after the other. These songs practically knocked the wind out of me upon my first awed and confused listen. “Another Satellite”, perhaps the album’s highlight, is Andy Partridge’s magnum opus. It echoes through the brain, defying gravity, wrapping you in the cold, alien woe of a ruined relationship, a plea for some sort of understanding of the black acid beast, Love. After the disappointing “Mummer” and “Big Express”, “Skylarking” was a revelation, a beacon in the plastic and synthetic mid-eighties that it crawled out of like some primordial swamp creature. XTC is criminally underappreciated, and “Skylarking” is proof of that. I’d love to win the Fuzzy Warbles collection (I would have gotten one for myself but I’m living off student loans at the moment and Uncle Sam would probably wag his gnarled finger in my face for buying CD’s with taxpayers’ money), but even if I don’t thank you for posting these tracks, and thanks for giving me the chance to serenade Andy Partridge.

  22. Neil says:

    Even if I never win a thing based on this post, I have to share this story! My favorite XTC album would still have to be "Oranges and Lemons." It’s perhaps not the strongest album in their catalog, but it holds a special place in my heart as being THE album that unlocked a whole world of music I knew nothing of up until that time. I still remember MTV having this show that aired once a week where they would play all of the new videos they were putting into rotation (this was back in the Bronze Age when they still played videos), and I caught an ad for the show featuring just a bit of the video for "Mayor of Simpleton." For some reason – the insane hook of the guitar, the chorus, the "Avengers" vibe of the video – I just knew I had to watch. And when I had seen the entire video, I had for the first time in my life a favorite song and favorite band. I immediately went out and bought the album (on cassette), and listened to it, quite literally, non-stop. As "Chalkhills and Children" wound down, I would just fast forward and have the tape flip over to the crazy hurdy-gurdy psycadelic intro of "Garden of Earthly Delights." Needing to see more and more of the videos, and know more and more about this band, I started staying up late enough to catch "120 Minutes," where, while eagerly awaiting some word of XTC, was exposed to The Smiths, REM, Guadalcanal Diary, Bob Mould, etc.. Would I have learned about these artists without "Oranges and Lemons?" Perhaps, but what a great album to open those gates! Thanks for letting me share!

  23. Satisfied -75 says:

    Drums and Wires would be the fave of theirs. I love that you can take in the individual tunes by themselves or in the greater context of the album. I also quite like the production and general era of the band’s work at this period in their lofty career.

  24. anne says:

    My pick is Oranges and Lemons. It was my first XTC album, and the firsts are always the favorites. I took it out of the library and I was hooked. The library had a crappy selection of music, I was never sure why this showed up.

  25. Dr. Johnathon J LaBrat says:

    I’m going to have to cheat here, you leave me no choice. This is 2006 and thanks to technological advances my personal compilation of hits from EVERY album is my favorite.

    "… leave me a comment telling me what your favourite XTC album is and why"

    I call it "My Best of XTC burn". Trust me, this album is the winner. It even includes Andy’s cover of "Strawbery Fields Forever". Thanks to .MP3’s I’m not limited to 12 songs on this compliation either. Nobody else has it so I realize it’s not a fair answer. But it’s the most kick-ass album there is.

    Times have changed since falling in love with and buying "Skylarking" on vinyl. If "Dear God" hadn’t hit 91X FM in San Diego I may not have fallen in love with this band. I’m a Todd Rundgren fan coincidently and see it as no coincidence this album was the one that really put them on everybodys radar.

    "Skylarking" celebrating it’s 20th anniversay this year was enginered to be and IS a great album to come back to over and over again. Specifically answering the question posed by the writer (Frank?) it’s "Skylarking" because it was the begining of a fantastic journey that I hope ends no time soon. But follow me here with the additional reasoning…

    Being the huge Beatles fan that I am, and hearing audible influences and that English accent which may be most prominent on this album, I became intriged and a bit compulsive in my consumerism buying up EVERYTHING they had put out up to their most recent.

    AND I became short of breath when ever any new album thereafter was released and was first to buy everything thereafter right on release date.

    I have felt this way about NO other band and have only bought everything ever put out by the following others:

    The Beatles
    The Who
    (Disclaimer – all Vinyl. My collecting was pre-CD.)

    So obviously in my mind XTC is as huge as The Beatles and The Who. And despite my love for a ton of late 60’s early 70’s rock only these three bands were worthy of seperating me from my hard earned cash in order to have a complete collection.

    In my research of prior XTC work I learned of their acid alto-ego work as
    "The Dukes Of Stratosphear" and have "25 O’Clock" proudly displayed in my music room along side a promotional poster for "Oranges And Lemons". The artwork on these sooth my pyschedelic soul. For the record I view The Dukes as XTC and do not differentiate the two, so you’ll see that my favorite album contains works from both.

    To this very day I am excited to turn people on to this facinating album. I would say "Chips from the Chocolate Fireball" would fall into my number 2 slot for proper released albums despite not being XTC offically. I noticed others throwing in comments about more than one album so just following suit.

    Ok ladies and gentlemen, here is the play list for "My Best Of XTC Burn",
    the greatest album on the planet:

    General And Majors
    You’re My Drug
    Making Plans For Nigel
    Dear God
    What In The World??
    Senses Working Overtime
    Grass
    Bike Ride To The Moon
    Respectible Street
    Earn Enough For Us
    Sgt Rock
    The Mole From The Ministry
    Wake Up
    This World Over
    Runaways
    Vanishing Girl
    Towers Of London
    Stupidly Happy
    You’re A Good Man Albert Brown
    Wonderland
    The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkin Head
    The Disappointed
    My Love Explodes
    The War Dance
    The Mayor Of Simpleton
    Garden Of Earthly Delights
    King For A Day
    Merely A Man
    Pink Thing
    I’d Like That
    Green Man
    Frivolous Tonight
    Strawberry Fields Forever
    All Along The Watchtower
    Have You Seen Jackie
    In Another Life
    Standing In For Joe
    Season Cycle
    Thanks For Christmas
    Happy Families
    The Meeting Place
    Big Day
    Brainiac’s Daughter
    Playground
    My Brown Guitar
    Little Lighthouse
    I Remember The Sun
    25 O’Clock
    Spiral
    Pale And Precious
    Running Low On Soul Coal
    Beating Of Hearts
    Collideascope
    Shiny Cage
    Boarded Up

    I leave "Borded Up" for last. It makes me cry when I hear (Collin?) whispering "bye bye Beatles". And fear the song is XTC saying goodbye and no more. I hope they decide to continue for another 30 years. I, for one, will continue to buy everything they put out.

    With sincere gratitude for all Andy and crew have done with their intelectual lyrics and unusual chord progressions mixed with Beatlesque and Beach Boy undertones a heartfelt THANK YOU from this fan. Count on me to continue consuming anything you put out!

  26. Rory Hoffmeister says:

    How can you choose a favorite album? I love every one. IF I really had to choose, I guess it would have to be English Settlement. I just love the way all the songs fit together, and with an ending like Snowman, it’s mind-blowing! But like I said, all the albums are great!

  27. David Storm says:

    This is probably not a popular choice for most, but my "desert island" CD (and, coincidently for the purpose of this contest, favorite XTC CD) is "Oranges & Lemons". It was my gateway album… XTC had entered my teenage musical radar with Skylarking but I was too far into heavy prog rock to pay them much attention. Then this curious video came on MTV once with a gorgeous chick in black leather and some middle aged-looking sods struming old guitars. Very nice tune, reminds me of the Beatles.
    Chumming through a now-closed video store’s section of bargain basement priced CDs, I came upon a copy of Oranges & Lemons. What a great cover… 60’s pop art personified! As the ball & chain of my musical taste was starting to chafe, I did something I had never ever done before (or done since) and purchased the album on the impact of the cover. Anything that is this pleasently stimulating and happy to look at must sound okay inside, eh? Besides, it was only $6.
    What was inside, from the first rising whine of notes from a distant ancient land, was a music revolution. Putting aside for a moment the extremely polished and fussy production (which, in retrospect, squeezed a little to hard on some of the fruit inside) where some of the greatest SONGS I’d ever heard. Did live human beings still write like this? Where did these musical anthropolgists discover these melodies? How did they twist songs of love into laments; ignorant pleas of such sublime intelligence? The craftmanship, the joy, the sheer pop brains raised the bar of what an album could be for me.
    I love this CD. I listen to every track intently and completely. And I will do so over and over again for the rest of my life.

  28. MIchael says:

    I first came to XTC in 1979 with Drums and Wires. They had me at "Making Plans for Nigel". I was lucky enough to see them live in 1980, still remember hearing "Battery Brides" for the first time and then rushing out the next day to my favorite import store to buy a copy of Go2. Since then I’ve looked forward to each and every album and have rarely been disappointed, so choosing a favorite is difficult. Although some of those early albums do hold a place in my heart and head mainly due to time and circumstance I think I’m going to have to pick "Nonsuch". I vaguely recall reading several advance reviews that had pegged it as being a bit bland coming after "Oranges and Lemons", and so I came to it with lowered expectations. Just goes to show how wrong reviews can be. While it doesn’t pack the sonic punch of the previous album it more than makes up for it with such incredible songwriting. From "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" to "Books Are Burning" every song is a treat, and anyone who can write a song about thier daughter riding a rocking horse ("Holly Up On Poppy") and not have it come across as maudlin or cloying is a genius.
    I loved reading all these posts and seeing which albums people picked. I’m now running off to give the few albums I’ve neglected over the years anothers listen thanks to some of the comments here.

  29. Zen says:

    Damn, I thought I’d be the only one to vote for the generally unregarded "Nonsuch," and for the same reasons that Michael listed above. Its an album of great depth and swirls of emotion and creativity. The only let-down is "Bungalow," as dreary and maudlin as only Moulding could make it. XTC shooting themselves in the foot once again. Skip that track and the rest is superb.

  30. Mary Karyn Emison says:

    okay… I’m gonna be an oddball here and say Mummer. Not just because it hasn’t really been mentioned, but because those strange, troubled "middle period" XTC records intrigue me so much. All the reviews I’ve read make sure to mention "mental breakdown", "isolation", and "pastoral". Funny, the album doesn’t sound like the product of a basket case, but more like that of the pop geniuses Andy and Colin were… Besides, ya can’t really deny "Love on a Farmboy’s Wages" isn’t a gorgeous song.

  31. Bob says:

    God, I love XTC.

    It’s hard to put my finger on exactly the reason why…but I don’t think that anyone else had just the same combination of clever lyrics, catchy pop-tastic melodies, and a chameleon-like sense for re-inventing themselves. And just when you think they’re done…they come out of the blue with a new incarnation. I really hope they continue to make music in one form or another in the future.

    As for my favorite album, that is really difficult. I’d have to go with "Oranges and Lemons". I remember when it came out that it was praised (and reviled) for having a ‘Beatles-esque’ vibe. I think every song on that disc is rock-solid. ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’, ‘The Mayor of Simpleton’, ‘Hold Me My Daddy’…the list goes on and on. It maybe the perfect pop album…I can’t help but smile whenever I give it a spin. XTC has that effect on me…

  32. bill says:

    Hello! Did y’all forget about NONESUCH? One of their more subdued albums, unique in many ways, but every song is consistently hummable and sticks with you long after your last listen.