I’ve had satellite radio for over a year now, and even they don’t play XTC. Once seen as one of the UK most vital independent pop bands, XTC first rose to popularity and now seems to have fallen out of both indie and pop markets.
To be sure, the group had its problems. They don’t have a single album you can listen to straight through without wincing at least occasionally [Black Sea comes closest, though English Settlement has their highest peaks], the fey Britishisms can be offputting, and the vocals are sometimes monotonous [have I sold you on them yet?]. Plus they don’t have a truly convincing greatest hits collection. But their very best songs are among the most significant achievements of rock and roll. Andy Partridge’s songwriting, polyrhythms and studio sense have given me some of my most treasured musical moments. Let’s hope they stand the test of time.
I don’t do iPod (I can’t stand the poor sound quality), but buy the following if you can: 1) No Language in our Lungs [Partridge’s favorite song from the group], 2) Helicopter, 3) Ladybird, 4) Snowman [my favorite], 5) No Thugs in Our House, 6) Senses Working Overtime, 7) I’d Like That, 8) Crocodile, 9) Rocket from a Bottle, 10) Yacht Dance, 11) Brainiac’s Daughter [technically by the “Dukes of Stratosphere”], and 12) Holly up on Poppy, just to name a few. Those songs are my nomination for what belongs in the canon but isn’t yet there.
Addendum: Economist Dan Klein, who first turned me on to XTC, adds the following:
“I liked Tyler’s post on the British rock band XTC. But there is something about XTC he didn’t mention. Not sure how to describe it. Something like the soul wrenching sound of focus and determination. In Led Zeppelin and NWA you also get a pure sense of masculine being, but there’s something special about it in XTC. The self as a team of men in a boiler room making a machine serve an over-riding purpose. I think of songs like “Paper and Iron,” “Travels in Nihilon,” “Heaven is Paved with Broken Glass,” “Tissue Tigers,” and, above all, “Roads Girdle the Globe.” I’d say the peaks come on the albums Go 2, Drums and Wires, and Black Sea.”
“Hail mother motor!
Hail piston rotor!