Sunday, 14 November 2010

Everybody Walkie Talkie

After tooling around in various bands since the early 1970's, Swindon boys Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding formed XTC in 1976. Signing to Virgin, they released their debut album 'White Music' in January 1977.

It's a great album, full of energy, a lightning fast mish mash of new wave, punk, pub rock, prog rock, art rock, you name it, characterised by angular guitars, funny chords, queasy, quirky keyboards and strong but surprising lyrics and melodies. It's one of my favourite ways to spend 36 and a half minutes that doesn't involve slipping into something more comfortable.

'Radios In Motion' opens the LP, and sets out their stall with a burst of propulsive bass, interesting drums, some jagged chords and Andy Partridge's nasal, mannered voice, a bark he described as 'calculated to overcome crappy PAs'. It occasionally sounds a bit like Talking Heads playing Beach Boys songs on a jerky escalator which, incidentally, is a very good thing indeed.

'This Is Pop' was only a minor hit when released as a single, but deserved to make a bigger impact. Rubbery, shimmery verses abut a footstomping, hand clapping chorus, achieving the difficult task of writing a great pop song about great pop music. The end of the song, when the chorus is repeated three times, each time becoming louder and dumber and more wonderful, is one of the great moments of the UK 70's music scene.

'Neon Shuffle' is a hyperactive ska tune with some intriguing scat vocal paradiddles. It's a fairly daft song with nonsensical lyrics about being run through with bamboo that, melodically, could have been recorded by any number of pub bands of the era, but is saved from sounding ordinary by sheer adrenalin. One could pogo all day to it, if it weren't 1,436 minutes too short.

XTC went on to have a long and critically acclaimed career, of course, never quite reaching their early potential in terms of sales and influence in their lifetime, even though their later records were always of a high-standard and a big influence on bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads and lots of others that I'm simply too out of touch to name.

Partridge's nervous breakdown (on stage) in 1982 and subsequent crippling stage fright led to the end of the band as a live entity, and, ultimately, to the dissolution of the band as the time between albums increased, the time spent together decreased and the non-songwriting members got bored and poor and drifted off to other things. The group officially split in 2005, and have, so far, resisted the temptation to reform, a decison perhaps made easier for them by the fact that Moulding moved house and didn't give Partridge his new address or phone number for several years...these Wiltshire types, what are they like?

XTC Factoid: The band originally wanted to call the LP 'Black Music', but Virgin vetoed, saying that punters might think it was a soul record.


George Kramer said...

Hello chaps,

You sure they split in '92?

They went on strike for a bit then came back with the Apple Venus albums (check out 'River of Orchids'). After that Moulding left (I think).


Unmann-Wittering said...

Not sure at all, George. In fact, I'm completely wrong so I've changed it to the right date (2005).

When I write these bits I dive straight in with what I know and want to say and then check the facts afterwards. I missed that one in the editing process, so thanks for pointing it out.