I have a notebook on my desk at work that I use to take notes during every meeting I attend. Last month, I attended a meeting that really didn’t require my presence, and as a result, my mind drifted and I began to write small capsule reviews of every XTC studio album (this was during the last few months of 2015, when I was going through a major XTC rediscovery period). What doesn’t help me at work could sure be useful as a blog entry. It also works if you’re considering diving into the XTC catalog as a newcomer. Here’s a verbatim transcription:
White Music – Highly melodic, fast, abrasive punk.
GO 2 – Same style as White Music, definite drop in songwriting quality.
Drums & Wires – Change in personnel (Barry Andrews out, Dave Gregory in) makes for a huge leap in sophistication.
Black Sea – Much like its predecessor, and the songs are getting better.
English Settlement – Quality improvement continues, no longer writing for the stage.
Mummer – Continuing the style of “not writing for the road,” more acoustic but songs aren’t as good.
Big Express – Loud and obnoxious, horribly produced, a few good songs but mostly forgettable.
Skylarking – Beautiful, cohesive – everything Mummer wanted to be. Their masterpiece.
Oranges & Lemons – Psychedelic power pop. Invigorating. A bit noisy, but great songs and performances.
Nonsuch – Sort of an Oranges & Lemons Part 2, more sophisticated. Highly underrated.
Apple Venus – Gorgeous, great songs, unique arrangements, lots of orchestral bits.
Wasp Star – Compact, lots of guitar, great songs, back to basics.
So there you have it. A few takeaways:
I have a moderate dislike for Mummer and find it overrated.
Big Express is my least favorite album of theirs by a longshot. It just sucks.
I have no idea why I didn’t review either of the Dukes of Stratosphear albums. I think the meeting ended before I could get to them.
While I still feel that Skylarking is their best album, Drums & Wires and English Settlement have gone way up in my estimation and may eventually surpass Skylarking.
I pride myself on not once using the word “pastoral” in any of the reviews.