Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

This week’s Friday mix: Underrated Pop genius from XTC

I have said that I love it when someone is into a band I want to check out and can tell me what to listen to or even put together a mix for me. Today, the band is XTC and I am your friend.

I was probably 14 when a friend first played some XTC for me. I didn’t like them. It took me another 5 or so years before I listened to them again and I found it appealed to me more then. Over the years I have continued to collect their music until XTC is now in my top 10 favorite bands. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are the potent songwriting duo that has driven the band’s sound and success since 1972.

Nearly everyone has heard “Dear God” and one or two others, but I don’t think most people have delved deeply into their library. They are accomplished musicians, intelligent lyricists, and have a great knack for writing Pop music. Simple and appealing Pop melodies are augmented by rich backing vocals, complex instrumental arrangements, and savvy production. Give a listen to some of these. I hope I can turn a few people into fans.

  1. Easter Theater – As Partridge and Moulding have gotten older, some of their songwriting has gotten more sophisticated. The accompanying trumpet and background harmonies are complex and do unexpected things with minor and modal harmonies.
  2. Greenman – OK, the lyrics are maybe a little cheesy, but the melody is very pleasing and the string and woodwind arrangements are cool.
  3. Rocket from a Bottle – From the early, even quirkier days of the band. I love the fat, pounded piano and stomping percussion.
  4. Travels in Nihilon – I recommended this song when I wrote about my favorite producer, Steve Lillywhite. The atonal verses and ominous chorus are dominated by the thumping percussion. Love. This. Song.
  5. Senses Working Overtime – One of two songs most people who have heard of XTC know about and it is a good one. Nowhere near my favorite, but good.
  6. Jason and Argonauts – I am reminded of Travels in Nihilon when I hear this in that it is over 6 minutes long and has kind of an epic feel to it. I like the repetition of the rising and falling guitar riff. Cool lyrics.
  7. Yacht Dance – This is a beautiful song with an  acoustic arpeggio from the guitar and simple but perfectly appropriate percussion.
  8. Snowman – Not sure if this is written by Partridge or Moulding, but they always loved a good love metaphor (or simile, in this case) “What I wanna know, man — Why does she treat me like a snowman?”
  9. Making Plans for Nigel – Back in their early days, XTC was a Punk and New Wave band. Here is one of their New Wave tunes. Mark Mothersbaugh would have been proud to have written this one.
  10. Beating of Hearts – Such a catchy guitar riff and I love the Middle Eastern influence in this song.
  11. My Bird Performs – One of their higher-profile songs. I actually still hear this one on the radio once in a great while. It’s a great Pop hook.
  12. The Ugly Underneath – This is one of my all-time favorite XTC songs. The lyrics aren’t just smart, they sound cool when they’re sung, like poetry. The verses rock and the chorus is dreamy. Great song. This is from Nonsuch, which is a great album, but is also one of their weirdest (and that’s saying something), which is why I haven’t pulled many songs from it for this. I recommend the album, though.
  13. The Mayor of Simpleton – Funny, funny song and another great Pop hook they seemed to toss off effortlessly.
  14. Pink Thing – Is there any love so pure as the love of a man for his penis? This is perhaps the funniest song I’ve ever heard about masturbation.
  15. Summer’s Cauldron – In my iTunes, I have edited this song and the next, “Grass,” into a single track, since they flow together, but this song is the better half of the pair.
  16. The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul – I love the lounge feel of this song and the accompanying jazzy flute and trumpet.The verses are in 7/8 time but give way to a broad horns-laden chorus. All with the finest existential lyrics you could ask for.
  17. Sacrificial Bonfire – I actually put this in my iPod mix of Christmas music. It is about the end of a year and has that holiday feel.
  18. Church of Women – I chose this song more or less at random from Wasp Star. It’s no more or less brilliant than any of the other songs on this great release. I do love the chorus.
  19. You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful – Great, great lyrics. “And every evening before I bolt the door I give the stars a stir to make sure they will spin all night.” This is barely my favorite track from Wasp Star. Sadly, you’ll have to scroll down to the music samples on this amazon page to hear the sample, but it’s there.

In researching this post, I discovered the sad fact that there will be no more music from XTC. It seems they are done. Worse, Partridge told several interviewers that Moulding no longer had any interest in writing, performing, or even listening to music. Well, hopefully, he’ll have a change of heart and at least write some solo material. And I hope we can expect to hear songs from Andy Partridge. RIP XTC.



August 14, 2009 - Posted by | Mix CD, Popular, Rock

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