KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

XTC Part 5 – Then They Appeared

XTC’s final album for Virgin/Geffen, before a prolonged legal battle that kept them from releasing any new recordings for 7 years, was Nonsuch (1992). It was also the first newly XTC - Nonsuchreleased XTC record since I became a fan in 1989, when I fell in love with Oranges & Lemons and subsequently purchased all of their prior albums. I’ve always enjoyed Nonsuch a lot, with most of its 17 tracks being exquisite pop gems, but there’s something about it that has kept me from ranking it up there with my favorites. Where the best songs on previous albums seemed like effortlessly catchy melodic masterpieces, these songs often come across as meticulously crafted and occasionally the product of overthinking. Their craftsmanship is admirable, and there’s no doubt that much of this album is as good as anything they’ve ever done, yet for me it’s not as rewarding a listen. Whereas Oranges & Lemons breezed by over its 61-minute running time, at 63+ minutes Nonsuch seems a lot longer. I know that a lot of fans consider this the pinnacle of the XTC discography, and many of them are probably yelling at me as they read this, but bear with me. I have a lot of good things to say too.

Joining the longtime trio of Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding & Dave Gregory is the amazing drummer, Dave Mattacks, who is best known for his work with British folk-rock legends Fairport Convention. He brings a much more subtle approach to many of the XTC - Nonsuch Back Cover Artworksongs than any of his predecessors. Another new collaborator is producer Gus Dudgeon, who oversaw nearly every classic Elton John recording. Like Todd Rundgren before him, Andy & Gus did not get along, so Gus left the project after recording was complete and the album was mixed by Nick Davis. None of this behind-the-scenes drama made it to the record, which begins with the upbeat & super-poppy “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead.” In a nod to Bob Dylan, Andy’s harmonica is featured throughout, and although it was a minor hit single, it may have been more successful had the 5-minute running time been edited down. Colin’s “My Bird Performs” features a cool subtle rhythmic groove & a melancholy fanfare provided by flugelhorn & trumpet. Colin described this as “a metaphor for feeling good about how life’s going.” I love the alternating & intertwining vocals in the final minute. Like “King For A Day” from the previous album, this song reminds me of the incredible one-album band Toy Matinee. “Dear Madam Barnum” predicts the eventual end of Andy’s marriage, with lines like “If I’m not the sole fool who pulls his trousers down, then dear Madam Barnum, I resign as clown” a clear indicator of what was going on in his personal life. Musically it recalls “The Loving” and Andy said it’s “a sort of hybrid of Manfred Mann, The Hollies & English folk rock.” I agree. The mood changes for the light & airy “Humble Daisy” which, according to Andy, was “a piece of dream logic…every few bars sound like they come from different songs.” I especially like the quiet psychedelia that brings to mind late-‘60s Beach Boys.

“The Smartest Monkeys” is Colin’s sarcastic state of the world, of which he said it’s “an excuse for a bit of pomp rock…Genesis, Deep Purple, Jon Lord, Rick Wakeman.” Those are all positive touchstones for me. There’s a great atmospheric back-and-forth guitar part, notably in the intro, and fantastic offbeat drumming from Mattacks. I also love the reggae-ish bassline and Dave’s wonderful wah-wah, effects-laden guitar solo. Andy’s “The Disappointed” is a paean to lonely hearts masquerading as a harmony-laden pop confection that he described as “up musically & dejected lyrically.” It has more in common with Tears For Fears than any specific ‘60s artist. “Crocodile” is Andy’s “noisy pop song about jealousy” where a crocodile represents an inner anger or resentment that eats away at you. It has a slight country music vibe and nice folky/jangly guitar work. “Rook” is a standout track that Andy wrote immediately after an extended period of writer’s block. Dave’s orchestral arrangement is what really makes this song, and I love the tinkling piano at “Soar up high, see the semaphore…” Regarding “Omnibus,” Andy said it’s “supposed to sound like a West End musical impression of a bus ride through London in the ‘50s,” and I can totally hear what he’s talking about. There’s a great ascending vocal line in the verses that’s mirrored by trumpets, and the more I played it the more it reminded me of the music Joe Jackson was making at that time.

“Wrapped In Grey” has a great Burt Bacharach-indebted ‘60s piano melody & a gorgeous vocal performance, especially at “your heart is a big box of paints,” with a baroque musical accompaniment. It moves into Beach Boys Pet Sounds territory at
“Awaken you dreamers…” “That Wave” is occasionally overbaked, especially the verses, but there are also a number of amazing sections, especially the beautiful melody at “I was in heaven, address cloud eleven” and that angular guitar solo. “Then She Appeared” is a lovely, chiming chamber pop tune with jangly guitars and tight music & vocals. There are various hooks, but it’s lacking a huge chorus that could’ve made it a major hit. Album closer “Books Are Burning” was inspired by the book burnings of Salmon Rushdie’s controversial The Satanic Verses, set to a pretty midtempo pop melody. There’s an awesome guitar “battle” between Andy & Dave, where their individual styles shine. I always thought this song needed a much more intricate vocal arrangement since there’s essentially a single feel throughout. So as much as I enjoy it, it doesn’t have the same impact as previous album closers like “Pale & Precious” and “Chalkills & Children.” There are four other songs I haven’t discussed, each of which has some element I enjoyed but I think they’re all a bit incomplete. I really do like Nonsuch, but it’s one of those long albums that would’ve benefited from a good editor. I eagerly await the remixed version that’s being released later this year. I’m especially excited to hear the 5.1 surround sound mix that was overseen by Steven Wilson. I’m no expert but I’ve heard enough surround sound mixes to know that nobody does it better than Mr. Wilson.

As I mentioned above, XTC was unable to release any new music for 7 years due to legal issues between them and Virgin/Geffen. In the interim there were a few CDs that aimed to satisfy their eager fan base. BBC Radio One Live In Concert 1980 (1992) is their first XTC - BBC Radio One Live In Concert 1980officially-released live recording. Considering that they retired from touring in 1982 there’s very little recorded evidence of XTC as a live act, so it’s a revelation to hear them as a well-oiled new wave/power pop band promoting the Black Sea album (7 of the 13 songs come from that record). There’s a lot of youthful energy on display; it’s punk-y but not “punk.” I know I’ve made numerous comparisons to Joe Jackson throughout this series, and that similarity is once again noticeable here. The inventive playing of original drummer Terry Chambers is the driving force throughout. Although Andy’s voice is occasionally ragged due to a cold he’s in fine spirits, and it makes me a little sad to know that anxiety would soon cause him to stop performing live, as he’s clearly a talented musician & frontman. Of the four studio albums represented, I was most familiar with Black Sea before I began revisiting their catalog for this series, so I probably knew the majority of these songs when I got this CD. However, songs like “Scissor Man” and “Battery Brides” have more of an impact on me now that I know their studio counterparts, and they (along with “No Language In Our Lungs”) document a band with a great sense of dynamics and a well-paced set list.

Drums And Wireless – BBC Radio Session 77-89 (1994) is a 17-track collection (including a spoken-word introduction by famed BBC disc jockey John Peel) of XTC - Drums And Wireless BBC Radio Sessionsperformances for BBC radio, which Andy described as “basically shoot-from-the-hip versions.” At first I didn’t like the fact that the track listing jumps between sessions (and band lineups), but then I realized that it’s more listenable that way; an overview & alternate history of the band featuring both well-known & more obscure songs. In the past when I played this CD, there were probably at least 10 songs that I didn’t recognize by title, but after spending so much time with their catalog this past month I was able to identify every song without needing to look at the track listing. For me, that’s a personal victory, as I’m clearly much more familiar with their music now (which is the whole purpose of this blog). There’s not a bad performance to be found, but also nothing that’s drastically different from the original version other than “One Of The Millions,” which really works in this scaled back arrangement. It’s a very enjoyable collection that’s definitely geared for existing fans.

I usually wouldn’t revisit a various-artists tribute album in my reappraisal of an artist’s work, but in the case of A Testimonial Dinner – The Songs Of XTC (1995) I had to make an exception…because XTC themselves appeared with a previously unreleased song. XTC - A Testimonial DinnerBilling themselves as Terry & The Lovemen, Colin’s “The Good Things” is an Oranges & Lemons-era recording with a Sgt. Pepper’s/Pet Sounds vibe, moving between various moody & upbeat sections. It’s not a lost classic by any means but it’s a nice addition to their catalog. I was already enough of an XTC fan to buy this CD when it was released, but that may have had as much to do with the artist roster, several of which were personal favorites. Acoustic troubadour Freedy Johnston, who’s best known for his 1994 hit “Bad Reputation” (but whose discography is deep & consistently enjoyable) delivers a nice rootsy version of “Earn Enough For Us.” The Rembrandts, who probably hate being known as “the band who did the Friends theme song,” but also had a hit with 1990’s “Just The Way It Is, Baby,” offer up a straightforward rendition of “Making Plans For Nigel” that’s very good but lacks some of the original’s quirkiness. Oranges & Lemons drummer Pat Mastelotto adds his percussive power to this track. One-of-a-kind Canadian band Crash Test Dummies, who are so much better than their one big U.S. hit (“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”), perform a nicely loping version of “All You Pretty Girls,” with Brad Roberts’ distinctive baritone driving the verses while Ellen Reid’s ethereal vocals highlight the choruses. Andy has gone on record saying that Sarah McLachlan’s version of “Dear God” might be better than the original. I’m not sure about that, but hers is a brooding, moody, intense performance. I was already a fan of Sarah’s from the first time I heard her debut album in 1989, and at the time of this tribute album I was still excited any time she recorded something new.

I’ve been aware of Ruben Blades for years but have never owned anything by him. His upbeat, horn-infused Latin interpretation of “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” might just change that. They Might Be Giants is another band I’ve loved since their first album, and I think a lot of music fans don’t take them seriously because of the humor & quirkiness in much of their output. In my mind these guys are up there with the best songwriters of the last 25 years, and they’ve remained remarkably consistent. Their take on the Dukes Of Stratosphear track “25 O’Clock” is faithful to the original & purposely chintzy (in a good way). Then there’s Joe Jackson, whose name keeps coming up in this series. He’s one of my all-time favorite artists and he doesn’t disappoint here with “Statue Of Liberty.” Featuring two of his long-serving comrades (brilliant bassist Graham Maby & powerfully swinging drummer Gary Burke), the cheesy programmed organ rhythm and maracas really drive the song along, and Maby’s bouncy bassline gives it some extra pep. I didn’t expect to write so much about this CD, but it’s a perfect combination of great songs and artists I love. Depending on your tolerance for these performers, your enjoyment mileage may vary.

Since I don’t own the Coat Of Many Cupboards box set, and Andy’s Fuzzy Warbles series is separate from the band, in my next (and last) post I’ll discuss the final two XTC studio albums (along with the related collections of demos that were released shortly after each). Right now I remember one of them being more of a pop/rock album and the other is more orchestrated, but it’s been a number of years since I played them and I don’t recall much more than that. I’ll be playing them a lot over the coming days and look forward to sharing my thoughts with you once I’ve finally gotten reacquainted with them. For now, please let me know if you think I’m off base with my slight criticism of Nonsuch, and tell me what you think of the other CDs I discussed. Thanks. And don’t forget to visit Chalkills.org for everything you could ever hope to know about XTC.

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43 comments on “XTC Part 5 – Then They Appeared

  1. theuglymoose
    August 10, 2013

    The Smartest Monkeys! God I love that song. I’ll be playing that a few times tomorrow. Another wonderful write up! When do we get Steely Dan 🙂

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    • I had forgotten how much I liked that song until revisiting it this past week. Glad I could inspire you to give it a few spins. As for Steely Dan, I’m already a huge fan so they’re probably not right for this blog…at least for now. I try to focus on the lesser-played artists in my collection so I can learn more about them and get to know music I’m not familiar with. XTC was kinda pushing that concept, but one of the reasons I chose them was so I could read the “Song Stories” book at the same time. It’s good to know I’ll have at least one reader if I ever change my mind about Steely Dan. Thanks.

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      • theuglymoose
        August 11, 2013

        That makes sense to me. I’m ticketed up to see Steely Dan when they visit Raleigh soon. I saw Donald Fagen play live once, which was one of the best gigs I’ve been too, but never seen SD live. Anyway, enjoyed the XTC series. What’s lined up next?

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      • I only saw “The Dan” once, when they reunited for the first time in ’93, at the Jones Beach Amphitheater, and it was a phenomenal show. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember. If I ever decide to cover their catalog here, I might have to include Fagen’s & Becker’s solo work since they’re an integral part of the story. Fagen’s “The Nightfly” is a desert island disc for sure, and after getting the DVD-Audio a few years ago & experiencing it in surround sound I love it even more.

        I still have one more XTC post coming up. After that I’m not sure who I’ll revisit next. I have a vacation planned at the end of the month, so I may not want to start a long series until after I get back. I may do a “Compilation Or Catalog?” or “B-Sides The Point” post before I leave. I will say this: at some point in the not-too-distant future I will be spending a lot of time with The Kinks.

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      • stephen1001
        August 11, 2013

        Make that two readers – Steely Dan makes 4 appearances on the 1001 list (Can’t Buy a Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy, Pretzel Logic, and Aja) so if you have a change of heart, I’d be supportive! I like that approach though of gravitating towards the less familiar artists. I hadn’t realized legal battles had caused a big gap between releases – interested to hear if that influenced the sound at all on (also 1001 list) Apple Venus Vol.1

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      • I’m glad to know there will be at least an audience of 2 if I choose to revisit the Steely Dan catalog & write about it. I can see myself doing that at some point, but I have a huge list of the lesser-played artists I talked about earlier that I want to spend time with first.

        Although it might be easier to write about music I already know really well, my “mission statement” when I started this blog was to cover those less familiar artists whose CDs & LPs have sat on my shelf for years without being played. I’ve cheated a little bit with XTC and The Beach Boys, since I knew a lot more of their output than most of the other artists I’ve covered, but I still learned a lot about them in the process.

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      • stephen1001
        August 11, 2013

        I’m trying to leave my favourites for the end of the 1001 project as well – so if you see me reviewing Pet Sounds anytime soon, I’m breaking the rules.

        It’s about timing though too, and looking at XTC coincided with your reading the book, so any perceived cheating is fine there!

        A Kinks series sound promising – I’ve only heard 2 of their records but Arthur’s quickly moving up the list of my faves.

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      • Thanks for accepting my excuse for cheating. I look forward to reading your thoughts on Pet Sounds, which I’m guessing you’ll get to in….how many years?

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      • stephen1001
        August 11, 2013

        I started in 2011, so by 2021 at the latest!

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      • I can wait that long. Looking forward to it. Haha.

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      • panchopete
        October 17, 2013

        Two readers Rich. I’ve often wondered why XTC and Steely Dan are my two favourite bands as they wouldn’t appear to have too much in common apart from brilliant words and music. Maybe that’s it?

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      • Hi there, Pete (or should I call you Pancho?). Thanks for showing Steely Dan some love, and confirming that I’ll have a slightly bigger audience if I ever choose to write a series on their discography. I think I know their music a little too well, though, which goes against the main purpose of this blog, but I reserve the right to cover any artist I feel like so I may change my mind one day. I can see no better connection between two artists than the fact that they write brilliant words & music, so I wholeheartedly agree with your comment.

        Cheers.
        Rich

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      • panchopete
        October 17, 2013

        I answer to either Rich. As you’ll see I’ve been busy making comments across your XTC blogs, don’t feel obliged to reply to them all. Just happy to know the people who appreciate XTC (aren’t enough of them in my opinion) really appreciate them.

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      • I’m happy to respond since the only thing I enjoy nearly as much as listening to music is talking about it, and I’ve had some great conversations here with people who are even more passionate about the artists covered than I am. Not sure if you’re aware, but the main purpose of this blog is to document my rediscovery of artists whose catalogs I haven’t played as often as my favorites. I figure everyone else is writing about songs/albums/artists they already love, but I have such a huge music collection & a lot of it has gathered dust on the shelves as I continually purchase more music. This was my way of dusting them off & finally getting to know them. XTC & The Beach Boys are probably the two artists I knew the best before starting each series, but I still learned a lot over the months I spent with each. I hope that passion comes through in my writing.

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      • panchopete
        October 17, 2013

        A meritorious aim Rich and the passion does come through. I think the main benefit of the internet/social media is the bringing together of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to share their musical thoughts, even with their nearest and dearest.

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      • Thanks. Glad you can feel the passion. I’ve always had a good circle of music-obsessed friends, having worked in the music industry for over 25 years and played in bands for even longer. However, as we get older & people move, have kids, or lose interest in listening to anything other than the stuff they grew up with, I found that my opportunities for this kind of discussion have diminished. The blog has been a wonderful experience even if it doesn’t replace the face-to-face conversations of my younger years.

        Very happy to meet you, and I can’t thank you enough for spending some of your time here. Where are you from?

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      • panchopete
        October 18, 2013

        Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Frustrated lead singer Rich, always wished I’d persisted with that High School band we got together for a party forty years ago! I have a couple of music obsessed friends but always get the feeling we’re boring most people when we start banging on about the merits of this or that bass line or whether Paul Rogers is the best rock singer ever. Where are you based by the way?
        Cheers, Pete

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      • Australia is definitely a place I plan to visit one day, probably after I’ve retired since I know you need at least 2-3 weeks to make it a worthwhile trip. I’m a native New Yorker. Grew up on Staten Island, lived in Queens for 16 years, and worked in Manhattan for 20. I’m currently in the suburbs, about 10-12 miles north of NYC.

        Sorry about your “frustrated singer” status. It’s never too late, though, if you can find the right musicians to play with. I’ve been playing drums since I was 8, so we’re approaching 40 years of being a musician. I gave up the dreams of rock stardom a long time ago and I’m very content to play with like-minded musicians whenever we find the time.

        Paul Rodgers is definitely in the conversation when it comes to greatest rock singers of all time. I’ve seen him a few times and he never fails to amaze…plus his voice seems to have gotten stronger as he’s aged. How is that possible?

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      • Panchopete
        October 18, 2013

        Have never had the opportunity to see PR sing but sounds like he’ll still have what it takes when I do. Saw Robert Plant here in Tassie earlier this year Rich and was pleasantly surprised by his voice as well; makes Linda Rondstat’s health problems all the more tragic. Yes, you’ll need a month when you come to Oz – make sure you don’t forget the little island at the bottom! When we come to US next we plan to spent at least 3 wks in NY – 3 days in 2001 was no where near enough. Dropped in at Bard Coll by the way – didn’t take the Wolverine to get there however.

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      • I saw Rodgers with Jimmy Page in 1983 at the ARMS Benefit Concert at Madison Square Garden, then with The Firm in 1986 and again with Queen+PR in 2006. He may not have been the right fit for Queen’s songs, but he did a great job and it’s amazing how good he still looks & sounds.

        Saw Plant a bunch of times in the ’80s & early 90s, but not since then. There was a time when he was trying too hard to sing like his younger self and didn’t play to his strengths, but over the last 10-12 years he’s become a much better singer. No longer the “golden god” but someone who has great control of his voice. As a Zeppelin fanatic for 35 years I was skeptical about the one-off reunion in 2007 but he sounded phenomenal on that DVD.

        Very true about poor Ms. Ronstadt. One of the most beautiful voices of all time has been silenced by illness. I can’t imagine how devastating it must be for her to not be able to do the thing she was obviously born to do.

        You almost stumped me with the Steely Dan reference but then the song popped into my head. Now all I can hear is Jeff “Skunk” Baxter’s brilliant guitar solo.
        You should get a great feel for everything NYC has to offer when you’re here for 3 weeks. As you pointed out, 3 days wouldn’t do the trick.

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      • Panchopete
        October 18, 2013

        Knew you wouldn’t take long to get it. Funny you should mention Skunk Baxter. I watched a YouTube clip of Linda R singing You’re No Good yesterday and the bloke on bongos was a dead ringer.

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      • Any chance that WAS Skunk Baxter in the Ronstadt clip? He did a lot of sessions back then. Another guy who had a one-of-a-kind look (and definitely played with Ronstadt & dozens of others) is Waddy Wachtel. I hadn’t seen or heard him in years but he showed up performing with an artist I like recently and he looked exactly the same. I guess the ’70s never ended for some people. Haha.

        Hope you’ve had a great weekend.
        Rich

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      • Panchopete
        October 20, 2013

        Would have been a better w’end if I hadn’t wrecked my shoulder playing cricket. I know, “too old”! I didn’t know Skunk was also a percussionist. In that case I reckon that was him. It’s a Midnight Special performance if you want to confirm. Good to hear Waddy W’s still about – means we’ve got a guitarist for my Warren Zevon tribute band! I’ve got another late Metallica convert onto your blog by the way. I didn’t get onto them until S&M. Saw them in Melbourne in March. Brilliant but would have loved the Melbourne Symphony to have been with them as well. Hope you stayed injury free over the w’end. Cheers, PG

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      • Sorry to hear about the injury, Pete. I managed to emerge from the weekend unscathed, which is especially impressive since I was trimming some large privacy hedges in my backyard today, often reaching with the electric trimmer from the top of a ladder. I’ll probably feel the results tomorrow.

        I’ll have to look into the Ronstadt footage on Youtube to confirm, but it wouldn’t surprise me if “Skunk” was handling percussion from time to time.

        Ooh, a Zevon tribute band would be fun. One of these days I’m going to revisit his catalog & write about it here, but I have a few artists I want to cover first.

        Nice to know I’ve met another Metallica latecomer. I’ve never seen them live but imagine it would be a great show.

        Stay healthy…this week & beyond.

        Rich

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  2. mikeladano
    August 11, 2013

    Still following along, playing the odd track here and they, not really my thing, but I can appreciate a good song.

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    • Thanks, Mike. I wasn’t sure if you’d enjoy XTC but I know you like a wide range of music & I appreciate you giving them a shot and following along.

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  3. Gary
    August 11, 2013

    Hi Rich,
    To me, Nonesuch is about half a great record. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Holly Up On Poppy because that’s one of my favorites on the record and a classic Andy song. Also love Peter Pumpkinhead, Dear Madame Barnum, Then She Appeared, The Disappointed and Humble Daisy, A think the rest of it is just a bit boring and I continually find myself skipping tracks. I read an interview with Andy once in which he said Rook was one of the best songs he’s ever written. I’ve tried but don’t really get it.

    My vote for next act to cover? NRBQ.

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    • Hey Gary. I always thought you were a bigger fan of Nonsuch. I’m surprised to find out that I like it more than you do, in spite of my criticisms. I’ve always enjoyed “Holly Up On Poppy,” but since I didn’t want to dissect every single song on the album I had to omit a handful that I don’t enjoy as much as the others. In my handwritten notes about it, I wrote that “it isn’t fully formed. It’s pretty but incomplete.” I do love the acoustic guitar work & swirling organ melody, but in the end it’s kind of a minor song for me.

      As for NRBQ, I would have to cover them in my “Compilation Or Catalog?” series since I only own Scraps and the Peek-A-Boo 2-CD anthology. Otherwise, I try to write about complete artist catalogs that I already own but haven’t spent enough time with, and I obviously don’t own enough NRBQ music for them to qualify.

      Sorry your previous comment disappeared. I found this one in my spam folder, so I’ll have to look through that more often to make sure legitimate comments aren’t going in there.

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  4. 1537
    August 11, 2013

    Definitely agree with you about Terry Chambers, a very underrated drummer in my view.

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    • For some reason this comment ended up in my spam folder & I just found it. Glad you agree about the underrated drumming prowess of Terry Chambers. He should be more highly regarded among the “new wave” drummers of the era (like The Attractons’ Pete Thomas and Dave Houghton of the Joe Jackson band).

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      • Todd
        August 25, 2013

        How about a series on Joe Jackson, since his name came up a couple times lately?

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      • Much as I would love to, the main purpose of this blog is for me to revisit the lesser-played artists in my CD & LP collection, and Joe Jackson has been one of my favorite artists for over 30 years. Although I would probably learn some things by revisiting his albums & writing about them here, I’d prefer to focus on other artists so I can finally get to know their music as well as I know Joe’s music. Perhaps at some point I’ll spend some time with my favorites, but for now I have a huge list of artists that are waiting to be re-discovered.

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  5. Glenn S.
    August 15, 2013

    Drums & Wireless and Live In Concert are both great curios for fans. There was also a boxed set called Transistor Blast with everything from these two releases and more, but I never got it. Maybe someone who owns it can comment here. (p.s., I believe the “John Peel” intro on D&W is actually Andy having a bit of fun.)

    Nonesuch was the first XTC album that disappointed me. I don’t hate it by any means, but as with a lot of albums that are described as “mature” I think it’s a bit bland around the edges. I agree that it would have been better with a few less tracks, because there is some good material here that gets a bit lost. My favorites are “Omnibus,” “The Smartest Monkeys” and “Then She Appeared.” “Rook” is also an interesting departure and anticipates the direction of the group’s next album. But who knew that next album would be so long in coming?

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    • Thanks again for the info, Glenn. I wasn’t sure if the John Peel intro was Peel reading off a bunch of fake band names as an in-joke for XTC, but it makes sense that it might be Andy having fun. I’ve seem the Transistor Blast collection but never felt the need to spend money on it. Like you said, these are curios but not really essential purchases.

      Once again we’re basically on the same wavelength, this time regarding Nonsuch. So many people I know consider it their masterwork, but it has a few too many flaws for me (and you as well, obviously). Good point about “Rook” pointing the way forward to what would come next. Hard to believe it took so long for the next record, but I’m sure you know why. I’ll talk about that in my next (and final) post. As I type this, I’m listening to the Apple Venus CDs again. I’ve been playing them all week, and now I’m taking notes and hope to complete that post by the weekend. I wonder if we’ll still be in agreement about these albums.

      As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read these posts & write your comments. It’s always fun talking with you about music.

      Cheers!
      Rich

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  6. Tom
    August 15, 2013

    Hey, how can I send you a private message?

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    • I have a gmail account with the name of this blog before the @ symbol. I don’t want to type it here in case spammers find it, but hopefully that info will be sufficient. Looking forward to hearing from you.

      Rich

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  7. Will
    September 19, 2013

    I teach literature at the college level, and include lyrics in my classes. “Wrapped in Grey” is a fine poem in the English Romantic tradition. The meter, the images, the metaphors, the rhymes, and of course the message are just wonderful. It’s not the only XTC song with lyrics that belong in literary anthologies, but it’s one of their best.

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    • Hi Will. Nice to know that XTC lyrics are being taught to students of literature. I occasionally have issues with Andy being a little too clever for his own good, although that represents only a small portion of his output. He’s mostly an incredible wordsmith who also has an endless supply of memorable tunes. “Wrapped In Grey” is certainly a highlight.

      Thanks for stopping by & sharing your insight. I really appreciate it.

      Best wishes,
      Rich

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  8. sally
    November 9, 2013

    Hi Rich,
    great piece as usual.Nonsuch is the XTC album I play the most.maybe like The Beatles with Peppers they had better songs on other lps but as a collective whole this is a fantastic statement.ok so what is it I like so much firstly the songs,out of 17 there is only one that i dislike maybe two more that are ok, that leaves 14 that i absolutely love.the harmonies on a song like humble daisy wow,Dave Mattack’s drum fills double wow and Guy Barker’s trumpet and flugelhorn playing that enhances every track he plays on triple wow.the guitar duel at the end of books are burning damn it’s brilliant.I also feel that Gus Dudgeon was a bit hard done by here,he recorded the sounds after all before they were remixed by nick davis and is never given any credit by the band for his contribution.now if only they had replaced wardance with didn’t hurt a bit on the lp and released Omnibus as the first single with a cliff richard summer holiday type double decker romp of a video this could have been the soundtrack to the 90’s

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    • Hard to argue with any of your points, Sally. I love “Nonsuch” even though I don’t feel quite as strongly about it as you do. I’m curious when you became a fan, and which was your initial exposure to their music. I’ve encountered a lot of people who came to them via “Nonsuch” and it remains their favorite, while people who have been fans since the early-’80s have completely different expectations about their music (and, consequently, very different favorites). There’s little doubt that “Nonsuch” is one of their best-sounding records, and I’m eagerly awaiting the upcoming surround sound version.

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  9. liv3evil
    November 9, 2013

    FYI according to the “Nonsuch” liners, Partridge arranged ‘Rook’, not Gregory.

    Unrelated, I’m currently enjoying the 2013 Steven Wilson remix on “Nonsuch”! 🙂

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    • Thanks for letting me know that arrangement info about “Rook.” Not sure where I read that it was Dave Gregory. I still think his contributions were sorely missed on the last Apple Venus album. At least he’s out there playing again with a couple of prog-rock bands.

      Steven Wilson is an incredible musician & songwriter, but his biggest strength may be in audio mixing & surround sound. I own numerous albums that he’s remixed for that format & every one is a sonic wonder. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of his version of Yes’ “Close To The Edge,” and I’ll be ordering “Nonsuch” soon. What are your thoughts on that remix?

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  10. Pingback: KamerTunesBlog Year In Review 2013 | KamerTunesBlog

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