Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Etienne Hanratty, Jan 5, 2018.
Very good suggestion, since practically every album has been suggested as a starting point!
XTC has been on my "bands to check out someday" list for as long as I can remember. All I never knew by them were a few minor hits from the 80's, but I finally took the plunge this past week and checked out English Settlement. Wow, what a fantastic record!! I don't love every song from it, but the vast majority are pretty outstanding, and I love the bass guitar. I check out a little of Mummer tonight and that sounded good as well. Looking forward to hearing much more in the weeks to come!
Drums and Wires....pure XTC
You can't go wrong with any of these albums. Each album is different and a delightful ride (yes, even their first two albums).
If you like those you will love Skylarking.
If you like those you will love Oranges ans Lemons.
Drums and Wires and Black Sea are new wave ish (Lilywhite/Padgham) perfection. Nonsuch seems more like a collection of songs to me, more straightforward but with a Beatlesque punch.
I tried that last night, but about four tracks in, I turned it off. Just a bit too punk for me, I guess. His vocals were bugging me, too.
That is what I am thinking. Those seem more arty and less post-punk, based on what I am reading, so as someone who is loving English Settlement, I am thinking that going forward in their history is the way for me to go rather then going backwards to the early stuff, at least for now.
Ok. You wont like Big Express though but Im thinking you will like Nonsuch and Apple Venus.
Back in 1977 - 82 the punk new/wave thing wasn’t just another option on a menu; it was a world which hadn’t been there at all before. Either you were going to cast off the old and move forward with it or fall backwards. The bands brought everyone out into the streets, into the clubs for listening, moving, dancing and just goin’ crazy. The stripped down arrangements allowed the drums (veritable cannon shots) to thrash everyone about, right and left, up and down. This was music that you wanted to experience live too...you wanted to be a part of it all, you never wanted to be away from it. Nothing passive, no more lonely rooms to ponder nothingness in. Maybe you had to be there; I never rule that out.
XTC were part of all this and just insanely great in concert back then (79-80)...If you want a taste of it then go to Spotify and listen to the show there from 1980 (listen to Majors and Generals and Life Begins at The Hop). You can hear that they drove their audiences into a frenzy, the songs performed at even more of a breakneck speed than the album cut tempos and sounding natural that way. Their drummer (who departed in the early 80s) could play faster than anyone else and somehow keep it all so wonderfully in the pocket while also doing distinct/clear rolls & fills. The guitarists all sang, plucked and strummed vigorously without sweating like pigs which reminded me of The Beatles who also looked pretty while at full throttle. (Something about those Englishmen, I guess.) What a miracle w all those tastey melodies and such.
They were also one of the only bands that could open up for The Police on tour and get encores and lots of love. Never booed or catcalled or neglected. Not many bands can claim that I don’t think (and some people liked XTC more) ....Well, we all know they went on to do really great things but I’ll always think of the frenzied excitement of their first few years when they come to mind.
We shall see.
I hear ya. Unfortunately, a) I was not there for it, and b) I am not a fan of punk, so I tend to not like music that has too much influence by punk. For example, I like Talking Heads a lot, but not the first couple albums. Once they got a little more melodic and interesting with the rhythms, I really tuned in. With XTC so far, English Settlement definitely has some punk influence, but has enough rock and great melodies to make it not just interesting, but pretty damn good. The killer bass guitar throughout the album is a major highlight for me. Is there any other XTC album where the bass guitar is that prevalent?
Oranges and Lemons.
And I do get you on this point ....punk/wave always dates itself somehow and somehow also I think it is depends a lot on memories of the times etc which were subversively fun...I see how it could be assessed as lacking in nuance too as much of it is. Skylarking is my favorite later one by the band....its got lots of layers and complexity, other marvelous qualities.
Did I miss which album(s) the OP decided to start with?
My recommendation would match with this:
I am listening to Skylarking right now, and while it's not blowing my doors off like English Settlement did, it sounds nice so far (about 9 tracks in).
Regarding punk, I get why some loved it so much; it was loud, fast and aggressive music that I am sure was fun to rock out to at a concert, but the lack of nuance and substance (IMO) is why I never liked it, for the most part.
The cool thing about English Settlement is that it seems to take some elements of punk and mix it in with excellent musicianship and great songwriting. Put a song like No Thugs in Our House in the hands of some bands back then, it would have been a 2-minute screamer without much variation, but in the hands of XTC, it was so much more.
Note: this is not intended to bash punk, per se, just offering my perspective.
Glad you’re into both of these as they’re both great. English Settlement is quite a statement, I love the first cut w the kick drum recorded so huge and the cool keyboards. So freaking confident sounding... I missed XTCs drummer after he split...I think ES is his last lp w them but I could be wrong. No Thugs is fantastic.... Skylarking has the Tubes drummer and a lot of drum machine tracks...What do you think of Sacrifcial Bonfire and Dear God on Skylarking? Just curious, I think they’re both really quite good. Would like to get your take on them.... I listened to that lp the other day and enjoyed it....3o odd years later. Cheers!
It will take a few more listens to get a good grasp of it, but I thought Skylarking ended really strong. I went from "this album sounds nice" to "this is pretty sweet." I suspect the early tracks will grab me more on subsequent listens. I really liked The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul and Sacrificial Bonfire. I knew Dear God from when it was a minor hit here in the States.
I like the drumming a lot of English Settlement. Some of those drum fills on Ball and Chain really elevate the song, and the work during the middle section of Jason and the Argonauts is really nice.
Good call - TMWSAHS is a very nice jazzy affair for sure...rich textures and the works.
Yes, the drummer really was special and he was in top form on ES , giving XTC a heavy band feel.
They rallied and more or less got that most of the punch back again in the 90s but for a while there I missed his intense style.It was sort of similar to Bill Berry’s departure from REM, the absence was a bit disconcerting for at least some interval.
I just listened and watched to a new song on YouTube called ‘Scatter Me’which is Colin Moulding and Terry, the original drummer working together again. Check it out if want as its really catchy & worthwhile. I even like the visuals.
english settlement is the best starter
ES was my entry to the band when that LP came out, but I also hold "Mummer" in high regard. It's not well liked but there are some great songs on that and it carries forward the sound from ES.
Terry Chambers also plays on Mummer (his last with XTC). He only appears on three tracks and quit during the sessions according to Wiki (Beating of Hearts, Wonderland and Toys).
I had a feeling that was the case...the band sound begins to wane but is still partially intact. Thank you for corrections on that... I have only heard that record at small parties etc...never have owned it or had a serious sit-down w it....must do soon.
In some ways, I think one can start with any XTC album. At least in my experience, the key to appreciating (and then, later, falling in love) with XTC is being intrigued enough to give them another shot. I never loved an XTC album upon first listen, and I disliked many of them. I wasn't convinced about the ones that I did like, at least not until I'd played them dozens of times.
From an alternative point of view, I think Oranges & Lemons would probably be the worst starting point - admittedly, I'm biased because I think it has an EP's worth of great tunes and a bunch of garbage, but apart from that, I think it's their most "ordinary" sounding album (note that it still sounds vastly different from 99% of pop music! But it's the least XTC-ish of their albums, at least to my ears). For similar reasons, I sort of think Skylarking shouldn't be one's first XTC experience; it's a masterpiece, but it also sounds a bit more conventional than most of their work. With both of those albums, you can sort of hear certain influences; with their other albums, it sounds like no one else but XTC.
For the record, the first XTC album that I heard was Apple Venus Vol. 1.
I can see that. Mummer definitely has some songs I know I won't revisit much, but it has quite a few really good songs. Not as great and consistent as English Settlement, but still good overall.
I see what you mean. Skylarking definitely has more of a streamlined and poppy sound, in a good way of course.
Skylarking was my first exposure point and I loved it. Oranges and Lemons was my second. Didn’t get to the others for a few months afterwards, after I figured out that I liked this group. Didn’t harm my appreciation any.
Yep, hearing them both makes me want to check more stuff out. I listened to Oranges and Lemons last night and, like Skylarking, it is filled to the brim with songs that are catchy as hell.
The genius of XTC is Andy can draw a person in with simple, catchy numbers -- then once that person explores his and Colin's other interesting styles, chords, and textures, they are hooked.
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