Herky and, indeed, jerky. The sound of speed. 100mph. Non-stop.
XTC was one of several bands who hitched a ride on the punk bandwagon – see also The Stranglers and The Motors.
But that was alright as Punk was as much about who was let in after the door was kicked down as it was about the here today, nowhere to go tomorrow merchants, like, say, The Lurkers – great though those early singles were. My heart is still in the Shadow.
XTC was in the vanguard of great English songwriters, in the tradition of Ray Davies et al, who initially snarled their way into our hearts. Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and, a little later, Squeeze fit into that model.
Contrary to popular belief, The Stranglers weren’t the only band of the new wave to feature keyboards. Indeed, the soon to be jettisoned Barry Andrews’ steam organ drives this album. And it is driven, rarely letting up, which was what we wanted.
But they couldn’t completely suppress the songwriting under the speed. Top pop tunes like, er, This is Pop and Statue of Liberty, the album’s singles, formed an oasis among the mayhem and pointed the way forward.
Is All Along the Watchtower the best cover of that song? No, obviously not, that’s Hendrix, but it is a fun addition to punk’s deconstruction of previous generations treasures, as exemplified by The Dickies with their uncanny ability to make every song sound the same, ie like the Ramones, and of which Devo’s pulling apart of Satisfaction was the most satisfying.
I Set Myself on Fire
This is Pop
Toppermost of the Poppermost
Statue of Liberty
Fast forward …
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – Go 2 (1978)
Probably the most unloved XTC album and probably rightly so. The second album of the year and it shows.
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – Drums and Wires (1979)
Ah, that’s better! Preceded by the criminally neglected single, Life Begins at the Hop, Drums and Wires is a really good album.
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – Back Sea (1980)
Is this my favourite XTC album? Not quite, but we’re almost there on our journey through Swindon’s finest’s back catalogue. Black Sea is another great XTC album.
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – English Settlement (1982)
English Settlement is the pivotal album for XTC with both cover and name signaling a shift in perspective for the band. A shift from suburban to countryside, from contemporary to timeless.