Under Appreciated Band of the Month
XTC- Witty English Troubadours of the New Wave Era
In an era marked by purple hair, cheezy synth sounds and bubblegum jeans XTC were as nondescript as they came. Smart, funny and hugely talented they paraded across the music scene in the years spanning the late ’70s to the mid- ’90s with the finest pop music money could buy. They shunned live performances early in their career but made use of MTV and network TV appearances to carve out a special niche for lovers of intelligent lyrics with a strong bass line and punding backbeat. Beatle-esque in both their embrace of Englishnness and psychedelia XTC was an uncompromising supergroup that still somehow got lost in the shuffle of 80s popdom.
One of their early hits was the anti-war song ‘Generals and Majors’ , a smooth thunmping new wave
anthem based around a hard driving snare drum. Nice to hear in between Genesis and Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin and the usual FM fare of the day (1980). Another early hit was ‘Making Plans for Nigel’, which began to show the bands video acumen and their Monty Python like ability to portray English sentiment with the hilarious cynicism it deserves. Perhaps the best selling single was ‘Senses Working Overtime‘ which climbed into the UK Top 20 in 1982.
Centered around three members, Andy Partridge,ColinMoulding and Dave Gregory the band remained focused and delivered a stunning 1986 set in Skylarking. The US version of this album contained the MTV hit ‘Dear God‘ a wonderful ode to English agnosticism and the Wickerman! Two psychedlic albums followed in the late 1980’s, Psonic Sunspot (recorded as the Dukes of Stratosphere) and Oranges and Lemons a dazzling 2 LP set that spawned the hit singles ‘King for a Day’ and ‘The Mayor of Simpleton’. In 1989 the band even performed live on David Letterman’s show, their first such appearance since 1982.
Problems with their recording contract led to XTc more or less vanishing by the mid-90s but not before delivering one more epic in the 1992 Nonsuch album, which contained the #1 US hit (Billboard Modern Rock chart) in ”Peter Pumkinhead. Nonsuch was a vast stunning collection that invoked wonderful influences from the late 60s and various strands of english literature.
Very few people in the music industry combined their wit, imagination and melody they way the guys in XTC did…and since they never got too much airplay their songs remain vibrant and fresh to this day. 😉