Drums and Wires
English Settlement, by XTC
Back in the late 70's and early 80's it seems that there were thousands of bands in England making pop records. Of those bands, XTC rose to the top on the strength of their quirky songs and cerebral lyrics. For the band, the period between 1979 and 1982 is truly their high water period. Starting with their record Drums and Wires, the band began to further hone their pop sensibilities. So much so that, on the three records released during this time, there is hardly a lame song in the bunch. In 1980, the band released Black Sea. Lyrically their finest hour, the songs are more poignantly political and satirical. Vocalist Andy Partridge's voice also reaches a new dimension; previously it was frantic and breathless, trying to keep up with the pace of the music. On Black Sea, the more complex and thoughtful songs allow him to catch his breath and deliver the lyrics with more assurance. The record also features such XTC landmarks as "Tower of London", which features Dave Gregory's soaring guitar break and "Respectable Street", which captures the essence of English family life perfectly in a mere 3 minutes and 37 seconds.
As the band's confidence grew, so did their output. In 1982 they released a sprawling two- record set called English Settlement. Stylistically all over the map, this record amazed me when it came out. Twenty-two (!) years later, it holds up amazingly well. Around the time of "English Settlement", constant touring got the best of Andy Partridge, causing a nervous breakdown and the band ceased playing live; they continued to record though. The bands recorded output from the rest of the 80's and beyond fluctuated between further brilliance, moribund three chord pop and downright strangeness. But, for a brief moment in rock history, XTC were the pop band all others aspired to be.
Drums and Wires, Black Sea & English Settlement
Drums and Wires