Ah, that’s better! Preceded by the criminally neglected single, Life Begins at the Hop, Drums and Wires is a really good album.
Always a fine line between what’s New Wave and what’s Post Punk, but this feels like a new wave album to me. Clever, sharp pop still informed by the energy of punk.
It contains the biggest hit single, the one that appears on all the new wave compilations, Making Plans for Nigel. You always wondered whether the biggest hit being written by Colin Moulding caused Andy Partridge angst. His most successful chart entry would have to wait for a couple more albums in the form of Senses Working Over Time, which doesn’t appear on half as many compilation albums.
But Drums and Wires is the first real inkling that in Partridge we’ve got an English songsmith in the class of Ray Davies.
Still being punky in taste at the time, my inclination was towards bangers like Reel by Reel and Helicopter, but something more subtle was starting to emerge in the form of songs like Patridge’s When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty and Moulding’s Ten Feet Tall. And quirky had replaced herky-jerky on numbers like Millions and Complicated Game.
Steve Lillywhite’s presented a tight unit underpinned by Terry Chambers’ thumping drums, a great contrast to the sprawl and lack of focus of the last LP.
Drums and Wires starts the run of three albums where I felt most attached to XTC, the songs and their running order ingrained on my memory forevermore.
When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty
Reel by Reel
Toppermost of the Poppermost
Making Plans for Nigel
In case you missed it …
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – White Music (1978)
Herky and, indeed, jerky. The sound of speed. 100mph. Non-stop.
A garden of earthly delights – XTC’s studio albums – Go 2
Probably the most unloved XTC album and probably rightly so. The second album of the year and it shows. (1978)
Fast forward …
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.