This all started when I reacquired Black Sea on CD. It was one of my favorite rock albums in the early 1990s, and it sounded great again in the summer of ‘07. My nostalgia happily satiated, I was ready to dig back into some bebop…but how would English Settlement sound to me now, I wondered? So I bought that one, too. Then I had to get Drums and Wires to complete the trifecta. Was my rediscovery of XTC over, or did I have to get Oranges and Lemons as well? And Big Express? Around this point, shelling out for a disc per week, I figured I may as well get a page out of them.
XTC started as a snippy post-punk outfit, turned toward thoughtful pop-rock, then they stopped touring, got a little rustic, got a little indulgent, got a little older, disappeared for a while, and then re-emerged for a couple of turn-of-the-century albums. Their music touches on many flavors, very melodic yet often subtly strident, sometimes abandoning rock conventions.
At the center of the group is Andy Partridge, guitarist, singer, and main songwriter. His musicality goes far beyond the average strum-along singer for whom moving the capo constitutes writing a “new” tune. No four-chord stagnation here: Partridge plays a lot of inventive rhythmic parts and has a real knack for vocal melody. Secondary songsmith and singer – and very good bassist – is Colin Moulding. His writing is more laid back than Partridge’s, with broader hooks. Usually Moulding writes about a quarter of each album.
In the early days, the group also included organist Barry Andrews and drummer Terry Chambers. Andrews departed after the first two albums (temporarily hooking up with Robert Fripp’s League of Gentlemen), replaced by guitarist/keyboardist Dave Gregory. As unique a guitarist as Partridge already was, Gregory added lots of traditional prowess and finesse to the band’s arrangements. He enriched the group sound with tasteful rhythm and lead contributions, and his keyboards came into play in the mid-80s. This classic quartet of Andy, Colin, Dave, and Terry made what I consider XTC’s best trilogy, the first three albums reviewed below.
I’ll excuse myself from the first two albums, White Music and Go 2 (both 1978), because they’re so close to the punkish style that they don’t hold any interest for me today. (Therefore I didn’t go buy them again.) All I can say from memory is that the former contains the anthem “This is Pop” (later re-recorded in a superior single version) and a funky piss-take of “All Along the Watchtower”, and the latter has some fun tunes in “Battery Brides” and “I Am the Audience”. XTC adopted a certain attitude at the time that didn’t really demonstrate their depth, but I wouldn’t dissuade anybody from those albums if they like aggressive new wave.
The albums below were remastered around 2001, and some of them contain bonus tracks at the end of each CD, although the artwork doesn’t distinguish them from the main tracks. Longer albums like English Settlement and Oranges and Lemons don’t have any extras. I like the sound of the reissues for the most part, but the microscopic lyrics in the booklets are useless.
“we heard your flags and your banners flapping”
Call this album a rebirth of XTC, a schizoid grab bag that retains some brash posturing – most often felt in Partridge’s vocals – but just as often starts to refine the band’s approach. The incoming guitar of Dave Gregory meshes well with Partridge’s, and his decorative touches bring the music a lot of detail. Of course, there was plenty of detail to begin with, such as the symbiosis of melody and rhythm that often defines Partridge’s songs, and the astute bass and drums of Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers. I wouldn’t call this brilliant stuff, but the way the group tackles their material is creative and unique.
The unavoidable highlight “Making Plans for Nigel” kicks off the disc with an upside-down drum beat, pulsing bass, nibbly guitar, and Moulding’s strangely comforting vocal. None of Colin’s other contributions are quite as memorable, except for the catchy nostalgic bonus track “Life Begins at the Hop”. “Ten Feet Tall” has some nice guitar interplay but ends repetitively, and the quirky “That Is The Way” benefits from supportive points like scratchy, percussive guitar, the “shock” chord leading into the chorus, and the soft trumpet lines.
Partridge’s songs are all over the map. The two best are “Roads Girdle the Globe”, a truss-rod tough rocker, and “Millions”, which addresses the Orient with tangy dissonance and a hypnotic, off-center rhythm. “Real by Reel” is pretty cool, too, featuring strong hooks and the most perfect 13-second guitar solo in history. “Outside World” and “Scissor Man” are slighter but boast enough energy to get by. The nutty “Helicopter” sends a message to a promiscuous femme (“I object to all the air male that she pick up”). To end the album, Andy gets cathartic on “Complicated Game”, a gnawing crescendo of frustration and futility. By the end, he’s screaming in time with his vocal echoes, and though some listeners might find it over the top, I think every little inflection of his performance is remarkable.
Producer and engineer Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham achieve a good sound on this record, clear and forceful. Despite having several great tracks, Drums and Wires as a whole doesn’t totally coalesce – it’s more of a neurotic patchwork than an album that flows smoothly from start to finish. Regardless, it can’t be missed.
“clear as children’s chalk lines on the paving”
Here’s the most integrated, rock-hard album XTC ever made, with tight performances and visceral production (same team as last time). The guitars slash and ring, the bass is strong, and Chambers’ drums are given that extra Townhouse wallop. Musically, they decrease the neurotic minutia and inch closer to a full-body rock sound, only a lot of the components are left refreshingly awry. The vocals are excellent, too, especially as Partridge learned to control his enthusiasm (but not too much), and his lyrics have gotten wittier.
“Respectable Street”: First there’s a piano and vocal stanza that sounds like it was recorded off the radio in 1948, then comes a crooked guitar riff and the full weight of this incredible opener. Andy sings about the joys of the neighborhood, and the introductory snippet reappears as the bridge, followed by wrestling guitars. Damn near perfect. A single version of this song had a slightly different mix and lyrics.
“Generals and Majors”: Moulding’s first song of the album has a disco-like swirl and bright melody lines. Little arrangement twists help disguise the song’s repetitiveness.
“Living Through Another Cuba”: A wild cold-war romp. Over a jacked-up tropical beat, Andy’s adrenalized sermon is surrounded by sharp riffs, clattering roto-tom, a solid bass line, and a backdrop of bleepy, buzzy sound effects. Terry Chambers sounds so good on this.
“Love at First Sight”: Another rock-disco ear catcher from Colin. The Telecaster riff, choppy counterpoint, and swish-thump drums are hard to resist.
“Rocket From a Bottle”: Relatively speaking, this is the weakest song in my opinion, or should I say the one track I wouldn’t miss. It’s not boring though, as it booms with a big, thumpy, blissful attitude.
“No Language in Our Lungs”: Way back when, I couldn’t grasp this one; I thought the verses moped and the tempo dragged. Recently, I’ve come to realize the particular vibe they were after, and it makes more sense to me now. A powerful payoff occurs in the bridge. The steel twang of the guitar tandem fills the spectrum like a sober Rolling Stones or something.
“Towers of London”: What was that about steel twang? The steady mid-tempo and electric/acoustic guitar blend give this track a countryish air. There is an appropriately sturdy, towering feeling to the verses and main refrain, contrasted by the angled rhythm and plinky sounds of the bridge. Every element of this track is masterful – Andy’s vocal, Dave Gregory’s friendly guitar leads, and the rock solid bassline. “Towers of London” ranks with XTC’s very finest efforts, maybe their best recording ever. (They redid this one as a single version, too.)
“Paper and Iron”: There’s a track on Peter Gabriel’s third album called “Not One Of Us”, released the same year as this. It too has a filtered riff introduction, a muscular song proper, and cyclic tom-tom pounding in the outro. I’m not saying one influenced the other, but the production team was the same, natch. Anyway, this is an exciting track, perhaps the most aggressive on Black Sea. I can do without the whistles and some of the background vox, but when Chambers is hitting it, none of that matters.
“Burning with Optimism’s Flames”: The title describes the whole performance. I like the crosscurrent accents of the guitar and drums in the verses. People always talk about how the Police behaved in new rhythmic ways (and Peter Gabriel, since I mentioned him), and XTC did it as well.
“Sgt. Rock”: Kind of a tongue-in-cheek joke about a fellow who wishes to employ a comic book hero to help “make the girl mine” and “keep her stood in line.” (Cue David Brent: “Sexist.”) I do find it funny, and the tune is irresistible.
“Travels in Nihilon”: The ominous finale features a pummeling, non-stop drum pattern (that’s Terry, not a machine), trancelike bass, nasty guitar, droning synth, and an unsettling vocal from Partridge. Where his screaming took the cake in “Complicated Game”, here it’s his diabolical whispering. “Travels” is so relentlessly gripping that I don’t know what to say about it. Just try not to drive while listening.
The CD bonus tracks include Colin’s “Smokeless Zone” and Andy’s “Don’t Lose Your Temper”, both fun and bouncy. The terrific main program represents XTC at their strongest, far as I’m concerned.
“as the nets unravel, all exotic fish I find”
This double album may or may not be a masterpiece – it really depends on your own evaluation. Several of the tracks are classic, and the music is perky and well played, as always, but I think English Settlement is ultimately overblown and longer than necessary. Whether this had to do with an explosion of songwriting, or lenience with which offerings made the grade, I don’t know. The old cliché applies – it would have been much better as a single length LP. In any case, it’s an impressive sprawl at first listen, and there certainly is a lot of creativity on tap. The arrangements increase the use of acoustic guitar and synthesizer, and some of the beats are more clearly drawn from reggae and other sources. Nonetheless, halfway through, the songs grow repetitive, and the album’s fine closing numbers tend to conceal (or make you forget) this fact.
Here are my favorites:
“Runaways”: Strange choice for a leadoff song, this moody Moulding tune with dark lyrics. The jangly reggae vamp works well, and I like the studio treatment of the backing vocals.
“Jason and the Argonauts”: XTC has an uncanny talent for matching musical contours with lyrical settings. In this instance, sprinkled cymbals, wavy guitar patterns, and some perilous twists support the imagery of a ship cruising the seas “from the foam to the gravel.” The other interesting thing is how they conjure an epic scope in a relatively short amount of time. One of the marvels of the catalog.
“No Thugs in Our House”: This upbeat song has some hysterical lyrics from poet Partridge, and the music strikes an amusing irony in the bridge.
“Yacht Dance”: Nifty acoustic guitars and a lightly swaying beat carry XTC’s most elegant song to date.
“Fly on the Wall”: This hooky Moulding song is warped by a distorted vocal and a buzzy synth part. It would have fit Drums and Wires had it existed then.
“English Roundabout”: Another of Colin’s catchy gems, featuring a ska-like groove in quintuple meter. Gregory shines again.
“Snowman”: Andy’s album finale shares the same bomb-drop beat as the opening “Runaways”. More jangling 12-string, too. Good lighthearted fun.
Slap those together with the plucky “Senses Working Overtime”, and maybe “All of a Sudden”, and that’s your top-flight follow-up to Black Sea. But as mentioned, much of the rest of English Settlement sinks to over-repetition and some iffy ideas. Like “Melt the Guns”, which starts with a neat riff/groove but gets monotonous after a while. So does “It’s Nearly Africa”, another loopy groove with vocals that repeat the same lines eight times over. “Leisure” and “Knuckle Down” are two of the most annoyingly bland XTC tracks in this timeframe. To be precise, a handful of the ES cuts are just useless.
This is also where Partridge develops a social outlook, and the results are trite, sometimes patronizing – violence is bad, bigotry is bad, progress is bad, and there’s even some groveling feminism (“Down in the Cockpit”). (I accidentally typed “partronizing” in that last sentence. Hey!) Not that I disagree with some of Andy’s thoughts, but I much prefer the traveling tales of “Jason and the Argonauts”, in which the protagonist shares observations of a crazy world but doesn’t lecture. Anyhow, English Settlement is a pretty remarkable flood that requires some sieving.
“do you know what noise awakes you”
Phase Three. This album marks a big change in operations: XTC had recently abandoned playing live, and partly because of that, drummer Terry Chambers resigned during the sessions. His tight and powerful grooves may not have been appropriate anyway for the intimate turns some of the new songs take, but Chambers’ departure signifies the end of an era for the group. (I accidentally typed “end of an ear” in that last sentence. Hey! Anyway, Pete Phipps plays drums on this album, and the next.) The positive spin is that XTC could now grow into more sophisticated areas, rather than tailoring everything for standard rock performance, but not much of Mummer lives up to that new promise.
It seems impossible for anyone to critique this record without using the word pastoral, and I just failed to exempt myself. But it is very floaty, farmy, and dreamy, not only because of the titles (“Wonderland”, “Love on a Farmboy’s Wages”, “Me and the Wind”). Acoustic guitar strums bits of country (“Farmboy’s”) and light jazzy wisps (“Ladybird”). Meanwhile, new keyboard textures unfortunately come off overbearing in “Beating of Hearts” and “Human Alchemy”, both of which attempt to be major statements but don’t quite cut it. (I’m sure diehard XTC fans will disagree.) “Funk Pop a Roll” ends the album on an upbeat note but sounds thin and plastic. Frankly, I don’t think these songs are very likeable at the core, and no changes to the execution would really save them.
Colin Moulding rescues this album, in my opinion. “Wonderland” I can take or leave, but his other two songs are among my favorites. “Deliver Us From the Elements” has a bouncing bass and Leslie chords alongside the verse melody, while frightful Mellotron hounds the chorus, befitting the image of an oppressive sky. “Elements” is undeniably a weird track, but a successful one. I’m also very fond of “In Loving Memory of a Name”, a graveyard remembrance set to a piano vamp and lovely chord changes.
The CD bonuses include some trivial songs and instrumentals, a couple of which are preferable to the album tracks. I’d like to report that Mummer is an underrated sleeper, but apart from a few moments, that’s not the case.
“going mad in this hinterland between young and old”
Half of this album sounds like a big locomotive chugging through the Mummer meadow party. Obviously, XTC wanted to do something in sharp contrast to their last effort, and the Linn Drum beats, icy keyboards, and edgy guitars of Big Express at least restore some purposefulness. The production (David Lord) and mixing tend to hide the music behind an abrasive wall of sound, and this perhaps is what gives the album a difficult reputation. Regardless, I think it is the real sleeper of the catalog.
Maybe I’m biased because the opening “Wake Up” really impressed me when I first heard it back in the day. Colin’s voice is in good form, and the slashing guitars and cool bass parts eventually give way to a magnificent “choir” coda. Later on in the album, Moulding contributes an even better gem in “I Remember the Sun”, basking in excellent Dave Gregory piano and jazzy drums, with a wondrous chorus. The effortless atmosphere of this track (spiked by Partridge’s mischievous guitar) puts “I Remember the Sun” amongst XTC’s finest works.
Partridge contributes good songs, too, although you have to “listen through” the cold mix to appreciate them. The two more famous ones, “Seagulls Screaming” and “Everyday Story of Smalltown”, are actually my least favorites. The sea shanty “All You Pretty Girls” is another popular cut, and I do like that one, but I most enjoy the stranger tracks like “Reign of Blows” (the distorted vocal and turns of phrase) and “Train Running Low on Soul Coal”, a frantic, puffing, clacking, clanging beast. “You’re the Wish You Are I Had” follows suspenseful verses with a sunny chorus, while “This World Over” sounds like what The Police might have done had they recorded a sixth album. And “Shake You Donkey Up” is one heck of a fiddly hoedown – yeehaa! All of the tracks have considerate details that one has to ferret out from the reverb and percussive mayhem – although the Linn Drum mechanics are perfect for the “Train” song.
Bonus cuts are not so worthy, except for the gentle “Red Brick Dream”. “Blue Overall” could have been a raunchy Swindon blues had the mix not been so damn coy. Colin’s “Wash Away” is nowhere near the quality of his main songs. In any case, Big Express might take some listening effort, but it gets the group on a forward track again.
“like a bug in brandy in this big bronze cup”
What an insidious sacred cow, with whimsical songs, frilly arrangements, and mannered performances ordered into a Rundgren-produced song cycle. The insidious part is that several hooks have a way of planting themselves in your brain, even the annoying ones. I should tread lightly around Skylarking, which many consider XTC’s magnanimous opus, though I’m not fully enchanted by it. Todd Rundgren seems bent on making An Important Album, maybe something on the order of a Sergeant Pepper, but I’ve no empathy for that kind of thing. Sound effects, segues, cutesy backing vocals, sick strings...the baroqueness would work if it didn’t make the music so dainty. Or morose: a couple of tracks wail about misery and dying - is this supposed to be enjoyable?
Let me start over. There are some very good tracks, though not everybody will agree with me on which ones. The opening “Summers Cauldron” paints a blissful, poetic portrait of an August scene, topped by slick drum fills from Prairie Prince. The hook-laden rocker “Earn Enough For Us” gets bonus points for sounding like a real band playing. In “Another Satellite”, Partridge shoos away the other woman with a poignant vocal over elliptic backing music. Funny, I used to think the song was about the moon; regardless, I get goose bumps from the bridge (“So circling we’ll orbit another year”). I dig the jazz flavored piano in “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul”, and the amazing “Mermaid Smiled” festers like a vibrant daydream.
Partridge’s other songs are okay, albeit lightweight (“Supergirl”) or contrived (“Season Cycle”). The hooks sink into you, though, and I admit I enjoy the fluffier Partridge tracks on a pure melodic level. Finally, the folksy “Dear God”, Andy’s infamous love letter to the all-merciful one, is pretty good, but as Partridge has said, it’s not as comprehensive as it could have been.
Except for a couple of moments, Moulding’s songs are the main downers. He’s done well on the last few albums, but on Skylarking, Colin’s writing is weak, his vocals equally so. “Sacrificial Bonfire” would be lovely but for the way Colin sings it, and “The Meeting Place” is mildly pleasant but repetitive. “Big Day” is burdened with a preposterous title refrain. I would cut “Grass” and “Dying” completely, or else make them instrumentals, because the musical embryos are not bad.
Skylarking for me is a hit and miss peculiarity. As the boys get further away from their performing roots, I’m less inclined to appreciate these ‘60s throwback fantasies and oddball productions. But I dig about half of the tracks, and I’d put three or four of them on the ultimate XTC jukebox.
“just don’t hurt nobody, less of course they ask you”
The colorful cover art, beaming and streaming in every direction, depicts just how busy this album is. Like English Settlement, it’s a verbose double, although I can only find 3 disposable tracks out of 15. After debarking Rundgren’s time machine (and their Dukes of Stratosphear alter ego), XTC come out rocking again and embrace a modern sound, backed by the earnest drums of Pat Mastelotto and produced by Paul Fox. I may as well say up front that this recording is the very definition of overproduced; each track has about five things too many in the mix. But the songs and performances tend to be so good that this doesn’t matter. You simply brace your ears and swim in it.
What a song selection. XTC’s durability, at least to this point, is truly amazing. After a certain amount of time, you might expect the artistic barrels to dry up, but Oranges and Lemons has all the assurance of Drums and Wires or Black Sea, even though the style has changed. Here are some highlights:
“Garden of Earthly Delights”: This hyperactive opener is the prime example of the album’s jam-packed soundstage. All the commotion represents a bustling world as the lyrics welcome someone into it: “Kid, stay and snip your cord off.”
“Poor Skeleton Steps Out”: I think this was the first XTC song I ever heard. The melodic twists, marimba samples, and strong bass playing won me over. Simultaneously joyous and spooky, it may still be my favorite O&L track.
“One of the Millions”: I like Moulding’s two other songs (“King for a Day” and “Cynical Days”), but this one is most affecting. It’s sort of an electric-acoustic waltz about an indecisive character, laced with neat riffs and basslines. Ironically, it gets a little big for its boots towards the end.
“Scarecrow People”: A fine Partridge song done up in twangy, clangy rags. He’s quite good at inserting points of dissonance into major key structures, which happens in both the verse and chorus of this one. Excellent performance all around.
“Pink Thing”: This double-entendre joke would be filler if the music weren’t as good as anything else on the record. I like the way it rolls from one hook to the next, and Dave gets a spiffy solo.
“Miniature Sun”: Though it might seem confusing and harsh on the surface, this unusual song exemplifies Partridge’s creative fearlessness. The synth-trumpet motif, tumbling drums, syncopated vocals, and dense chords add up to what I would call lounge-wave.
“Chalkhills and Children”: This beautiful pop reverie recalls the dreamy classics of ‘60s icons but sounds modern, rather than utilizing throwback instrumentation. The mix could stand to be streamlined, but it’s still a brilliant piece about remaining grounded.
Other notables include the hectic “Across This Antheap” and radio-ready hookfests in “Mayor of Simpleton”, “King for a Day”, and “Merely a Man”, all craftily done. It bears mentioning how much Moulding’s bass work stands out on this record, perhaps inspired by Mastelotto’s beats. Partridge and Gregory provide the usual wide array of guitar flavors, fleshed out with keyboards. XTC haven’t been a working group in several years, but they sure sound tight under all the overdub hoopla. Speaking of which, the producer was allowed to add certain keyboard parts, and I bet I could pick them all out. It’s easy to tell what’s musically necessary and what’s an afterthought.
The disposable cuts for me are “Here Comes President Kill Again” (awkward from the get-go), “The Loving” (pandering pop), and “Hold Me My Daddy” (decent but bland). I don’t mind hearing them, though. In total, this big wheelbarrow has got a load of entertaining fruit.
“rook, rook, gaze in the brook”
I ask myself, should I put my finger to the left (this is XTC at their most distilled and mature) or the right (the Boring Old Fart stage has come out of nowhere, bail out now!). Complicated game, this one, as the 17 tracks boast plenty of hooks but aren’t too exciting overall. Both Andy and Colin sound content with their open chords and middling rhythms, while Dave spices up the arrangements as best he can. (Check out the solos in “Smartest Monkeys” and “That Wave”.) Dave Mattacks is the hired drummer this time. I remember being slightly disappointed when this album came out, and however many years later, I still feel like a fair portion of it is just tasty confection. Take “The Disappointed”, one of the catchiest numbers with its sure melodies and shuffling beat, but at the end of the day, it’s just a bubblegummy broken heart lament, and maybe I expect more from XTC at this stage in the game.
The better tracks are the pensive ones like the piano-based “Rook”, a confrontation of mortality, and “Wrapped in Grey”, one of Partridge’s most accomplished songs. Colin’s “My Bird Performs”, featuring great vocals and lovely guitar work, praises simple pleasures, while his “War Dance” and “Smartest Monkeys” have neat music but sophomoric lyrics. “Bungalow” is more extreme, like an excerpt from a weird musical.
“Peter Pumpkinhead” and “Books Are Burning” boast some lyrical importance but the music is somewhat bland on both. Much of Partridge’s other material displays his usual craft yet is not compelling, even when “Omnibus” makes a fuss and bother, and sometimes he gets too cute (“Holly Up on Poppy”, “Then She Appeared”). I’ve always dug the green twang of “Crocodile”, though, and “That Wave” takes some catchy turns after a sludgy beginning. No point in rambling on – give Nonsuch a fair shake and you may like it well enough. For me, it’s impeccably assembled but lacks edge.
“pyramids and palaces to dust”
The seven-year hiatus was ended by Apple Venus, an “orchoustic” album that took, yes, an orchestral approach. Parts of Skylarking and Nonsuch had already leaned in that direction, yet the symphonic parts here displace a lot of instrumental variety that XTC could deliver on their own. Dave Gregory was not happy about proceedings, and fed up with Partridge’s control freakness, he left during the Apple sessions. So this album comes clean on what had basically been true since the mid-80s – XTC were, as Gregory put it, a couple of guys making solo albums plus a guitarist, and now the guitarist had given up and been demoted to a session credit.
Nonsuchtheless, Apple Venus succeeds at what it wants to do, though only about half of it is what I want to hear. Removed from outgoing rock arrangements, Andy’s vocals seem a little plump, while Colin Moulding retreats to such a soft style that he may as well be singing right next to you (“Frivolous Tonight” and “Fruit Nut”, both of which follow in the strange tradition of “Bungalow”). There are some interesting pieces such as “Easter Theater” and “Harvest Festival”, and the folksy anthem “Greenman” is both seductive and chilling. I like the orchestration of “River of Orchids”, too. Colorful as all this is, it doesn’t have as much reward in the long run as XTC’s “real” albums, and some of the tracks are forgettable. Aficionados might consider AV a masterpiece, so don’t take my opinion as gospel.
Wasp Star (aka Apple Venus Vol. 2) makes a ballyhooed return to straight pop-rock. Partridge covers a decent amount of guitar in Gregory’s absence, and Chuck Sabo and Prairie Prince handle the drums. Moulding, meanwhile, has made it a point to economize his bass style as much as possible. On the surface, the rich production and happy vibes compare to Oranges and Lemons, but underneath, the material is often self-derivative and/or forced. The two exceptions are Colin’s sparse “Boarded Up” and the closing “Wheel and the Maypole”, which despite stupid opening lyrics contains very stirring music. I don’t want to waste time being negative to other songs, but suffice it to say that most of them aged quickly for me, sometimes by the first chorus.
The best bet for Apple and Wasp would have been to blend together five or six better tracks from each, with Dave Gregory still around for everything. That would have marked a real return to form. As it is, I’m not attached to either album by a long shot. Still beats a lot of other contemporary pop, though.
1998’s Transistor Blast contains two discs of BBC remakes and two live discs, including a Black Sea era blowout. I haven’t heard this set since its release, but I think most XTC listeners would want to acquire it sooner or later. The four discs of 2002’s Coat of Many Cupboards present more live artifacts along with single versions, album cuts, and some rehearsals and home demos. (Partridge and Moulding are so precious about their rough drafts that they even released full demo companions to Apple Venus and Wasp Star.) Anyway, the Cupboard is mainly for diehards.
For information on Dave Gregory, check out this site, which contains a discography, articles, photos, and sundry goodies. Don’t miss the informative and sometimes funny Pick of the Month selections, where Dave details his guitar collection one by one.