Senses Working Overtime: XTC and Dukes of Stratosphear Song-by-song

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Lance LaSalle, Dec 25, 2021.

  1. pocketcalculator

    pocketcalculator Forum Resident

    New York City
    "Books are Burning" - I enjoy many rock cliches, if they're done well, and dueling guitar solos is one of them, so I find no fault in Dave and Andy's playing over the outro; in fact, it's the highlight of the song for me.

    Otherwise, lyrically, this is more banal preachy Andy - yes, it's bad to burn books (or ban them, which is going on quite a lot in the US these days), but bumper sticker slogans do not a song make (unless you're liberally dousing them with humor, as the Clash did with "Know Your Rights", which just manages to slide over to this side of acceptable for me.) Musically, the song is just dull, plodding along - there are no interesting changes here, no surprises. It doesn't help that the song comes at the end of a long, disappointing album, when I am well past the point of hoping it will end soon. Guitar solos, no matter how well played, are never going to fix a boring song, and I could do without ever hearing this one again. 2/5
  2. Classicrock

    Classicrock Forum Resident

    South West, UK.
    Books Are Burning. Peachy, political and drags a bit, but overall this track is OK melodically. It would have been a lot better played at a faster tempo. 3/5. Problem is this track never should have been the closer to a double LP,
    hvgrace, KangaMom, drewrclv9 and 10 others like this.
  3. MGSeveral

    MGSeveral Augm

    As I've hinted earlier, it was good fun watching Gus' video diary on the blu-ray. Ah, they all look so happy (well, kinda)
    KangaMom and Williamson like this.
  4. Lars Medley

    Lars Medley I lost on Jeopardy!

    Books: Well the first local news story I saw this morning was an area school board banning 52 books so this one is feeling especially timely [timeless?]. AP didn't choose subtlety when writing the lyrics to this track but he really didn't need to. I think the more mellow, mid-tempo musical approach helps sell the message by giving a weary tone to the proceedings. Optimism remains but on some level we've gotten used to being kicked around. Fantastic guitars and drums. CM's bass is phenomenal as always. I think WiG is the better of the two songs but I can see the wisdom in not ending another album in the Pale & Precious/Chalkhills & Children zone. I will say that this one definitely doesn't herald the coming of Apple Venus v. 1 -- it would have sounded nuts if placed on that album.

    hvgrace, KangaMom, MoonPool and 10 others like this.
  5. Mr. D

    Mr. D Forum Resident

    Yeah, the song reminds me of another, that I cannot place my finger on, but certainly not I Get Around and I did think similarly that it had a Beatle-esque feel to it.
    Yeah, there is a conventionality of the guitar solo(s) fade but preferable to some na-na-na's that seep in at the end.

    Serviceable 3.5/5
  6. dubious title

    dubious title Forum Resident

    It sure is. It's not really Andy's usual supervillians at play either. Maybe I should take up tinkering with toy soldiers as a hobby....

    It baffles me that some XTC fans would consider this a "disappointing album", not that I would want to censor anyones opinion.
  7. Lance LaSalle

    Lance LaSalle Prince of Swollen Sinus Thread Starter

    I too disagree with burning books.

    Seriously, though, as obvious and kind of preachy as the message is, I reckon rock and roll is aimed to some extent towards youth, and hearing anti-anti-intullectualist messages --which dovetails with anti-fascism in my opinion --in your formative years probably does more good than harm.

    Musically this song is very McCartney-like to my ears -- I get sick of McCartney/Beatles comparisons because sometimes I think people hear Beatles in everything -- but it's pretty apt here. (However, as an aside, I'm not sure if McCartney has ever been able to stuff an album with 7-10 great tracks like Andy regularly did for a decade or so.)

    I really like the fade out and the duelling guitars. Sound sweet.

    My biggest quibble is that this ultimate track.

    It ends the album on an unresolved note that doesn't feel right to me. In fact, though I like pretty much every song on this album, I do feel like the sequencing could be done better....though I haven't given it enough thought to try making my own playlist and probably never will. But while ending the album on this note might be a strike against the album in my book, it's not a strike against the song.

  8. redmedicine

    redmedicine Pop Punk Psych Prog

    Portland, OR
    Books is another average to above average song as it appears on the album. It is nice to hear a song where they embrace a bit of rock cliche at the end. Since they don't do it too often, it feels earned to me, and is a nice way to close a bit of a grab bag of an album. Studio version - 3.5/5

    But ... the live version from Coat of Many Cupboards is another thing entirely. I recognize it's mainly me being sentimental, but seeing them playing 10 years after stopping touring is very powerful, bittersweet, and joyful at the same time. Seeing them play so well, with Andy showing his skills on that old Ibanez is a career highlight to me. It's also them kind of ending the band as a going concern on a major label for quite a while, which adds more emotion. 5/5

  9. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    "Books Are Burning"

    At this point I am suffering a bit from Nonsuch fatigue. I wasn't even very aware of the guitar duel, because I usually don't make it to the end of the song. I prefer Andy's guitar parts, but I could do without either of them. I think the song would have been more effective if it ended at 3:20, right before the guitar solos. I would have preferred the album to end with "The Ugly Underneath". A shortened version of "Books Are Burning" could have worked well if it was moved up in the track listing. The vocal, melody, and bass line are reminiscent of McCartney, but this book is too long and borders on boring. 2/5
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
  10. Williamson

    Williamson Forum Resident

    I really enjoy that performance too and I completely get the bittersweet sentiment you're talking about. Special mention for the functional looking, grey rain jacket that Andy donned for the occasion, it looks like he picked that up from the gentleman's section of C&A. Perfect.
  11. dthomas850

    dthomas850 Forum Resident

    Cleveland, Ohio
    Books Are Burning: Obviously not their best final track, but still pretty damn good! Absolutely love the guitar duel, could've went on a bit longer!
  12. Ryan Lux

    Ryan Lux Senior Member

    Toronto, ON, CA
    Timeless message, and this one doesn’t feel that preachy to me. I think because he doesn’t really point fingers, just states his personal belief with (at energy) passion. A much better way to write political lyrics, in my opinion. It’s pretty amazing to watch the mental gymnastics people will go through to justify suppressing ideas they don’t agree with.

    Unfortunately, the song is rather dull. Perhaps an acoustic only version could’ve been amazing, because the melody is pretty nice. The slow groove here is just kind of apathetic. I also am disappointed they chose to perform this for our final view of them as a live band.
  13. Autotune Sucks

    Autotune Sucks Forum Resident

    Little Rock, AR
    Agree with most of what you say, but IMO the worst XTC album closer and undefeated champion is still the tuneless "Complicated Game", which has permanently earned a skip from me every time I listen to Drums and Wires.
  14. jimbutsu

    jimbutsu WATCH YÖUR STEPPE

    "Books Are Burning"
    Interesting how much of a split there is on this one. I really like this one as an album closer - there's a sense to me of finality to it and the mellow fadeout it wraps up with. Maybe I'm too used to the album as sequenced, but I'm not sure I can think of a song on it that would feel more right as an ending track from an overall vibe point of view.

    As for the song, I love it. Love the way it's phrased, love the message, really identify with the feeling of there being some sort of a plea for reason baked into the song... it just works for me. And it's too important a topic to me - such that i can't find it in myself to go fishing for any nits.

  15. shakti

    shakti Senior Member

    Ramnes, Norway
    Maybe once we have worked our way through all the albums we can move on to best opener, best closer, best single etc. I will fight you to death over that one - Complicated Game is my favourite XTC album closer!
  16. 13DoW

    13DoW Senior Member

    Orange county, Ca
    I was going to score it 451F/5 but I think it more worthy of a 4.75/5.
    I love the guitar solo (my second favorite XTC guitar solo).
  17. Mr. Bewlay

    Mr. Bewlay It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous.

    Denver CO
    Another Girl, Another Planet is one of the best British pop singles of the 1970's, with one of the best intro's ever.
    radiofreedavis, Williamson and Bob C like this.
  18. Will Harris

    Will Harris Forum Resident

    A strange and rather uninteresting way to end an excellent record. Comes off as a throwback to 1980, reminds me
    of the feel of "Towers of London" while not anywhere as good. Some nice Lennon overtones, and @2:05 goes very
    Beatley '69 for about 50 seconds, then back to a final rant-on declaration and the greatest thing about the track -
    the guitar workout. That doesn't sound Beatles, more like Mick Ronson burning the house down live, 3 July 1973.
    Not sure when this was written. Seems like right after Andy discovered Utopia's Swing to the Right.

    For me, the weakest track on the record by far. These days, "Didn't Hurt a Bit" is the ender, which really changes
    the mood for the better. Giving "Books Are Burning" a 3/5.
  19. Mr. Bewlay

    Mr. Bewlay It Is The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous.

    Denver CO
    Books Are Burning. Meh. Another "how does that go again?" track for me. My least favourite album closer since Complicated Game.

  20. Will Harris

    Will Harris Forum Resident

    We're on the same page. In 1992 I had no idea this was anything to do with the Rushdie book.
    I'm just now reading the comments, and see we both are mentioning Fahrenheit 451. Me, by
    mentioning Utopia's record from 1982. "Fahrenheit 451" is one of the tracks.
  21. 13DoW

    13DoW Senior Member

    Orange county, Ca
    I've never thought about The Wicker Man in this context. But a musical connection to that film is the video to Radiohead's 'Burn the Witch', which takes two iconic things for a British man of my age and smashes them together - The Wicker Man and Trumpton!
  22. drewrclv9

    drewrclv9 Forum Resident

    This is pretty good. Nice melodies, great guitar solos indeed (I love that it's a duel; I never realized that). It's a little plodding, in a "President Kill" sort of way. As far as the lyrics go, yeah, pretty blunt, but I do feel like it's a good overarching message to everyone, for yesterday and today. A nice way to end the album, though it is one of the slightly weaker closers XTC has, but only really because their other closing tracks are so strong.

  23. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Books are Burning
    I've been out all day (in traffic mostly) moving my son to a new apartment so I'll have to keep it brief.
    I like the sentiment of the song - I mean, yeah, I LOVE books and totally can't stand the idea of anyone burning them/censoring them. So even though the sentiment is obvious I still think it's worth singing/talking about. I do enjoy about half of the song, I think it's a very mature and melodic sounding song. I hear the touchpoints with Hey Jude and probably a lot of other stuff. So I do enjoy it...for a while...then as the song progresses it suddenly occurs to me that this doesn't sound really like XTC. Especially when we hit the dueling this point it becomes a bit generic for me and the song loses a bit of its luster.

    I think it's not a bad way to end the album. In a lot of ways it is a capstone to an album that looks both forwards and backwards. This is a song written and performed by musicians who seem to have reached an accommodation with their career(s). My bigger issue, is more that I am a bit fatigued by the sheer number of songs on the album at this point and this perhaps detracts a little from my enjoyment as well.

  24. KangaMom

    KangaMom Queen of the Quokkas

    Side note: I remember well the drama over The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Up to this point I wasn't remotely interested in reading any of his books. I gave it a go - but I didn't really enjoy it and bailed out part of the way through. Instead I read Midnight's Children which I did really enjoy. So I guess in some bizarre way the attempt to censor a book actually encouraged me to seek out the author...
  25. sinistrail sentinel

    sinistrail sentinel Forum Resident

    United States
    "Books Are Burning"

    I must say I really love this track, the lyrics, the tempo, the vocals, just about all of it.

    Subtle it ain't, but sometimes it just sounds good to have a particular point of view put to song (even if easily agreeable). In recent months where books are being put on banned lists at an accelerated rate, it feels as relevant now as when Andy was inspired to write it. He even sings a bit "preachy" in the way he draws out certain words ("Doesn't matter what it saaaiiid"). My favorite line being "The human right to let your soul fly free and naked/Above the violence of the fearful and sad".

    The "na-na-na-na's" added to the closing is my only gripe with this song. Its a bit "cheesy" and glad Andy was talked down from bloating this song into a prolonged outro.

    Easy 5/5 from me

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