Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1972-73) as The Helium Kids and Star Park

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers


  line up 2 (1973-76) as The Helium Kids and Star Park

- Terry Chambers -- drums

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers


  line up 3 (1976-78) as XTC

- Barry Adams -- keyboards

- Terry Chambers -- drums

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers


  line up 4 (1978-83) 

- Terry Chambers -- drums

- Dave Gregory -- keyboards (replaced Barry Adams)

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers


  line up 5 (1983-2000) 

- Dave Gregory -- keyboards 

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers


  supporting musicians: (1984)

- Stuart Gordon -- violin, viola

- Annie Huchra -- backing vocals

- Pete Phipps -- drums, percussion

- Steve Saunders -- euphonium


  line up 6 (2000-2005) 

- Colin Moulding -- vocals, bass 
- Andy Partridge -- vocals, guitar, percussion, synthesizers





- The Colonel (Terry Chambers and Colin Moulding) 

- Dukes of the Stratosphere

- The Helium Kidz (Colin Moulding - Andy Partridge)

- Johnny Japes and His Jesticles
- King Crimson (Barry Andrews)
- League of Gentlemen (Barry Andrews)

- Andy Partridge (solo efforts)
- Shriekback (Barry Andrews)   

- Star Park (Colin Moulding - Andy Partridge)

- The Three Wise Men




Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Go 2

Company: Virgin

Catalog: VI 2180

Country/State: Swindon, UK

Year: 1978

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear; UP pressing, no bonus EP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5045

Price: $15.00


1978's "Go 2" found the band falling victim to the demand for quantity over quality.  Clearly recorded in a rush and under considerable pressure, Partridge himself described the album as "Four weeks worth of songs, hastily scribbled on hotel notepaper and beer mats. We were living out of carrier bags and in rental vans, making nasty noises at each other and with each other. Something had to give and here it is.”), the sound wasn't radically different than the debut, offering a mix of frantic/spastic new wave moves, punk angst rounded out by occasional snatches reflecting a more mainstream sound (particular some of Colin Molding's contributions).  Oh, don't forget to add in Partridge's penchant for offbeat lyrics ('Life Is Good In the Greenhouse').  Interestingly, at least to my ears the album's improved over the years.  It really didn't do much or me the first couple of years I played it, but when I rediscovered XTC's earlier catalog a couple of years back I was pleasantly surprised to hear an album that was much more interesting than I remembered.  There were actually quite a few highlights including the leadoff rocker 'Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!)', Moulding's 'Buzzcity Talking' and the should've-been-a-hits 'Are You Receiving Me?' (more below) and 'Beatown'.


For you true fanatics the original UK release came with a bonus 12" EP  entitled "Go+".  The EP culled a series of five songs from the album, offering them up in a dub format.  Not exactly essential, but quirky.  Also the US version of the album differed from the UK issue.  Apparently unhappy with the absence of a clearly commercial cut, Virgin added the earlier single 'Are You Receiving Me?'  to the US release.


"Go 2'" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Meccanic Dancing (Oh We Go!)  (Andy Partridge) - 2:34   rating: *** stars

I've always wondered how they managed to create a song that was simultaneously spastically jittery and highly melodic (at least when the chorus kicked in).  YouTube has a 1978 clip of the band performing the song on the French Chorus television program.  Interesting to see Partridge and company at their most amped up:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXR2UG4qxRY 

2.) Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian)  (Andy Partridge) - 4:35

3.) Buzzcity Talking   (Colin Molding) - 2:40

4.) Crowded Room   (Colin Molding) - 2:53

5.) The Rhythm   (Colin Molding) - 2:58

6.) Are You Receiving Me?  (Andy Partridge) - Bob Andrews) - 3:04
7.) Red  (Andy Partridge) - 3:01


(side 2)

1.) Beatown  (Andy Partridge) - 4:35

2.) Life Is Good In the Greenhouse  (Andy Partridge) - 4:41

3.) Jumping In Gomorrah  (Andy Partridge) - 2:03

4.) My Weapon   (Barry Andrews) - 2:20

5.) Supper Tuff  (Andy Partridge) - 4:24

6.) I Am the Audience   (Colin Moulding) - 3:38


By the way, in case you really wanted to know, here are the front and back cover liner notes:


This is a RECORD COVER. This writing is the DESIGN upon the record cover The DESIGN is to help 
SELL the record.  We hope to draw your attention to it and encourage you to pick it up. When you have 
done that maybe you'll be persuaded to listen to the music - in this case XTC's Go 2 album.  Then we 
want you to BUY it.  The idea being that the more of you that buy this record the more money Virgin 
Records, the manager Ian Reid and XTC themselves will make.  To the aforementioned this is known 
as PLEASURE.  A good cover DESIGN is one that attracts more buyers and gives more pleasure. 
This writing is trying to pull you in much like an eye-catching picture. It is designed to get you to READ IT.  
This is called luring the VICTIM, and you are the VICTIM.  But if you have a free mind you should STOP 
READING NOW! because all we are attempting to do is to get you to read on.  Yet this is a DOUBLE 
BIND because if you indeed stop you'll be doing what we tell you, and if you read on you'll be doing 
what we've wanted all along.  And the more you read on the more you're falling for this simple device
 of telling you exactly how a good commercial design works.  They're TRICKS and this is the worst
TRICK of all since it's describing the TRICK whilst trying to TRICK you, and if you've read this far then 
you're TRICKED but you wouldn't have known this unless you'd read this far.  At least we're telling you 
directly instead of seducing you with a beautiful or haunting visual that may never tell you.  We're letting 
you know that you ought to buy this record because in essence it's a PRODUCT and PRODUCTS
are to be consumed and you are a consumer and this is a good PRODUCT.  We could have written the 
band's name in special lettering so that it stood out and you'd see it before you'd read any of this  
writing and possibly have bought it anyway.  What we are really suggesting is that you are FOOLISH to 
buy or not buy an album merely as a consequence of the design on its cover.  This is a con because
if you agree then you'll probably like this writing - which is the cover design - and hence the album inside.  
But we've just warned you against that. The con is a con.  A good cover design could be considered as
one that gets you to buy the record, but that never actually happens to YOU because YOU know it's just 
a design for the cover.  And this is the RECORD COVER.
This is the back of a RECORD COVER.  Catalogue No. V2108. This writing is the DESIGN on the 
back of the cover.  This design is not like that on the FRONT.  Its aim is to impart information about the 
RECORD and the GATEFOLD INSERT within rather than trying to sell it by being impactful or 
clever or any of those things.  We have kept it in the same style so that the entire package has a sense 
of IDENTITY whichever way you see it.  The record is by XTC.  This is their second album.  We won't 
attempt to describe their music because all you have to do is play it and you can describe it for yourself.
XTC is made up of Andy Partridge, Barry Andrews, Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers.  We have 
shown photos of them below because this is regarded as commercially sensible and helpful in creating 
their image.  And if you're curious at all you might find it interesting to see what the musicians actually 
look like.  And there are more pictures and words on the very colourful insert which you can only see if 
you buy the whole thing.
Many people think it helpful and useful to know some details about the songs on the record inside, so 
here they are: 1. Meccanik Dancing (Oh We Go!)  2.  Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian) 3. Buzzcity 
Talking 4. Crowded Room 5. The Rhythm 6. Red 7. Beatown 8. Life is Good in the Greenhouse 9. 
Jumping in Gomorrah 10. My Weapon 11. Super-Tuff 12. I am the Audience.  You may also be 
interested to know that the record was produced and Engineered by John Leckie with assistant 
engineers Haydn Bendall and Pete James at Abbey Road, also, Andy Llewelyn and Jess Sutcliffe at 
Matrix and that Barry's Roots photos were by Dave Eagle.  We have to repeat the catalogue number 
on the insert for bureaucratic reasons and here it is V2108.

Lastly we would like to make it clear that this is a product of Virgin Records Limited, partly because
 they wanted us to and partly because it is a legal necessity. Virgin Records' head office is located at 
Vernon Yard, Portobello Road, London W.11. and is (P) Virgin Records 1978 and (c) 1978 Virgin 
Music (Publishers) Ltd. This sleeve was written and photographed by Hipgnosis and printed in England
by James Upton Ltd.




Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Big Express

Company: Geffen/Virgin

Catalog: GHS 24054

Country/State: Swindon, UK

Year: 1985

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $30.00


I'll readily admit my first encounters with 1984's "The Big Express" were mixed.  Co-produced by David Lord and the band, I found the collection challenging. It wasn't horrible, but nothing really jumped out at me as had always been the case on earlier sets.   In fact, after trying to get through it a couple of times, I simply shelved it for what was about a decade.  It wasn't until years later when I read an online review going on and on about what an overlooked classic their concept album was that I pulled it out to give it another shot.  Concept album?  That sure passed me by the first time around.   A concept album about the closure of the Swinson Works railway system (the title apparently a reference to express train)?  Huh?  The one song I  remembered, 'This World Over' was an anti-nuclear war ditty ...


Produced by David Lord and recorded at his Crescent Studios in Bath, the album marked their second album without drummer Terry Chambers.  To fill in the gap keyboardist Dave Gregory, bassist Colin Moulding and singer/guitarist Andy Partridge again brought in sessions player/Glitter Band drummer Pete Phipps.  They also began experimenting with Linn drums, along with a wide array of synthesizers and a Mellotron Partridge had acquired.  Their contract with Lord allowed the band as much studio time as they wanted and they apparently took advantage of that option, recorded material over a six month timeframe.  That may explain why it's an album that strikes me as suffering a bit from "analysis paralysis."  With Partridge responsible for the majority of material, the eleven songs have grown on me over time, but tracks like 'You're the Wish You Are I Had', 'Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss' and 'Train Running Low on Soul Coal' were almost too clever for their own good.  You get the feeling Partridge was struggling to record waves of ideas, even if that meant cramming every song nook and cranny with ideas.  Yeah, so much for the less-is-more concept.  That's apparently a fairly accurate reflection of the recording sessions which the band remember as being painful, particularly the time required to program the Linn drums.  Like every XTC album, there was some lost treasures.  While it may not have been his strongest melody, you couldn't argue with Partridge's cold war commentary on 'This World Over .'  Three decades and we are right back where we were.  In fact  as I type this the US is thinking of reintroducing nuclear weapons to the UK.  The other treasures were found in Moulding's contributions.  The opener 'Wake Up' is best described as Moulding-does-Partridge.  Best of all was Moulding's heartwarming,  jazzy 'I Remember the Sun.'  Is it my favorite XTC album?  No, but it's one I've grown to appreciate; in part because it's prickly and challenging.


The collection hit # 38 on the UK album charts, but only # 178 in the United States.  The lack of American sales was due in part to the  band refusing to tour in support of the album.  American label Geffen did little to promote or support the collection; not even bothering to release a US single.  Pulling a page out of The Small Faces catalog (think "Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake"), the album was originally released in a circular sleeve.  I've been looking for a copy for years.



"The Big Express'" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Wake Up (Colin Moulding) - 4:40 rating: **** stars

I've always felt Colin Moulding was the band's secret weapon bringing a keen sense of commerciality to their sound, so I was anxious to hear what was the first of two Moulding contributions to the album.  Curiously, the skitterish 'Wake Up' struck me as sounding like an Andy Partridge composition.  The refrain was "ear candy', but initially the rest of the song was a bit of a disappointment.  With repeated spins that opinion's changed and today it would slot into a XTC Top 10 list.  Always loved Annie Huchrak's lovely backing vocals.  


In Neville Farmer's book "XTC: Song Stores: The Exclusive Authorized Story Behind the Music" Moulding discussed the song: "You stayed in bed / you wrote the note" is about me writing notes to skive off work in the early days of my marriage. My missus wouldn't let me go to work for the first few years. We were always at it! "A morning face" is that face you see every morning, usually a girl on the bus. But the last verse is about this paranoia, this recurring dream I have about being the first on the scene of an accident. If it's the positive version of the dream I resuscitate the victim and save the day. If it's the negative one, I run away."  So where were the trains?


Virgin tapped it as the final single from the album; releasing it in 7" and 12" variants:


  7" format

- 1985's 'Wake Up' b/w 'Take This Town' and Mantis On Parole - Homo Safari Series No. 4' (Virgin catalog number VS746)


  12" format

- 1985's 'Wake Up' and 'Take This Town' b/w ' Mantis On Parole- Homo Safari Series No. 4', 'Making Plans for Nigel', 'Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)' and 'Senses Working Overtime') (Virgin catalog number VS746-12)



2.) All You Pretty Girls (Andy Partridge) - 3:40  rating: **** stars

Typically quirky, 'All You Pretty Girls' managed to combine pop, a martial beat and Oriental influences into one of those Partridge compositions that climbed into your head and wouldn't leave.  Apparently Partridge's original concept was along the lines of a sea shanty.  A sea shanty?  Where were the trains?  Geez.  With drummer Terry Chambers gone, the band leaned heavily on a Linn drum synthesizer and a Mellotron that was sitting in Partridge's bedroom. The tune was tapped as a 7" and 12" single, though with the band indicating they wouldn't tour in support of the album, Virgin didn't bother releasing the single in the States.:


- 1985's 'All You Pretty Girls' b/w 'Washaway' (Virgin catalog number VS709)


- 1985's 'All You Pretty Girls' b/w 'Washaway' and 'Red Brick Dream' (Virgin catalog number VS709-12)


Filmed for about $40,000, courtesy of YouTube you can see the band's accompanying promotional video: XTC - All You Pretty Girls (youtube.com)



3.) Shake You Donkey Up (Andy Partridge) - 4:19 rating: *** stars

County isn't a vibe you find in a lot of Partridge songs.  This one has it, including lots of fiddle.  I've always loved the little guitar lick Partridge uses to propelled the rocking 'Shake You Donkey Up.'  Not that Partridge's lyrics are every obvious, but even hardcore fans seem clueless what this one's about.  Virgin originally wanted the track to be released as a single.  Partridge even started to work on a promotional video concept, but the idea was eventually dropped.

4.) Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss (Andy Partridge) - 3:50   rating: **** stars

Simultaneously propulsive, but discordant (the other band members hated the chorus), I've always found 'Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss' to be fascinating track.  One of the first songs Partridge wrote on his Mellotron, the song was reported inspired by  Roy Liechtenstein's then-girlfriend.  Partridge met the woman at a New York  film premier and their relationship quickly spiraled into fan/groupie territory.  Unfortunately for Partridge he was newly married so the attraction between the two proved a strain on his new marriage. Divorcing his first wife, Partridge went on to marry the other woman. Steve Saunders  provided the weird horn solo - the instrument was an euphonium.

5.) This World Over (Andy Partridge) -  5:37    rating: **** stars

Unlike many Partridge compositions, 'This World Over' had a clear and obvious theme - fear of nuclear war.  With his first child on the way, like many Europeans, Partridge was growing increasingly concerned about growing US - Soviet tensions and the rhetoric coming out of both sides.  Partridge's song was seemingly a response to the US deploying nuclear armed Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in the UK and the concern for retaliatory strikes if a war ever broke out.  "Will you smile like any father with your children on a Sunday hike? When you get to a sea of rubble And they ask “What was London like?”   Um ... trains?    The dark lyrics stood in contrast to the pretty melody and the sweet harmony vocals. The song was released as the album's second 45:


- 1984's 'This World Over' b/w 'Blue Overall' (Virgin catalog number VS721)


- 1984's 'This World Over' b/w 'Blue Overall' (Virgin catalog number VS721-12)


YouTube has a clip of the band's lip-synching performance of the tune on a Top of the Pops appearance: XTC-This world over (youtube.com)


(side 2)

1.) The Everyday Story of Smalltown (Andy Partridge) - 3:53 rating: **** stars

Well, still no trains, but at least 'The Everyday Story of Smalltown' was inspired by life in Swindon.  It's a great example of how busy some of these songs are with all kinds of stuff going on - constant changes in tempo, brass band, Beatles-influences ...

2.) I Bought Myself a Liarbird (Andy Partridge) - 2:49 rating: ** stars

'I Bought Myself a Liarbird' was written about former band manager Ian Reid who had left the band with a massive tax bill that almost bankrupted the band and marked the start of vive years of litigation with Reid.  The lead guitar effects were cool but it wasn't the album's catchiest tunes.  

3.) Reign of Blows  (Andy Partridge) - 3:27  rating: ** stars

Partridge takes on violent governments ...  The rest of the band didn't like the song and Virgin Records didn't even want it on the album.  Partridge's distorted vocals and guitar gave the song a dark, forbidding edge.

4.) You're the Wish You Are I Had (Andy Partridge - 3:17 rating: *** stars

Another tune reportedly inspired by his soon to be second wife, the lyrics capture the intensity and insanity of infatuations.  The chorus was catchy, but the rest of the song was almost discordant.  Love the dirty, slide sound on the brief guitar solo.

5.) I Remember the Sun (Colin Moulding) - 3:10 rating: ***** stars

Geez, who would have expected to hear Moulding showing off affection for Steely Dan  ...   = )   'I Remember the Sun' was unlike anything else on the album - a beautiful, jazzy melody, amazing refrain, and lyrics that dropped your blood pressure by a good twenty points.  Partridge's skitterish lead guitar is just the icing on the aural cake.  Wikipedia has a quote where Moulding talked about the inspiration behind the song: "was about the fields that ... I used to play over, next to the Penhill council estate.  That piece of wasteland was immensely evocative in my imagination. My mum hated me getting wet, so I remember the sun because [I] was only allowed out when it was sunny. The sun was king."  A glorious performance and one of my all-time XTC favorites.

6.) Train Running Low on Soul Coal (Andy Partridge - 5:19 rating: *** stars

OMG !!!  Is it possible ?  Finally a song with a train theme ?  Was it worth the wait ?  Well, if you like Partridge at his most skitterish then the answer is yes.  Another track with a lot of stuff going on, but the melody wasn't particularly memorable and by the end of the song, it was all pretty discordant.





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Skylarkin'

Company: Geffen

Catalog: 24117

Country/State: Swindon, UK

Year: 1987

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+


Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $6.00


Renown for destroying records he'd produced for other artists, placing the group in the hands of producer Todd Rundgren seemed an open invitation to aural disaster. Perhaps due to both parties' affection for Beatles' styled rock, "Skylarkin'" proved surprisingly successful. The outcome was an even bigger surprise given Rundgren and Partridge spent much of the recording process at each other's throats. (In fact in a series of post-LP release interviews Partridge rather ungraciously trashed Rundgren's efforts.) Having previously strived to highlight his eccentric sides, this time around material such as "Earn Enough for Us", "Season Cycle" and "That's Really Super, Supergirl" found Partridge offering up some of his most mainstream and appealing material. Moreover, long caught in Partridge's shadow, tracks such as "Grass" and "Big Day" proved Moulding was easily an equally talented contributor. The result was easily the group's most commercial and enjoyable endeavor. While the album only reached #70 in the States, it was widely praised by critics who readily drew comparisons to the Fab Four (perhaps part of the comparison stemming from the side long segues and the "Yesterday"-styled strings). A college radio staple, the album ultimately spent some six months on the American charts. (In an odd marketing move, the collection was originally released with "Mermaid Smiled" in the track line up. On subsequent releases, the song was replaced by "Dear God.")

"Skylarkin'" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Summer's Cauldron   (Andy Partridge) - rating: **** stars

Well, I'm not big on songs opening with sound effects, but I have to admit I found the lysergic opening of 'Summer's Cauldron' to be calming and intruging.
2.) Grass   (Colin Moulding) - 
3.) The Meeting Place   (Colin Moulding) - 
4.) That's Really Super, Supergirl   (Andy Partridge) - 
5.) Ballet for a Rainy Day   (Andy Partridge) - 
6.) 1000 Umbrellas   (Andy Partridge) - 
7.) Season Cycle   (Andy Partridge) - 

(side 2)

1.) Earn Enough for Us   (Andy Partridge) - 
2.) Big Day   (Colin Moulding) - 
3.) Another Satellite   (Andy Partridge) - 
4.) The Bad Who Sailed Around His Soul   (Andy Partridge) - 
5.) Dear God   (Andy Partridge) - 
6.) Dying   (Colin Moulding) - 
7.) Sacrificial Bonfire   (Colin Moulding) - 



Skylarking is the ninth studio album by the English rock band XTC, released 27 October 1986 on Virgin Records. Produced by American musician Todd Rundgren, it is a loose concept album about a nonspecific cycle, such as a day, a year, the seasons, or a life.[2] The title refers to a type of bird (skylark), as well as the Royal Navy term "skylarking", which means "fooling around". It became one of XTC's best-known albums and is generally regarded as their finest work.[3][4]

Like XTC's previous Dukes of Stratosphear side project, Skylarking was heavily influenced by the music of the 1960s. Most of its recording was at Rundgren's Utopia Sound Studio in Woodstock, New York. Rundgren played a large role in the album's sound design and drum programming, providing the band with orchestral arrangements and an assortment of gear. However, the sessions were fraught with tension, especially between Rundgren and bandleader Andy Partridge, and numerous disagreements arose over drum patterns, song selections, and other details. In 2010, it was discovered that a wiring error made during the mastering process caused the album to have a "thin" sound. The problem was corrected on subsequent remasters.

Upon release, Skylarking was met with indifference in the UK, rising in the album charts to number 90, while both of its lead singles "Grass" (backed with "Dear God") and "The Meeting Place" peaked at number 100. Early sales of the album were hampered by the omission of "Dear God" from the album's original pressings. In the US, the song became a college radio hit, causing US distributor Geffen Records to recall and repress Skylarking with the track included, and propelling the album to number 70. Following the song's growth in popularity, it was the subject of controversy in the US, inspiring many angry phone calls to radio stations and at least one bomb threat. Skylarking was later listed on "100 greatest albums of the 1980s" lists by Rolling Stone in 1989[2] and Pitchfork in 2002.[5] Background

Andy Partridge (pictured 1988) wrote and sang most of Skylarking In the 1980s, XTC underwent a gradual transition in their sound and image.[6] Their albums became increasingly complex, and after frontman and songwriter Andy Partridge suffered a panic attack before a concert, the band ceased touring.[7] In 1984, they released The Big Express, which sold poorly and attracted little critical notice.[8] According to Partridge, the group's psychedelic influences had begun "leaking out" through the use of Mellotron, phasing, and "backwards so-and-so".[9] They followed up with the British-only mini-album 25 O'Clock, released on April Fools' Day 1985 and credited under the pseudonym "the Dukes of Stratosphear". The album was a more explicit homage to 1960s psychedelia that outsold The Big Express, even before the Dukes were revealed to be XTC. Partridge remembered: "That was a bit upsetting to think that people preferred these pretend personalities to our own personalities ... they're trying to tell us something."[10]

During a routine meeting in early 1986, Virgin Records executives threatened to drop the band from the label if their next album failed to sell more than 70,000 units.[11] One reason why the group was not selling enough records, the label reportedly concluded, was that they sounded "too English".[12] As was the case for their other records, the label refused to allow the band to act as their own producers, even though Partridge was already established as a producer of other artists.[13] The group were given a list of American producers and the only name they recognized was Todd Rundgren's. To Virgin, he appeared to be ideal for XTC, as he had a reputation for completing troubled projects on schedule and under budget, such as Badfinger's Straight Up (1971) and Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell (1977).[14] XTC was a rare example, he said, "where I was both familiar with the band's previous work and unnecessary as a 'songcraft' agitator."[15] He had also attended one of XTC shows in Chicago during their 1980 Black Sea tour.[16]

Guitarist Dave Gregory was a fan of Rundgren's music, particularly since hearing the 1978 album Hermit of Mink Hollow. His bandmates were not as familiar with the producer.[14] For bassist Colin Moulding, "I'd seen him on stage, on TV, with his Utopia stuff, and I thought it was way over the bastard top ... Then Dave started playing me one or two things. I heard 'I Saw the Light," and I thought, 'Christ, that's a really good song!' I didn't know he had that side to him.[17] All that Partridge knew about Rundgren was his solo album Something/Anything? (1972). Gregory urged the group to work with him: "I reminded Andy that Todd had produced one of his favourite New York Dolls records [New York Dolls, 1973]. In the absence of any better alternatives, he agreed."[14] Once contacted, Rundgren offered to handle the album's entire recording for a lump sum of $150,000[3]—including tape costs, studio hire, lodging, and his production fee—which the band accepted.[15]

Concept and style

Skylarking producer Todd Rundgren, pictured in 1978 In January 1986, Partridge and Moulding mailed Rundgren a collection of more than 20 demo tapes they had stockpiled in advance of the album.[15] Rundgren convinced the band that the songs they had written could form a concept album[18][19] as a way to bridge what he described "Colin's 'pastoral' tunes and subject matter and Andy's 'pop anthems' and sly poetry."[15] He also suggested a provisional title, Day Passes, and said that the album ... could be about a day, a year, or a lifetime. ... there were songs that represented significant milestones along the way: birth, young love, family, labor, illness, death, sprinkled with moments of wonderment. Using this framework, I came up with a sequence of songs and a justification for their placement and brought it to the band.[20]

The chosen songs were of a gentler atmosphere and relations were drawn between tempo, key, and subject matter.[2] Partridge thought well of the selections,[21] but was annoyed that the tracks and running order were determined so early on in the process, remarking that "you hadn't spoken to the bloke for three minutes, and he'd already been hacking and throwing your work in the bin".[22] Working titles included All Day Life, Rite, Rite Things, Leftover Rites, Summer Good, and Pink Things Sing.[23] They settled on Skylarking, referring to a type of bird (skylark) and the Royal Navy term "skylarking", which means "fooling around".[24] Partridge commented that the album espoused the feeling of "a playfully sexual hot summer ... It's just about summer and being out in the open and discovering sex in a stumbly, teenage way."[2]

Similar to 25 O'Clock, the music was heavily influenced by the 1960s psychedelic era.[25] However, Skylarking contrasted significantly from earlier XTC efforts. As music critic A.D. Amorosi wrote, "More lyrically mature, lush and gently psychedelic than anything before in their catalog, Skylarking borrowed the hilly, holy feel of Mummer, as well as the ringing Beatles-ish vibe from ... The Big Express, but with a softly sweeping gracefulness and a finessed orchestral swirl.[26] It has been variously described as an album of art rock,[27] art pop,[28] new wave,[29][30] psychedelic pop,[29][31] psychedelic rock,[32] neo-psychedelia,[33] post-punk,[30] and chamber pop.[34]

Partridge surmised that the lyric content of XTC songs became more worldly as result of his "coming off—rather abruptly—of 13 years of valium addiction". He had also recently become a father and began listening to numerous Beach Boys albums, before which he had only been familiar with their singles.[26] Moulding had recently listened to Pink Floyd's 1967 debut The Piper at the Gates of Dawn for the first time and was influenced by Syd Barrett's "free-form" songwriting style.[17] The number of Moulding songs (five) was also unusual for the band. Partridge: "I was already feeling sort of pushed out by Virgin. ... But, honestly, that was the best batch of material that Colin had ever offered up for".[35] Moulding: "Todd chose the songs. I know for a fact that, had he not, my contribution in number would have been decidedly less. I was just grateful that the band had an independent arbiter."[26]

Production Session difficulties At the time I said it was like one bunker with two Hitlers. We were like rams butting our heads together.

—Andy Partridge[36] The collaboration with Rundgren proved to be difficult, especially for Partridge, and numerous disagreements arose over drum patterns, song selections, and other details.[18] Partridge characterised Rundgren's musical preferences as "completely contradictory to mine", for instance, suggesting a fuzz guitar overdub where Rundgren wanted a mandolin.[37] Moulding acknowledged that, until then, it was typical for Partridge to act as an "executive producer" for XTC's albums, frequently undermining the authority of the actual credited producer.[7] According to Rundgren: "Essentially, it was kind of preordained by me what the record was going to be, which was something they never endured before. I think [Colin and Dave] trusted me, but Andy never did."[19] Gregory intimated that "Todd and Andy were like chalk and cheese as personalities, they didn't hit it off from the start. Things just went from bad to worse."[38]

Partridge was satisfied with Rundgren's arrangements but frustrated with the producer's "patronizing" and "so bloody sarcastic" remarks during sessions.[39] As he remembered, "[Todd would] ask how you were going to do the vocals and you would stand in front of the mic and do one run through to clear your throat and he'd say, 'That was crap. I'll come down and I'll record me singing it and you can have me in your headphones to sing along to.'."[40] Another line he recalled was: "You can dick around with [the track] for a few hours your way if you like. I'm going up to my house. When you find out it doesn't work your way, give me a call and we'll record it my way."[41] He believed that the producer's role was "to keep us in line", however, and that Rundgren was successful in that respect.[42] On the extent of the altercations, Rundgren said "there was the moment Andy said he wanted to cleave my head in half with an axe. But there was never anything physical. Just verbal abuse."[43] Gregory stated that he was "quite happy to be directed by Todd instead of Andy."[44] He thought that Rundgren "deliberately belittle[d Andy] if he thought he was getting too big for his boots. Andy rose to the bait every time."[11] Moulding did not have "any problem with Todd", instead feeling that Partridge was "so unhappy and taking it out, a little bit, on me."[45]

Usually [Andy's ideas were] to take out more air, to fill in some space with more sound. [...] So if you were looking at it on a [spectrogram], it would be completely flat [...] And you don't realize how hard it is to listen to that.

—Todd Rundgren[46] Rundgren had listened to The Big Express and concluded that the group had "lost track" of their studio indulgences.[46] His style of embracing technical mistakes without allowing the members a chance to fix them was also a source of contention. Partridge often stated that this was because Rundgren wanted to spend as little money as possible, while Moulding said: "I don't believe that was the only reason. You could tell, that was his working method. He liked to do it because he's of the opinion -- and I think I am as well -- that the best take is where the band is running through while the engineer's trying to get a sound! That's the take that should be recorded, you know."[17] At times when Partridge wanted to improve some part of the music, Rundgren would respond saying "Andy, it won't necessarily be 'better' – it'll just be different."[47]

The band routinely played the theme from The Munsters whenever they could see Rundgren arriving to the studio. According to Partridge, Rundgren never realized the joke was at his resemblance to Herman Munster.[48] In spite of all the difficulties, Rundgren said the album "ultimately ... sounds like we were having a great time doing it. And at times we were having a good time."[18] Based on the stories written about Skylarking, Partridge became known for being difficult to work with.[49] Initially, he considered that he may have been wrong in his perception of the sessions. He later consulted with other artists who worked with Rundgren, only to find that "nine times out of ten they’ll say, 'Fuckin' hell, he was like that with us!'"[50] After an argument about a bass part, Moulding stipulated that Partridge be banned from the studio while he finished recording his parts.[11] In 1997, Moulding called it the "only real argument" between him and Partridge in the band's history.[51]


Prairie Prince of the Tubes was recruited as session drummer All of the basic tracks were recorded in the same order as they appear on the album, as were the drum overdubs that followed.[52] The recording sessions took place in early 1986 largely at Rundgren's Utopia Sound Studios in Woodstock, New York.[26] Partridge described Utopia Sound—a two-story building located on the edge of a forest[53]—as "a glorified log cabin".[54] The band stayed at a nearby guest house, while Rundgren lived in the "main house" up the road.[53] They arrived without rehearsing the material because of the expectation that Rundgren would change the song structures anyway. In Moulding's recollection, "That was the problem with the whole record. ... everybody kept saying, 'There's no point in rehearsing!' ... I realized, 'I don't know any of these songs!' [laughs] 'Nobody's told me the chords! What'll we do?'"[17] The project consumed only three reels of tape: one for side one, another for side two, and a third for extras and leftover tracks.[55] Moulding remembered that "one track ran into another. No edits. Todd had a very unorthodox way of recording—15 ips. ... and done very quickly. Second takes were uncommon, but it was all charming in a way.[26] Partridge considered these methods a "money-saving ruse",[26] and believed that Rundgren "didn't wanna spend out on reels of tape".[22]

A Prophet 5 synthesizer, similar to the Prophet 10 used on the album Rundgren played a large role in the album's sound design and drum programming, providing the band with string and brass arrangements, as well as an assortment of gear that included a Fairlight CMI, Yamaha DX7, E-mu Emulator, pre-MIDI LinnDrum, and a Prophet-10 bought especially for the album. The only instruments the band had brought with them to the US were "about eight guitars".[26] Gregory repaired a neglected Chamberlin that had become infested with mice.[53] They spent the first week planning and setting markers for the tape space they needed.[56] Another three weeks were spent programming percussion and other sequences on a Fairlight.[40] For the first run of sessions at Woodstock, the group used the LinnDrum as a placeholder for percussion, which Gregory said "sounded very stiff and lifeless".[12] Real drums were overdubbed at Sound Hole Studios in San Francisco by the Tubes' Prairie Prince.[57] Gregory said "it was only then that the album started coming to life".[12]

While in San Francisco, the band stayed at a condominium a few blocks away from Rundgren's apartment.[55] Partridge instructed Prince how to play his parts, although Prince occasionally suggested his own ideas. Prince later praised Partridge's "sense of rhythm ... that guy is just amazing. I'm not sure if I've actually ever heard him sit down and play a set of drums, but I think that he probably could do an excellent job. I know he's done some great drum programming."[58] Moulding recalled that nothing apart from "some percussion" was recorded for the album until the band arrived in San Francisco to lay the drum tracks.[17] Initially, Rundgren wanted Moulding to track his bass parts before the drums were recorded, but Moulding objected to this method.[59] The orchestral arrangements were recorded at Sound Hole,[55] as well as a couple of Moulding's bass tracks.[17] Prince recalled that the group adopted "this big project calendar ... with all the instruments and vocal parts they wanted to add. As things got recorded, they would check them off and make notes about what takes they were happy with."[60] Afterward, the band returned to Woodstock to record the rest of the album.[17] When recording was complete, the band left Rundgren with a handmade book of mixing instructions, which he followed.[21]

Sleeve design

The album's 2010 reissue sleeve was based on Partridge's original idea for the album's cover art.[11] The original sleeve design was to depict close-up shots of human pubic regions with flowers fitted into the hairs, female on the front and male on the back. Photo sessions were held, but record shops informed the label that they would not carry the album with that artwork, and so the idea was discarded.[61] Partridge had also considered the rejected design for the cover of the "Grass" single.[23]

As a last minute alternative, Partridge said, "I stole this very tasteful print from a classics concert in 1953 done by a chap called Hans Erney [sic]. I changed a few things on the drawing. I think on the original one the boy had a guitar and the girl had a flute, but we gave them both flutes. So it really was a tasteful alternative to the original sleeve, which really would have been suicide to put out."[61]

On the back cover, the group are depicted wearing schoolgirl uniforms. Partridge's intention was to have the group dressed in Quaker outfits looking "really disapprovingly". The reason why they wear schoolgirl outfits instead was due to a miscommunication made when Partridge ordered the outfits.[61]

Songs Side one "Summer's Cauldron" "Summer's Cauldron" is an extension of an original poem Partridge wrote called "Drowning in Summer's Cauldron". It is introduced with the sound of a bee that pans across the stereo channels.[62] Rundgren provided the sample, along with other "summer sounds" such as crickets and barking dogs.[57] The track emphasizes droning sounds and a "wobbly" chorused organ, the latter of which reminded Partridge of summer and the Beatles' "Blue Jay Way" (1967). Rundgren played melodica, Partridge recalled, "and we got to bully him! It was great."[62] Prairie Prince was encouraged to play "spastic" drum fills in the style of Jethro Tull's "Sweet Dream" (1969).[62] "Summer's Cauldron" segues seamlessly into the next track, an effect that was achieved in an unconventional manner.[63] "When we said, 'How are we going to get from 'Summer's Cauldron' to 'Grass'?,' he [Rundgren] said, 'Well, you just put your hand on your instruments and stop the strings ringing and then we punch in the start of 'Grass.'"[40]

Coate Water, the setting of "Grass" (pictured 2006) "Grass" "Grass" is sometimes mistaken to be about cannabis, but was actually written about Coate Water, a parkland in Swindon. Moulding composed it on an open E-tuned guitar and found its harmonic changes by playing the chord shapes of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" (1969). The mixing of violin and guitar was an idea lifted from John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?" (1971). Rundgren added a tiple to the blend.[63] Moulding originally sang the song with a deeper voice. He said Rundgren voiced concern that the effect was too close to "a molester", and so Moulding "did the Bowie thing and added an octave above it".[64] The track bookends "Summer's Cauldron" with a reprise of its "insect chorus".[63]

"The Meeting Place" "The Meeting Place" is built on a "circular" guitar motif that reminded Moulding of the children's programme Toytown. He characterised it as "a childish, nursery-rhyme, bell-like, small town riff. As if you were looking down on Toytown, and it was me in the landscape, meeting my wife beside the factory or something, in our teens."[17] The industrial noises at the beginning were samples sequenced on a Fairlight,[17] one of which was the sound of the Swindon Works hooter, which was used as a signal for its workers. Swindon Works closed within a year of the song's recording.[64] Among influences on the song, Moulding cited Syd Barrett, the Rolling Stones' "Factory Girl" (1968), and Billie Jo Spears' Blanket on the Ground" (1975).[17]

"That's Really Super, Supergirl"

The Fool guitar was used for "That's Really Super, Supergirl" (pictured is a replica) "That's Really Super, Supergirl" is a guitar pop song[30] that references the DC Comics character Supergirl, although Partridge stated the "Supergirl" in the song "isn't one girl -- it's an amalgam of all the women who had better things to do than be around me. .. there's a facetious part of it, a little sarcasm in it."[65] Its lyrics also mention kryptonite and Superman's Fortress of Solitude.[66] Rundgren contributed the keyboard part but was left uncredited. Gregory: "We really didn't know what to do with it. It was just a 'B' side, and he could obviously see possibilities in it. One afternoon, we just left him to it."[12] The snare was sampled from the Utopia album Deface the Music (1980). Because of recording logistics, Prince and Moulding were forced to play around the beat. The guitar solo was played by Dave Gregory on Eric Clapton's psychedelic Gibson SG the Fool, then owned by Rundgren.[65] Gregory spent hours rehearsing the solo.[66] Years after the fact, he realised that he had subconsciously lifted the "little five-note runs" heard in the trumpet line of "Magic Dragon Theatre" from the Utopia's Ra (1977).[47]

"Ballet for a Rainy Day" "Ballet for a Rainy Day", lyrically, is a portrait of a rainy town and its raincoats, fruits, and collapsing hairdos. Partridge: "The one thing I remember about the rain as a child was my mother cursing that her new hairdo was going to get ruined."[67] There was an argument over the lyric "silent film of melting miracle play". Rundgren was unaware that "Miracle Plays" were biblical performances from the Medieval times, and thinking that Partridge was mistaken, requested that it be changed to "passion play". Partridge refused because he wanted to maintain the alliteration in "melting miracle". "Tickets for the front row seats up on the rooftops" is an homage to the Blue Nile's "A Walk Across the Rooftops" (1984).[67] According to music critic Joe Stannard, "Ballet" and the two following tracks "distil the flawless orch-pop of Smile and Abbey Road into a handy three-song suite."[22]

"1000 Umbrellas" "1000 Umbrellas" is a more somber reflection on a rainy day and the second song about being "dumped" by a woman. Gregory spent weeks working on its string arrangement[67] using a Roland MSQ-100 sequencer and a string patch on his Roland JX-P. He said: "It was a rather doomy, miserable little thing with all those descending chromatic chords, and I thought, 'Oh dear, how can l cheer this miserable song up?'"[12] Rundgren had not originally considered it for the album, since the demo consisted solely of Partridge on acoustic guitar, but was convinced to include it once he heard Gregory's arrangement. Partridge recalled that at one point, Gregory "took me on one side and said, 'I know what you mean by that lyric, 'How can you smile and forecast weather's getting better, if you've never let a girl rain all over you.' And I thought, 'How very enigmatic of you, Gregsy.'"[67]

"Season Cycle"

"Season Cycle" was inspired by the Beach Boys circa Smiley Smile (1967) "Season Cycle", in its basic form, came to Partridge while walking his dog.[68] The song was prominently influenced by the Beach Boys, but was not initially planned as a pastiche of the band, he said, "in fact, it started out very much like a folk song, very strummy. And just to kind of tie things up, I tried to do some other things going on at the same time, 'cause we're cross-melody maniacs in this band, but I thought it would be fun. Then I thought, 'Shit, this really does sound like the Beach Boys. Yeah, I'll make it sound a bit more like the Beach Boys!'."[61] He felt that the end result was "nearer to Harpers Bizarre than the Beach Boys personally."[61] In another interview, he stated that he was consciously inspired by the Beach Boys album Smiley Smile (1967) to write a song that appeared to be made up of many disparate musical sections. Gregory took issue with the dissonance in the second bridge, but Rundgren sided with Partridge on the view that it made the harmonic development more interesting.[53] Rundgren, however, taunted Partridge for the lyric "about the baby and the umbilical".[68]

Side two "Earn Enough for Us" "Earn Enough for Us" is a power pop song[22] with subject matter similar to Partridge's previous "Love on a Farmboy's Wages". He wrote "Earn Enough" about his former days working at a paint shop. The lyric "I can take humiliation and hurtful comments from the boss" refers to the shop's owner, Middle Mr. Turnley. "He'd come into the shop and go, 'Snort! snort! Look at ya, you fuckin' useless little cunt, snort! snort! You got a fuckin' girl's haircut, ya little cunt, snort!'"[69] The opening riff was invented by Gregory after some persuasion from Rundgren.[51] Moulding temporarily left the group after a dispute over the bass line, which Partridge felt had been going in a direction that was too "bluesy".[45]

"Big Day" "Big Day" is about marriage and was dedicated to Moulding's teenage son Lee.[51] It was first offered for 25 O'Clock but his bandmates thought it was too good for the Dukes project.[70] Partridge envisioned the song as a single.[51]

"Another Satellite" "Another Satellite" is about Erica Wexler, a fan that caused tensions between Partridge and his then-wife. He previously wrote about Wexler for The Big Express songs "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her" and "You're the Wish You Are I Had".[71] Rundgren had initially rejected "Another Satellite", but it was included at the insistence of the band's A&R executive at Virgin, Jeremy Lascelles.[57] Partridge expressed regret releasing the song since it was hurtful to Erica, although "the story had a happy ending" once they rekindled a relationship in the 1990s.[72] The "mordant, chiming rebuke" of the song, according to Stannard, "signals a shift into darker, more personal areas."[22]

"Mermaid Smiled" "Mermaid Smiled" is a "jazzy" song[22] inspired by a board book Partridge owned as a child. The title means "getting back in touch with the child in you. And the key to that is something as frivolous as a smile on a mermaid."[73] It was composed in D6 tuning (D–A–D–A–B–F) and came about when he discovered a riff that he felt had an underwater quality to it. He wrote a poem containing some of the lyrics, called "Book Full of Sea", but could not remember if it was before or after he had the "Raga-mama-Raga" guitar motif: "I started to throw my hands around the fretboard and discovered some great-sounding stuff – all simple chords. They're just straight barres or real simple shapes. It just sort of said rock pools and mermaids and breakers crashing."[73] Rundgren arranged the song in the style of Bobby Darin.[60] The track features tabla, bongos, muted trumpets, and sampled vibraphones from a Fairlight; the latter two are reflected in the lyrics "from pools of xylophone clear" and "compose with trumpeting shell".[73] Partridge found that the percussion gave the song an Indian feel and tried expanding upon it by singing flattened quarter notes, an idea that Rundgren rejected.[74]

"The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" is an existentialist beatnik song that "just says you're born, you live, and you die," Partridge explained. "Why look for the meaning of life when all there is is death and decay."[75] The melody was inspired by the Nat King Cole version of "Nature Boy" (1948).[76] Rundgren's arrangement was based on the music of 1960s spy films,[77] which happened to be in an idiom similar to "Mermaid Smiled".[73] Partridge: "I had in my head that I really wanted to out-do 'Mack the Knife' — the Bobby Darin version. ... [and] it sounded like a spy film title to me. So I thought, 'It'd be great to do sort of a John Barry secret-agent soundtrack thing.' ... I said to Todd, 'Ideally, make it like a Beatnik existential spy movie soundtrack. Can such a thing be done?' And literally, he went away overnight and came back with charts for this stuff."[76] Partridge instructed Prince to drum like a "jazz junkie drummer". On his performance, Prince surmised that he may have unconsciously "channeled" the influence of big band drummer Gene Krupa.[58]

"Dear God"

"Dear God" 0:30 Sample of "Dear God". Problems playing this file? See media help. "Dear God" is about a struggling agnostic[3] who writes a letter to God while challenging his existence. The song was conceived in a skiffle style[78] but while playing the Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon" (1968), Partridge was inspired to move "Dear God" closer to that song's direction.[79] "Dear God" was not included on original pressings of Skylarking, but it was always intended to be on the album.[3]

"Dying" "Dying" was inspired by an elderly neighbor of Moulding's named Bertie. It was wrongly assumed to be about his father, Charlie Moulding, who had died of a heart attack in 1983. Colin had recently purchased a house in the Swindon countryside: "We didn't see him [Bertie] for the first six months and thought he might be dead. But people in the village said that he'd recently lost his wife and had become very quiet and sad. ... He used to get these attacks and be very short of breath. But he loved to talk about the old ways."[80] The sampled clarinet solo was played on a Chamberlin.[80]

"Sacrificial Bonfire" "Sacrificial Bonfire" attempts to set the scene of an Iron Age ritual. Moulding started with a pagan-sounding guitar riff: "There was a touch of 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' and a bit of Arthur Brown's 'Fire' in it, I suppose. But I wasn't moralizing. It was just that this was an evil piece of music and good would triumph over it."[79] Rundgren contributed a string arrangement, something Moulding had not envisioned for the song. He said "it made the last two bars of the album more optimistic, which I think fitted into his original Day Passes concept. It was the dawn of another day."[60] Partridge concurred: "It was a good ending to the album, fading deep into the night. It just leaves you in blackness with the slightest hint that dawn is coming."[79]

Leftover "Let's Make a Den", according to Partridge, is about "the idea that you play all these games and then do it in real life. First it's a den and then it's a real house. I had finally got my own home and didn't like the idea of losing it because England might get caught up in a war caused by Ronald Reagan's 'Star Wars' sabre rattling."[23] The song was in Rundgren's original concept of Skylarking, but he wanted Partridge to change the time signature from 7 4 to 8 4. Partridge fought over this detail, "I wanted this keenness and childish joy which you get from the seven/four meter. I also wanted the rhythm track to have banging Coke cans and stuff, the things that kids would do."[81] Prince was a witness to Rundgren and Partridge's arguments regarding the song: "I thought it was cool, but then Todd ... said, 'You know, I really don't like this song, I don't think it fits with the whole scheme of this album.' And that's when they started arguing -- Andy was saying, 'Well, why not?' He gave some long explanation why it should, and Todd just kind of put his foot down, and didn't want to do it."[58]

"Extrovert" is Partridge's rumination on overcoming his shyness. Its more aggressive and bombastic tone contrasts significantly with the other Skylarking songs. The song was recorded as a single B-side and was the last tracked for the sessions. Partridge sang the lead vocal while inebriated. After the band returned to England, they agreed to Rundgren overdubbing some brass samples, although he ultimately got the chords wrong.[82] "Terrorism", "The Troubles", and "Find the Fox" were all rejected by Rundgren on the grounds that they did not fit in the album's concept, and they were never tracked for the sessions.[83]

Release Contemporary professional ratings Review scores Source Rating The Philadelphia Inquirer [84] Q [85] The Village Voice A-[86] Lead single "Grass", backed with "Dear God" in the UK, was released in August 1986.[38] Skylarking followed on 27 October 1986.[87] It spent one week on the UK album charts, reaching No. 90 in November.[88] In the US, radio stations were sent a promotional disc, Skylarking with Andy Partridge, which featured interviews with the group and Rundgren. A second single, "The Meeting Place", was issued in 1987.[38] Demos of "Let's Make a Den", "The Troubles", "Find the Fox", and "Terrorism" were remixed at Crescent Studios and released as bonus tracks to the singles.[57] Both "Grass" and "The Meeting Place" reached No. 100 on the UK Singles Chart.

Tim Sommer of Rolling Stone praised the album as "the most inspired and satisfying piece of Beatle-esque pop since ... well, since the Beatles" and drew favourable comparisons to the Beatles (Revolver, Rubber Soul), the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds) and the Kinks (Village Green Preservation Society).[89] Creem's Karen Schlosberg dubbed it a "masterpiece" and a "somewhat baroque and ethereally-textured collection". She lamented that it was unlikely the album would receive much radio play, "since the lads' sound is probably too different to sit well with contemporary radio programming standards. Another irony, since XTC is constantly being compared to one of the most successful groups in pop history, the Beatles."[90] Billboard reviewed: "The overall tone here is less hard-edged than in past work; the band never takes the easy way out, however, employing unique sounds and unexpected melodic twists to wonderful effect."[91]

Robert Christgau awarded the record an A- with his only criticism being "when the topics become darker and more cosmic ... they clutter things with sound and whimsy".[86] Also from Rolling Stone, Rob Tannenbaum's 1987 review said the album's craftsmanship was "a remarkable achievement", but decried: "This trading of the acute modernism that marked such classics as 'This Is Pop' and 'Making Plans for Nigel' for domestic solitude dampens the band's punk-roots energy and also limits its emotional spectrum. ... Partridge complains. But then he apologizes to his ex for being "rude" to her. Being rude is the point of breakup songs, and a shot of rudeness is just what XTC could use now."[33]

Promotional videos were created for "Grass" and "Dear God" (both directed by Nick Brandt). The Channel 4 music program The Tube also produced videos for "The Meeting Place" and "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" filmed in Portmeirion with the band wearing costumes from The Prisoner.[citation needed] The music video for "Dear God" received the 1987 Billboard Best Video award and was nominated for three categories at the MTV Video Music Awards.[92]

"Dear God" controversy Early sales were hampered by the omission of "Dear God" from the album's original pressings.[19] It was left off because Jeremy Lascelles was concerned about the album's length and advised that the song may upset American audiences. Partridge recalled: "I reluctantly agreed because I thought I hadn't written a strong enough take on religion. I thought I'd kind of failed."[93] Rundgren had a different recollection, and said that Partridge demanded that the song be pulled because "He was afraid that there would be repercussions personally for him for taking on such a thorny subject... I called them and said, 'This is a mistake.'"[94] Partridge denied such accusations: "if you can't have a different opinion without them [people upset by the song] wanting to firebomb your house then that's their problem."[79]

"Dear God" was ultimately released as the B-side to the UK lead single "Grass", but due to its popularity with American DJs, the album was reissued in the US, with "Mermaid Smiled" removed and "Dear God" cross-faded into the following track, "Dying", giving the second edition of the US album a revised track sequence.[19] Partridge commented: "I got backed into a corner on that. They said that we had to take something off to put this one on 'cause of the limitations of vinyl and such. I think I wanted to take off 'Dying' and part of me said no, lyrically it's very honest and good, and so 'Dying' stayed."[61]

In June 1987, the A-sided "Dear God" single was released in both markets, reaching No. 99 in the UK,[95] and No. 37 in the US Mainstream Rock chart.[96] Some controversy broke out over the song's anti-religious lyrics, which inspired some violent incidents. In Florida, a radio station received a bomb threat, and in New York, a student forced their school to play the song over its public-address system by holding a faculty member at knife-point. Nonetheless, the commercial success of "Dear God" propelled Skylarking to sell more than 250,000 units, and it raised the band's profile among American college youth.[11] In the US, the album spent 29 weeks on the Billboard 200 album charts and reached its peak position of No. 70 in June 1987.[97]

Polarity issue On the request of XTC and Virgin Records, Rundgren submitted three different mixdowns of the album before quitting the project.[22] The first mix was believed to be lacking in dynamics, while the second was rejected for containing numerous pops, clicks, and digital dropouts.[98] According to Partridge, both the label and the band were dissatisfied with the final mix; "We all thought [it was] poor and thin ... There was no bass on it, no high tops, and the middle sounded muddy."[93] Gregory similarly recalled that it was badly recorded.[38]

Decades later, it was discovered that the album's master tapes were engineered with an improper sound polarity.[93] Mastering engineer John Dent, who discovered the flaw in 2010, attributed it to a wiring error between the multitrack recording and stereo mixing machines, which would not have been aurally evident until after the tapes left Rundgren's studio.[99][better source needed] Dent was able to correct the issue, and his master was released by Partridge's APE House label exclusively on vinyl that same year.[100] Rundgren commented: "I think it's total bullshit. But if such a thing existed, it's because they changed the running order on it and had to remaster it – which I had nothing to do with."[94] The master with corrected polarity was eventually issued on CD as well.[101]

Retrospective reviews and legacy Retrospective professional ratings Review scores Source Rating AllMusic [31] Chicago Tribune [102] Encyclopedia of Popular Music [103] Mojo [104] Pitchfork 9.3/10[34] Q [105] Record Collector [106] The Rolling Stone Album Guide [107] Uncut 9/10[108] Upon release Skylarking received universal acclaim and is now considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Skylarking became XTC's best-known album[109] and generally regarded as their finest work.[3] Dave Gregory recalled that two years after its release, he learned that XTC's recent work was "hugely influential" in the US.[16] Music journalist Michael Azerrad wrote that with Skylarking, the band had become "deans of a group of artists who make what can only be described as unpopular pop music, placing a high premium on melody and solid if idiosyncratic songcraft."[110] Mojo's Ian Harrison wrote that regardless of the "businesslike-to-hostile rather than chummy" relationship between Rundgren and the band, "the results were sublime".[111] PopMatters's Patrick Schabe cited it as the album where XTC "blossomed into full maturity",[112] while Uncut's Joe Stannard called it "the album that tied up everything great about Swindon's finest into one big beautiful package of perfect pop".[22]

Moulding said of the album: "Perhaps it lacked the polish of some of the other recordings we had made, but it was the character that was sewn into the record which was its strength. ... Positively naive at times."[26] Gregory called the finished product "probably my favourite XTC album", expressing appreciation of how Rundgren handled the songs.[38] In a promotional insert included with their album Nonsuch (1992), Partridge wrote "Musician and producer Todd Rundgren squeezed the XTC clay into its most complete/connected/cyclical record ever. Not an easy album to make for various ego reasons but time has humbled me into admitting that Todd conjured up some of the most magical production and arranging conceivable. A summer's day cooked into one cake."[18]

In 1989, Skylarking was listed at number 48 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.[2] The staff at Pitchfork Media placed the album at 15 on their 2002 list of the "Top 100 Albums of the 1980s". Site contributor Dominique Leone felt that Rundgren's production added warmth to the band's "clever-but-distant" songs.[5] Slant Magazine listed the album at 67 on its list of the "Best Albums of the 1980s",[113] It was voted number 830 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[114] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[115]

Track listing Skylarking was originally issued without the track "Dear God". After 1987, "Mermaid Smiled" was removed and "Dear God" was inserted. After 2001, track listings included both "Dear God" and "Mermaid Smiled".

Original vinyl All tracks are written by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one No. Title Writer(s) Length 1. "Summer's Cauldron" 3:19 2. "Grass" Colin Moulding 3:05 3. "The Meeting Place" Moulding 3:14 4. "That's Really Super, Supergirl" 3:21 5. "Ballet for a Rainy Day" 2:50 6. "1000 Umbrellas" 3:44 7. "Season Cycle" 3:21 Side two No. Title Writer(s) Length 8. "Earn Enough for Us" 2:54 9. "Big Day" Moulding 3:32 10. "Another Satellite" 4:15 11. "Mermaid Smiled" 2:26 12. "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" 3:24 13. "Dying" Moulding 2:31 14. "Sacrificial Bonfire" Moulding 3:49 Total length: 45:47 2016 expanded edition In 2016, an expanded CD and Blu-ray edition of Skylarking was issued on Partridge's Ape House label. It included new 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes by Steven Wilson.[116]

All tracks are written by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

2016 stereo mix No. Title Writer(s) Length 1. "Summer's Cauldron" 3:20 2. "Grass" Colin Moulding 3:07 3. "The Meeting Place" Moulding 3:16 4. "That's Really Super, Supergirl" 3:23 5. "Ballet for a Rainy Day" 3:07 6. "1000 Umbrellas" 3:29 7. "Season Cycle" 3:31 8. "Earn Enough for Us" 2:58 9. "Big Day" Moulding 3:33 10. "Another Satellite" 4:26 11. "Mermaid Smiled" 2:29 12. "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" 3:27 13. "Dear God" 3:40 14. "Dying" Moulding 2:35 15. "Sacrificial Bonfire" Moulding 3:49 Bonus 2016 mixes No. Title Length 16. "Extrovert" 3:40 17. "Let's Make a Den" 2:19 18. "The Troubles" 3:30 19. "Little Lighthouse" 3:22 Total length: 63:04 2016 5.1 mix – same running order as 2016 stereo mix 2016 instrumental mix – same running order as 2016 stereo mix 2001 stereo remaster – same running order as original vinyl (includes bonus tracks "Dear God" and "Extrovert") 2010 corrected polarity remaster – same running order as 2016 stereo mix (minus bonus tracks) Album in demo and work tape form – same running order as 2016 stereo mix (minus bonus tracks) Andy's non-album demos No. Title Length 66. "1000 Umbrellas" (Early acoustic run through) 67. "Season Cycle" (Early sketch) 68. "Another Satellite" (Early sketch) 69. "Summer's Cauldron" (Early sketch) 70. "Earn Enough for Us" (Early sketch) 71. "Ballet for a Rainy Day" (Early sketch) 72. "Dear God" (Early 'skiffle' version) 73. "Mermaid Smiled" (Explanation version) 74. "Let's Make a Den" (Early idea) 75. "Let's Make a Den" 76. "Little Lighthouse" (Early version) 77. "Little Lighthouse" (Intro section) 78. "Little Lighthouse" 79. "Terrorism" (Early idea) 80. "Terrorism" 81. "Extrovert" 82. "The Troubles" 83. "Lumpen Splendour" 84. "Ra Ra for Red Rocking Horse" (Rehearsal at Dave's) 85. "Ra Ra for Red Rocking Horse" 86. "When We Get to England" 87. "Shaking Skin House" 88. "Obscene Procession" 89. "Across the Antheap" Colin's non-album work tapes No. Title Writer(s) Length 90. "Halley's Comet" Moulding 91. "Find the Fox" Moulding Videos No. Title Length 92. "Grass" 93. "Dear God" Personnel Credits adapted from the original and the 2016 sleeves.[116][117]


Andy Partridge – vocals, guitar Colin Moulding – vocals, bass guitar (also credited with "bonfire") Dave Gregory – vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizers, Chamberlin, string arrangement on "1000 Umbrellas" and "Dear God", tiple Additional personnel and technical staff

Todd Rundgren – producer, engineer, melodica on "Summer's Cauldron", synthesizers on "Grass" and "That's Really Super, Supergirl", backing vocals, orchestral arrangements, computer programming (also credited with "continuity concept") Prairie Prince – drums (credited as "the part of the time bomb") Mingo Lewis – percussion Jasmine Veillette – vocals on "Dear God" Kim Foscato – assistant engineer George Cowan – assistant engineer Dave Dragon – sleeve drawings Cindy Palmano – photography Ken Ansell – typography Orchestral players

John Tenney – violin Emily Van Valkenburgh – violin Rebecca Sebring – viola Teresa Adams – cello Charlie McCarthy – alto and tenor saxophones, flute Bob Ferreira – tenor saxophone, piccolo flute, bass clarinet Dave Bendigkeit – trumpet Dean Hubbard – trombone The sleeve credits "the Beech Avenue Boys" with "backing vocals". They are actually XTC under a pseudonym. The credit is an inside joke referencing the Beach Boys and a street in Swindon.[69] Special thanks were given to the Tubes, "who let us use their amplifiers", and the Dukes of Stratosphear, "who loaned us their guitars".

Charts Chart performance for Skylarking Year Chart Peak position 1986 UK Official Charts[88] 90 1987 US Billboard 200[97] 70 Chart performance for "Dear God" Year Chart Peak position 1987 UK Official Charts[95] 99 1987 US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks[96] 37


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Dear God

Company: Virgin

Catalog: 0-20630

Country/State: Swindon, UK

Year: 1987

Grade (cover/record): --

Comments: four track, 12" EP

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00



Inexplicably, Geffen chose to follow the album with the release of the four track "Dear God" EP. Pulling three tracks from "Skylarkin'" ("Grass", "Earn Enough for Us" and the Partridge-penned title track (easily one of the best things he'd written)), the EP was rounded out by the previously unreleased "Extrovert" . 

"Dear God" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Grass (Colin Moulding) - 
2.) Earn Enough for Us (Andy Partridge) - 

(side 2)

1.) Extrovert (Andy Partridge) - 
2.) Dear God (Andy Partridge) - 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Oranges & Lemons

Company: Virgin

Catalog: 24218-1

Country/State: UK

Year: 1989

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $8.00


Whereas "Skylarkin'" reflected Partridge and company's growing interest in '60s psychedelia, 1989's "Oranges & Lemons" found the band literally bathing themselves in the genre. Fabled for their agonizing fights with producers, this time the trio hired Paul Fox to man the boards. (Partridge apparently liked Fox's work on a Boy George song). The choice proved inspired. From it's day-glo cover art, to the trippy sounds of material such as "Garden of Earthly Delights", "Here Comes President Kill Again" (baring an uncanny resemblance to solo, post-Beatles John Lennon), and "The Loving", the results made for one of the band's most engaging releases. Sure, spread across four sides, there was some needless filler - particularly sides 3 and 4. It would have made a killer single LP. That said, even some of the throwaway efforts ("Poor Skeleton Steps Out " and "Scarecrow People") were worth hearing. Elsewhere "Mayor of Simpleton", "Merely a Man" (love the horn arrangement), "King for a Day" and "One of the Millions" (the latter two reflecting two of Moulding's three contributions), underscored the trio's often overlooked knack for writing killer pop songs. Propelled by rave reviews and a limited acoustic tour of select American radio stations, the collection became the group's best selling American release, hitting # 44.

"Oranges & Lemons" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Garden of Earthly Delights   (Andy Partridge) - 
2.) The Mayor of Simpleton   (Andy Partridge) - 
3.) King for a Day   (Chris Moulding) - 
4.) Here Comes President Kill Again   (Andy Partridge) - 
5.) The Loving   (Andy Partridge) - 
6.) Poor Skeleton Steps Out   (Andy Partridge) - 
7.) One of the Millions   (Chris Moulding) - 

(side 2)

1.) Scarecrow People   Andy Partridge) - 
2.) Merely a Man   (Andy Partridge) - 
3.) Cynical Days   (Chris Moulding) - 
4.) Across the Antheap   (Andy Partridge) - 
5.) Hold Me Daddy   (Andy Partridge) - 
6.) Pink Thing   (Andy Partridge) - 
7.) Miniature Sun   (Andy Partridge) - 
8.) Chalkhills and Children   (Andy Partridge) - 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Waxworks Some Singles 1977 - 1982

Company: Geffen

Catalog: 24027-1

Country/State: Swindon,  UK

Year: 1982

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 331

Price: $15.00


If you're frugal and don't want to invest in one of the retrospective sets ("Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977 - 1992", "The Uppsey Daisy Assortent", or the 2002 4 CD set "Coat of Many Cupboards"), then I'd suggest 1982's "Waxworks Some Singles 1977 - 1982" might be the place for you to start exploring XTC.  Like the title indicates, the album features a wonderful 14 track compilation of the band's early singles (most of the all but unknown outside of their American cult following).  You'll seldom hear a set that does such an amazing job of showcasing a band's musical growth from competent new wave/punk wannabes ('Science Friction'), to the Kinks-styled 'Tower of London'. 

"Waxworks Some Singles 1977 - 1982" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Science Friction   (Andy Partridge) - 3:12

Off of their 1978 "White Music" album, 'Science Friction' managed to blend jittery new wave moves, some classic '60-styled organ, killer drumming, with Andy Partridge's instantly recognizable voice.   Not their most commercial effort, but the perfect song to show these guys were more than your run-of-the-mill British wannabe outfit.  The video quality is pretty bad, but YouTube has a promotion clip of the band performing the song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtnNJ3q5wEc   rating: *** stars

2.) Statue of Liberty   (Andy Partridge) - 2;24

Another "White Music" track, 'Statue of Liberty' unveiled Partridge's affection for strong pop melodies and hooks.  Unfortunately getting banned by the BBC for supposedly lewd lyrics didn't help sales.  YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song on the British Old Grey Whistle Test television program.  The young Andy Partridge's reference to Rita Coolidge was hysterical, as were the song's 'yo-yo' refrain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjEuws9-HTM  rating; *** stars

3.) This Is Pop   (Andy Partridge) - 2:39

As represented here, the single mix of 'This Is Pop' was one of their jittery-est, new wave-influenced singles, while the title track chorus was glistening top-40 pop.   Fascinating combination of genres.   YouTube has a frenetic live performance of the song from the Revolver television program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy8gSdZdpy8  rating: *** stars

4.) Are You Receiving Me?   (Andy Partridge) - 3:03

Snarling punk influences with Partridge's knack for catchy melodies ...   add in Bob Andrews of keyboards and this one was near irresistible.   YouTube has a copy of the original promotional video at:    rating: **** stars

5.) Life Begins At the Hop   (Colin Moulding) - 3:45

Off of 1979's "Drums and Wires" (the first XTC album I ever bought), 'At the Hop' showcased Colin Moulding as the band's overlooked commercial talent.  Yeah, the song had a distinctive new wave angst to it, but it was also the kind of track that was impossible to sit still to.  I can still remember the promo video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vq1U8BKsEw   rating: **** stars

6.) Making Plans for Nigel   (Colin Moulding) - 3:53

Another Colin Moulding track off of 'Drums and Wires", I can remember hearing this on Washington's WHFS (radio has never been the same since it left), and being dumbfounded by the track ...   I literally stopped at my local Penguin Feather record store to buy the album.   The song was reportedly inspired by Moulding's own life - his parents vehemently opposed to him picking music over going to college.  It was British to the core and most of my friends just didn't appreciate it, but to my ears the pounding rhythm section and the insidiously catchy refrain were golden.  The references to British Steel apparently almost got it banned by the BBC.  YouTube has a promotional television performance of the song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0X4Czq1c1E  rating: **** stars

7.) Wait Till You Boat Goes Down   (Andy Partridge) - 4:34 

Off of the "5 Senses" EP, 'Wait Till You Boat Goes Down' is simply miles apart from the new wave/punk influences that characterized much of their earlier work.   Moulding's bass work was amazing, as were the band's harmony vocals.   Fantastic song and a preview of what they were about to start doing.   rating: **** stars

(side 2)

1.) Generals and Majors   (Colin Moulding)  - 2:43

Off of the "Black Sea" LP, 'Generals and Majors' showcased Partridge's penchant for lyrically dense songs, coupled with his obvious affection for Beach Boys-styled harmonies (simply inspiring).   Y

YouTube has a clip of the promotion video (featuring Richard Branson who was technically their boss as head of Virgin Records - then their label): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCW6Kte2o1A    rating: **** stars

2.) Tower of London   (Andy Partridge) - 4:38

The second "Black Sea" selection, 'Tower of London' was one of those transitional tunes between their earlier new wave stylings and a more sophisticated approach.  The subject matter was simply too English for American listeners, but so what.   Nice promo video to go along with it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRNHbBg6HVc   rating: **** stars

3.) Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)   (Andy Partridge) - 3:36

Another "Black Sea" track, 'Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)' has always made me wonder if Partridge and company were big Monty Python fans ...  yeah, they could occasionally be a bit too clever for their own good.  Call it 10cc disease (the fuzz guitar solo actually recalled that band).    Pleasant enough melody though.   YouTube has a clip of the band lip synching the song of Top of the Pops 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4e9sNqtS9qE   rating: *** stars

4.) Senses Working Overtime   (Andy Partridge) - 4:33

Their sound is uniquely English, and that's seldom as apparent as this track off the "English Settlement" album.  Not as instantly appealing as some of their other material, but given time 'Senses Working Overtime' is one of their best performances.  Course the fact it was their first UK top-10 hit show you want my opinion counts for.   YouTube has a Top of the Pops performance of the song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn81JYWz_Lw   rating: **** stars

5.) Ball and Chain   (Colin Moulding) - 4:36

The second "English Settlement" track, 'Ball and Chain', I've never had a clue what it's about.  Nice propulsive melody though and the synthesizers were surprisingly subtle.   YouTube has a couple of interesting clips related to the song:  There's a nice live performance of the song from the 1982 Oxford Road Show:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABy2RLY-VIM    The other link is to the original promotional video (with another Richard Branson appearance): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a9wowg4AjI :   rating: *** stars


Great place to start exploring this band !!!




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  English Settlement

Company: Geffen

Catalog: 24027-1

Country/State: Swindon,  UK

Year: 1982

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 331

Price: $40.00


For a college kid who found the early XTC albums fascinating (punk, but with brains and a sense of melody), "English Settlement" came as a major surprise.  Maybe not a great analogy, but I remember listening to the album and think the new, expanded sound might be similar to someone who'd grown up on black and white television and was suddenly exposed to color television shows.

(side 1)

1.) Runaways   (Colin Moulding) - 4:34   rating: **** stars

I can remember hearing 'Runaways' for the first time and thinking someone had been fiddling with the bass settings on my stereo.  When Colin Moulding's bass kicked in n the track, it literally sent my living room and fillings quaking ...  And some three decades later the song's subject remains as disconcerting to my ears as it did when I first heard it.  Highly tuneful (most bands would kill to be able to replicate XTC's harmony vocals), but the child abuse lyrics remain dark and disturbing.

2.) Ball and Chain   (Colin Moulding) - 4:32

'Ball and Chain' was supposedly inspired by the destruction/urban renewal of Swindon town centre with The Beatles 'Getting Better' serving as the musical inspiration.  Virgin marketing executives brought in  producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (having enjoyed massive success with the band Madness), to record the tune as a single (backed with 'Punch and Judy').  Langer immediate rubbed the band the wrong way; leaving before the song was completed.  Winstanley finished the sessions.

3.) Senses Working Overtime - 4:50

The tune was also released as the leadoff single:


4.) Jason and the Argonauts - 6:50   rating: **** stars

Someday I'll have to find an XTC biography so I can figure out what some of the inspirations were for songs like 'Jason and the Argonauts'.   Kicked along by a mesmerizing guitar pattern, it's one of my choices for standout performance on the album.  I have no idea if the track was inspired by Greek mythology, or something totally different.  It was also another track where the XTC rhythm section stole the show - Moulding's bass line was simply sterling and Terry Chambers managed to sound like an entire college drum line     YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song before a German audience as part of a 1982 Rockpalast appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgMz7S6L8Bg


(side 2)

1.) No Thugs In Our House - 5:09  rating: *** stars

The skitterish 'No Thugs In Our House' has always been another song that I've wondered about - parents of a bad child who don't want to believe the kid is a racist ?   The song's always reminded me of the band's earlier, punkish releases.   YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song on the Grey Old Whistle Test television program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3eG6qUGJ34

2.) Yacht Dance - 3:56   rating: **** stars

The perfect introduction for folks who didn't think XTC could handle a uplifting lyric, or a bouncy, commercial melody ...  Always loved the acoustic guitar flourishes.  



English Settlement (1982 Virgin). Released as a double album, this is XTC at the height of their powers. A stylistic triumph, where country/folk cheerfully rubs shoulders with anthemic pop.

Andy: “I gave away my acoustic guitar in a TV contest and had to buy a new one, suddenly all these new tunes flowed out! Colin gets fretless, Dave goes 12-string, Terry still ‘just 'its 'em’. This 15-track warehouse of songs sounds expansive, fresh, unfinished and vast. It was to become many people's favourite XTC album.”
Andy: “Why don't we make an album we don't have to reproduce on stage? We can use acoustic instruments, we can overdub keyboards, we can use pianos. . . The first of the multi-coloured records.”


With voices (filters, chants, wimp cool) and melodies (chants, modes, arts cool) ever more abstract, I figured Colin Moulding had finally conquered Andy Partridge and turned this putative pop band into Yes for the '80s. But it's more like good Argent, really, with the idealism less philosophical than political--melt the guns, urban renewal as bondage, o! that generation gap. And fortunately, the melodies aren't so much abstract as reserved, with the most outgoing stolen from Vivaldi or somebody by none other than Andy Partridge. B PLUS


English Settlement is an unexpected turning point in XTC's career. After two straight energetic unstoppable 

English Settlement is the fifth studio album by the English band XTC, released on 12 February 1982, and their first double album. The album reached No. 5 on the UK Album Chart for an 11-week chart stay,[1] and No. 48 on the Billboard 200album chart for a 20-week stay.[2]

The album's music style marked a turn towards the more pastoral pop songs that would dominate later XTC releases, with increased use of acoustic guitar and fretless bass. In many countries outside the UK, the album was first released as a single LP, with five tracks deleted. However, this version was discontinued not long after release. The record spawned three UK singles: "Senses Working Overtime" (No. 10); "Ball and Chain" (No. 58); and "No Thugs in Our House".


The cover design is based upon the Uffington White Horse in southwest Oxfordshire, which is about 8 miles east of Swindon, Wiltshire, XTC's home town.

For English Settlement, XTC became their own producers.[3] Bandleader Andy Partridge figured: "We did a couple of albums with Steve Lillywhite as producer and Hugh Padgham as engineer and we twigged that it was Hugh who was getting all the great sounds and we were making the music, so what did we need Lillywhite for?"[3] He also believed that "if I wrote an album with a sound less geared towards touring then maybe there would be less pressure to tour."[4] Padgham was thus given a producer credit alongside XTC.

Compared to the band's previous albums, English Settlement showcased more complex and intricate arrangements.[5][6] Songs were longer and subject matter covered broader social issues.[7] Much of the new material featured acoustic instruments, a reflection of Partridge's newfound interest in 12-string guitar,[6] Guitarist Dave Gregory also bought a Rickenbacker 12-string and began contributing to the group as a keyboardist.[8] His first piano contribution was on the introduction of "Respectable Street", from 1981's Black Sea and for the English Settlement sessions, he played keyboards on the B-Side "Blame the Weather".[9]

The song "English Roundabout" is a rare example of popular music written in the unusual 5
 time signature.[10]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[11]
Chicago Tribune 3/4 stars[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[12]
Pitchfork 10/10[13]
Q 4/5 stars[14]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 2/5 stars[16]
Smash Hits 8½/10[17]
The Village Voice B+[18]

In February 1982, English Settlement was released as the group's first double album.[8] Both the album and lead single "Senses Working Overtime" became the highest-charting records they would ever have in the UK, peaking at number five and number 10, respectively.[5][8] In several territories outside the UK, the album was released as a single LP.[19]

The album was previewed with a live performance on The Old Grey Whistle Testprogram in January where they performed "Yacht Dance" (their only performance of the song) and "No Thugs In Our House". They also made a live appearance on The Oxford Road Show performing "Snowman", "Ball and Chain" and "Jason and the Argonauts".

Promotional videos were created for "Senses Working Overtime", "No Thugs in Our House", "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)" and "Ball and Chain".

Only nine full shows were performed on the proposed 1982 English Settlement World Tour due to Partridge's collapsing at Le Palace in Paris, France on 18 March (during the first song in their set) and subsequent breakdown after their performance at The California Theatre, San Diego, California, U.S.A. on 3 April. This would prove to be XTC's last full show; the band abandoned the next night's show in Los Angeles.[20]

Track listing[edit]

Original UK double album[edit]

All tracks written by Andy Partridge, except those marked with (*), which are by Colin Moulding.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Runaways" (*) 4:34
2. "Ball and Chain" (*) 4:32
3. "Senses Working Overtime" 4:50
4. "Jason and the Argonauts" 6:07
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "No Thugs in Our House" 5:09
2. "Yacht Dance" 3:56
3. "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)" 5:21
Side three
No. Title Length
1. "Melt the Guns" 6:34
2. "Leisure" 5:02
3. "It's Nearly Africa" 3:55
4. "Knuckle Down" 4:28
Side 4
No. Title Length
1. "Fly on the Wall" (*) 3:19
2. "Down in the Cockpit" 5:27
3. "English Roundabout" (*) 3:59
4. "Snowman" 5:03

Single LP worldwide version[edit]

Released in much of the world in 1982.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Runaways" (*) 4:32
2. "Ball and Chain" (*) 4:28
3. "Senses Working Overtime" 4:50
4. "Jason and the Argonauts" 6:05
5. "Snowman" 5:07
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Melt the Guns" 6:31
2. "No Thugs in Our House" 5:08
3. "It's Nearly Africa" 3:53
4. "English Roundabout" (*) 3:37
5. "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)" 5:19




  • Hugh Padgham – backing vocals on "Ball and Chain"
  • Hans de Vente – backing vocals on "It's Nearly Africa"

records like Drums & Wires and Black Sea, everybody (well, I) would expect another, even more lively and aggressive record that could still be as catchy and poppishly amazing as BS. Aaaaand nope, you get English Settlement, which feels like expecting a rocket ride and ending up with a two-week long vacation in a farming community somewhere in Cornwall.

This is possibly why I was disappointed, at first, with the whole album. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of golden pop on this record and some of the pieces here (Ball and Chain, It's Nearly Africa, Down in the Cockpit) will be as entertaining at first as at 99th listen; yet there's also lots of atmosphere, lots of slower moments, lots of quirkier experimentations that never ever get pointless or uninteresting or boring. OK, the last few seconds of Melt the Guns are the exception, but they only are a few seconds, and the track is otherwise possibly the dopest on the album.

It may be that XTC were approaching the end of their live career; it may be that their history influences me too much; but here they've taken a pause, they've caught their breath, and finally they've been able to express themselves to the fullest. The rest of their career up to Nonsuch will be pretty much on the same vibe of English Settlement, with due differences and changes in vibe and atmosphere.
Again, I might be overly influenced by the title, but the album does have some kind of earthy, rural feeling that you'd expect from English Settlement; it's as folky as it can get without being folk in the least.

There's lots of variety in here, and lots of quality to go along with it. It's one of those cases where the good tracks are so good they make you bear the ones you don't like, so that after a while you start liking those ones too, and that's a bit how love works, right? This album has definitely grown on me and I can only predict it will keep growing.
It's also much more balanced than most (even great!) double albums (see the Pumpkins' Mellon Collie, for instance).
I could go with the old "it would have been an incredible single album" but that's way too cheap for an XTC review. The more time passes, the more I'm convinced nothing in here is expendable.

And Snowman is amazingly beautiful, and the only annoying overly-political XTC moment in here is on Leisure (come on guys, don't you like video games?), but that song's real good too.

What an album. some say its too long, but im sure many people who have heard a double in their lives have said this.
its only a song too long i.e. Leisure, which sits after a slightly inferior track, Melt the guns which is a perfectly good song but doesen't need to be 6mins long. 
Elsewhere the songs are immediate, acessable and catchy as hell without being obvious.
Opener Runaways starts things off in a creeping, uncertain way, its an unorthadox opener but one that works well.
Another Moulding song follows- Ball And Chain, like the opener an every dale tale of unrest, a nice contrast from Andy's songwriting, Colin often sung of everday life and domesticity.
Andy's songwriting exells pretty much throughout; the beautiful Yacht Dance offers lilting melodic folk,and his first big hit Senses Working Overtime.
Musically Andys sense of rhythm wins, the strummed stabs in runaways, the jerky guitar of melt the guns, everything on Its Nearly Africa (although it dosen't do them any favors in the being compared to Talking Heads thing) the beautiful reggae rhythmd Snowman, and my favorite from the whole album, the swirling, circling Jason And The Argonauts.
Another thing of note is the production; cristal clear Mix from Hugh Padgham, blissfully free of the awful production of the times that marred other perfectly good artists of the time.   
Too long? i don't care, this much good quality XTC in one go is fine by me.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that I consider XTC to be quite an underrated band. Sure, their first two efforts weren't incredible but the succeeding albums were simply quite marvelous. Despite their penchant for pop-grooves and catchy melodies they just didn't see much mainstream success. So, just like the Manic Street Preachers would do with their third album 12 years from this, XTC decided to go for broke. If they couldn't confidently achieve the mainstream success they desired, they were going to put everything they had on their mind in this album.

As odd as it might sound, I got into XTC in 11th grade. I suppose the only reason that is odd is because I was an American teenager in quite a small town when I started listening to them. Another example of the wonders of the internet, I suppose. I was initially intimidated by the sheer length of this record, after all, it is over 70 minutes, but I soon found that the songs were so good, I'd actually lose track of the time. The album was a constant companion of mine whenever I returned home from a day's work at my summer job. I'd have my dinner, then I would get a nice, hot cup of tea and enjoy English Settlement.

It certainly makes sense as there is a whole lot to be enjoyed here. For those of you aren't familiar with XTC, I consider Andy Patridge as one of the most unique and interesting lead singers of the '80s. He has somewhat of an accent but his lyrical content is so eloquent and well-written that, if the music were detached, it'd look like beautiful poetry. He can somehow fit an overbearing amount of words into a bar and make it sound completely natural with the rhythm of the song and that's certainly one of his strong-suits.

Colin Moulding is the band's bassist and he has a wonderful style of playing, often coinciding with the drums to make the rhythm section carry the track in a graceful and subtle glide that bears several small details that call for many repeated listens to take everything in. Moulding also wrote four of the tracks on this album, which are somewhat easy to differentiate from Patridge's songs.

I've contemplated going through this album track for track in excruciating lyrical and instrumental detail, but I'd end up writing a dissertation on the album, and I happen to not have the time for that so I'll pick out particular details from tracks that I think should be mentioned. The overall sound of the album is hard to define, even in a paragraph. Each song has a distinct atmosphere and melody but the whole of them consist of reggae, tribal rhythms, synths, an off-key (but completely fitting) saxophone on Leisure, vocal effects (to a stunning result), quietly melancholic acoustic guitars, and psychedelic grooves mixed with only the catchiest of choruses.

Runaways opens the album and is for most a slow-burner but it's a track about child abuse and the effect it has on children. (i.e. running away from home) Patridge contributes some manipulated vocals that serve the thoughts of the parents and what they might say to their children. ("don't cry, don't cry") Ball and Chain is a song about industrialism and the tearing down of homes to make way for big corporations and factories. Senses Working Overtime, which could very serve as a children's singalong, was written by Patridge about the overbearing joy one feels just living in England. Jason and the Argonauts is the true epic of the album and describes a traveler who has seen injustices and contradictions in society - all of this is tied neatly as a metaphor with the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. 

No Thugs in Our House, like Runaways before it, describes another domestic story full of injustice and ill-fate. This particular song tells the story of a young boy who's growing up as a fascist to the complete disbelief and denial of the parents that their "little angel" would ever do anything wrong. Of course, Patridge implements small details that paint the picture so vividly that it's almost like a movie. Yacht Dance, a quaint but happy song, describes the feeling of overcoming the negatives in life to appreciate the positives. All of a Sudden (It's Too Late), my favorite song from the record, is a lyrically sad song about growing up and realizing all of the things that you've missed out on and have no chance to realize, whether it be love, happiness, or purpose. Patridge really knocked this one out of the park and almost anyone can relate, even if they just take it as a warning of things to come.

Melt The Guns begins the second half of the record, and it's quite possibly the oddest track here. Patridge squeals and jitters his way through this anti-gun collection of slogans. It's an enjoyably catchy enough track but it's perhaps too far left-wing even for I, someone who considers themselves very left-wing, but political songs are supposed to divide people, right? To that effect, the track works brilliantly. Leisure is a song that you probably could've sworn Gang of Four already wrote. (in one form or another anyway) In the Thatcher/Reagan dominated '80s, this song makes perfect sense. The track beautifully describes technology taking our jobs away and the resulting ways that people waste their livelihoods as they look for jobs. Aren't convinced by my praises? Take a look at the third verse for yourself:

They had retired me 'fore I left school, 
(just saw no point in the standing in line) 
So I spend lots of time lounging at home, 
(why not come in 'cause the carpet is fine) 
What a waste of breath it is, 
Searching for the jobs that don't exist. 
So now I'm permanently drunk, 
Like the rest of the race with, 

Knuckle Down is XTC's egalitarian ode. It's a beautiful track, even though it's one of the more instrumentally underwhelming moments. Despite this, it still displays that Patridge is willing to fire on all cylinders. Fly on the Wall is another Moulding track, personifying death as a housefly that sees everything you do from day to day and, to say the least, it is not impressed. The synths add an interesting dimension to the song. Down in the Cockpit sympathizes with feminists and shows that Patridge is more than willing to accept a woman in his life for the purpose of steering him right. Patridge defines patriarchy as aggressive and filled with ill-intent, something to be mediated by the woman. English Roundabout describes the hustle-and-bustle of a particular Swindon roundabout that inspired the song. It's another enjoyable Moulding track but it never really gets to the possible implications of the lyrics, something that would've added an extra layer of depth to the track. Snowman closes the album and features one of the more interesting Patridge vocals, veering from crazy to paranoid to fearful. Patridge belts out his sadness and frustration at the emotional distance he is feeling with his wife. I think it's safe to say that almost everyone has been there before.

Conclusion: I'd say this is one of the most creative pop albums of the '80s. Patridge goes through an array of topics including joy, love, fear, industrialism, racial-equality, feminism, gun control, death, regret, emotional distance, modern-life tedium, joblessness, social injustice, and appreciation for what you have. It's quite a lot to take in and it certainly requires repeated listens to catch everything Patridge is saying and all the small instrumental details. Lush in both lyrics and instrumentation, the album is enjoyable on every conceivable level. It may be a tad long for some and the Moulding songs are sometimes weaker than the rest, but as a whole, the album is highly impressive and never fails to incite awe at the execution of ideas. This one has always been strong in the running for my favorite XTC album, and on some days it is, but there are others which are nearly as good, if not slightly better. This is a near-perfect album, and it's due time it started getting a bit more appreciation.

Best Tracks: Jason and the Argonauts, Senses Working Overtime, Leisure, All of a Sudden (It's Too Late), Down in the Cockpit


To call XTC's career up this point bubbling potential is an understatement really. Their first two were modest and (in the debut's case) successful stabs at some great spartan New Wave music. It's the next two that tantalized with their shining possibilities and unknowns. A powerful mixture of pop sensibility and tireless creative instinct that only some of the very best acts seem to possess from the Beatles on to Outkast later. Both Drums and Wires and Black Sea however were missing something, something that would be hard to describe until seeing what XTC got up to next. In retrospect it is clear. They were statements without focus, particularly Drums and Wires. The band did not have some grand mission to the sessions that produced them, and that didn't just loosen up great songs...I belive firmly that it also lead to LESS great songs and LESS songwriting quality. I don't mean to say focus does this with every act, but at least in the case of XTC I think so. English Settlement's sessions were marked by the band starting to play around with a 12-string guitar, and the rural direction this ended up taking them. No you know me by now, I'm an urban guy. My musical tastes are urban and strongly so. Even the rural stuff I like I tend to do so in a more distant way, I don't fall in love with Bob Dylan for instance. I just respect him. But here we see something rare, the urban founded band going rural...but doing so through their particularly urban origins in music. XTC themselves are from Swindon, which is a tiny city out in the middle of the pretty damn rural West Country of England. For all their New Wave Punk origins that geography of their home must have been beckoning somewhere in the back of their heads. But XTC's approach to all this (that would subsequently be their thing) was to create a powerfully focused album based around a SETTING. It's music of place, it has it's distinct flavors, tones, smells, sights, and goddamn it there's no way the band isn't fully aware of this aspect to themselves. Nearly all the songs here bow to the overarching goal of embodying this new vibe and it's English countryside flavor complete with a vaguely pagan Celtic echo that makes itself noted at points. Oh, all this and it's a DOUBLE album. Which means it gets to utilize one of the best uses for a double album, which is just flauntingly embracing it's space to explore a sound's many different nooks and crannies. And aside from the bizarrely weak two song hiccup that is Leisure and Nearly Africa, it does so with immense quality and grace. With a confidence that absolute cements that this is their true arrival as a major major act not to be screwed with. Even the less memorable tracks benefit from the agenda on hand! Sure I tune out a bit with Down in the Cockpit for instance...but in playing with the setting the band has constructed it still works on some level. But don't let yourself think this is a triumph of concept over songs, don't even begin to imagine that this all the reason I let it crush Drums and Black Seas. The songwriting quality has risen tremendously yet again, the first five songs on this are MONSTERS, particularly the first four. These are true titans! Frightening and if there's one major flaw here it's that they deftly overshadow much of what follows on the album! Runaways is a misty magical atmospheric song, perfect for opening the scene. Ball and Chain features one of my favorite melodies. Senses Working Overtime is probably their most famous song and for fair reason. And Jason and the Argonauts is probably the best song on the album with it's combination of perfect melody, perfect arrangement, and perfect and powerful atmosphere. There are fantastic numbers elsewhere though. All Of a Sudden is a wistful song that can be powerfully depressing if you let it get to you, while Melt the Guns is a fantasia of paganish drums and yelps that makes it sound like the band has rescued Pink Floyd's song about the partying Pict from being stupid after all these years. And Fly On The Wall is a complete and total masterpiece of New Wave pop that has a bad reputation for no fucking reason whatsoever, it's an awesome track and you should all be ashamed for disliking it. I'll die defending that song! All throughout, an impressive array of percussion and the more acoustic sounding guitar playing evokes the rolling green of England as that country once more realizes that aping American roots music is retarded when their own country has such fertile ancient roots. The art on the cover is some 2000 or so year old Celtic design embedded in the landscape, a Stone Henge sort of thing. Combine this sense of English roots with what is still a powerful undercurrent of New Wave energy and post-modern pop? And it's an absolute match made in heaven that easily vaults to the short list of the decade's best albums.

Rating: 5
Highlights: Runaways, Ball & Chain, Senses Working Overtime, Jason and the Argonauts

This is where things start going south. Partridge sets himself up as a "great songwriter" and believes this means he has to lecture us on obvious topics. "Melt the Guns" is three minutes too long and "Down in the Cockpit" is simply embarrassing gender politics doo-doo. Elsewhere are some good tunes absolutely lost in the production. After two excellent records in the studio, I have no idea what they were trying to do here. But the subtlety is gone, that's for sure. 

I listened to it a lot at the time, and still do, sometimes. I even bought the intricate "No Thugs In Our House" single, even if the worst thing about it was the actual tune on the a-side. 

Fave track: "Jason and the Argonauts".


At the risk of damning with faint praise, this is so much better than “Skylarking”. I can't think of any other bands where their double album is better than their most critically acclaimed album, though I'm sure fans of “The White Album” and “Bitches Brew” and “Exile on Main St.” are emerging from the woodwork as I speak. With some of those there's an argument to be made, but this one is self-evident. “Skylarking” was an overly cloying tribute to 60s psychedelics but this uses that as an influence and uses it with other elements such as punk and jangle to create something far more original and easier to relate to.

It also gets points for being a double album which doesn't have any issues with pacing. I honestly expected to find this a complete drag, but even though a lot of the songs are 5 and 6-minutes long the time just rushes by when you're listening to it. Far better groups have failed to make a double album this cohesive, so kudos to them there.

Despite the praise, I do have some fairly major problems with this. For one, a lot of the songs are fairly forgettable pop/rock and don't do anything particularly special. The standouts such as “It's Nearly Africa”, “No Thugs In Our House” and the fantastic opener “Runaways” are just that - they stand out a mile above the other tracks on the album, which is generally an uncomfortable place for the other tracks. It also has the misfortune to have the two worst tracks, “Melt the Guns” and “Leisure”, come one after the other right in the middle of the album, which pretty much destroys any momentum the album had. I've got the advantage to listening to it in 2013 on iTunes - when those two songs started Disc 2, I can't imagine how low hopes would have been.

I'm giving it a better rating than those complaints would suggest because I do genuinely like this album much more than I expected to, and for a double album for a band I didn't particularly like it's been a huge surprise, and a pleasant one at that. A little while ago I mentioned to a friend that the downside of working on listening to everything on a list is that you listen to a lot of stuff you don't like, like the Stones. I didn't have a particularly good answer when she asked why I did it, but now the good answer can be to point to this album and say that logically I would have no reason to listen to this, but I did, and I really like it. I think that's reason enough.


XTC are a band that my parents played a good deal of when I was growing up and my memories have always been fond ones, particularly of English Settlement. Coming back to it now it’s apparent that as a child I was only aware of the first half of the first disc of this double album and literally did not know how to turn an album over. That first side is phenomenal and worthy of a five star rating in itself but unfortunately English Settlementfalls prey to the pitfalls that nearly all double albums do. I have yet to find a double album where there isn’t at least one track I could do without and this is no exception. Were this pared down to the best  40-50 minutes worth of tracks I’d feel much more comfortable with this rating and would consider a half star bump. This is XTC’s last album before turning to being a studio only band and bridges the gap between their new wave/pop days with the art rock and kinksesque pop  that would reach it’s full form on Skylarking. The issue of the band undermining a good pop tune with an out of place bridge or Partridge yelping his lyrics is still here but more often than not, Moulding and Partridge stay out of the way of their own creativity. 

As I alluded to earlier, the first five tracks on the album are all excellent. “Senses Working Overtime” may get the nod from most fans as the best track on the album but I find myself drawn to “Ball and Chain” and “Jason and the Argonauts” more so. “Jason and the Argonauts” is a rare example of XTC finding success as meshing their art rock and pop sides by combining an interesting arrangement with a catchy chorus that seems to come out of nowhere. The next three halves are a substantial step down from the first. “Yacht Dance” and “All of the Sudden (It’s Too Late) are both solid but I could seriously do without “Melt the Guns” and to a lesser extent, “Leisure”. The remaining tracks are all acceptable but there’s not enough good material amongst them to justify a double album. “Knuckle Down” and “Down In the Cockpit” are the only above average cuts on the back half with “Down In the Cockpit” sounding like it would have been at home on Drums and Wires. Overall, English Settlement still overcomes it’s double album faults to become a great album, XTC’s second best behind Skylarking

Favorites: “Runaways” “Ball and Chain” “Senses Working Overtime” “Jason and the Argonauts” “No Thugs in Our House”


English Settlement is one of XTC's best, no question. It may be a little long and some songs may outwear their welcome ("Melt the Guns"), but it's a diverse, enigmatic batch of songs that isn't afraid to delve into a range of mature topics. 

There's always been something mysterious about this record for me. Some songs sound distant, difficult, and dissonant even until you suddenly you find yourself smack in the middle of a gloriously catchy pop song. The most obvious and compact example of this is the band's most popular calling card, "Senses Working Overtime," which I initially thought to be drug-related, but I'm starting to realize it's simply Andy Partridge's love letter to his homeland. 

The musicianship throughout is impressive with meters and chord changes that aren't commonplace in the world of pop music. The percussion is always inventive and they are never afraid to show their quirks, but the rock still persists (See "Jason and the Argonauts"). I complain about the length of "Melt the Guns," but I still consider it an ambitious political statement from concerned young men. It's idealistic relative "Knuckle Down" is another bouncy-pop gem. It all ends with one of my favorite XTC tracks, "Snowman." This is Andy's most personal song on this record and when it explodes on the bridge it's something to behold - "People will always be tempted to wipe their feet on anything with welcome written on it."

Here is a record that shows a band growing, but also rising above all expectations. Drums and Wires and Black Sea really showed the world we are dealing with a special band here, a band that can effortlessly toss off some consistent pop albums, which is a pretty rare feat in rock music. Add to that formula of a band at its peak mysticism, style experimentation, expanded instrumentation, and more specialized production, and you have an idea of English Settlement. It is just as consistent as the albums before it, but its 72 and a half minutes long, so that puts it in a class of its own. Songs lengths are expanded but not to annoying effect like so many double albums, each of these songs feel like they should be as long as they are. The balance of music in the flow is perfect too: Moulding opens it up with a one two punch of "Runaways" and The Beatles' "Getting Better" homage "Ball and Chain", which sound like they were written by completely different people, and later his "Fly on the Wall" and "English Roundabout" show great versatility and melodic depth - it's his best batch of songs for an XTC album. Partridge writes the other eleven tracks, and with the exception of the passable "Leisure", they all shine. "Senses Working Overtime", "No Thugs in Our House" and "All of a Sudden" all bear his stamp of being single ready, inherently English, and complex. However, things really shine on the political rap of "Melt the Guns", the pacifism of "Knuckles Down", and clash of styles in "Snowman", "It's Nearly Africa", and "Yacht Dance". English Settlement is often referred to as a fan favorite, but really I just think it strikes at the core of what makes the band great: it is the ultimate showcase of their melodic fantasies.



Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Wasp

Company: Virgin

Catalog: VI 2180

Country/State: Swindon, UK

Year: 1978

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring and edge wear; UP pressing, no bonus EP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5045

Price: $15.00



"Wasp" track listing:
(side 1)



(side 2)



Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is the fourteenth studio album by the English rock band XTC, released 23 May 2000 on Cooking Vinyl/Idea Records. Defined by bandmember Andy Partridge as the "eclectric" counterpart to 1999's Apple Venus Volume 1, it consists of rock-based material largely written between 1994 and 1996.[9] Wasp Star reached number 40 on the UK Albums Chart. In 2002, the group released an instrumental version of the album entitled Waspstrumental. XTC dissolved in 2006, leaving Wasp Star their last studio album to date.

Track listing All tracks are written by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length 1. "Playground" 4:17 2. "Stupidly Happy" 4:13 3. "In Another Life" Colin Moulding 3:35 4. "My Brown Guitar" 3:51 5. "Boarded Up" Moulding 3:23 6. "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" 3:44 7. "We're All Light" 4:39 8. "Standing in for Joe" Moulding 3:42 9. "Wounded Horse" 4:11 10. "You and the Clouds Will Still be Beautiful" 4:18 11. "Church of Women" 5:06 12. "The Wheel and the Maypole" 5:55 Total length: 50:54 Personnel XTC

Colin Moulding – vocals, bass guitar, harmonica on "In Another Life", guitar on "Boarded Up" Andy Partridge – vocals, guitar Additional personnel

Caroline Dale – cello Nick Davis – keyboards Simon Gardner – flugelhorn Patrick Kiernan – violin Peter Lale – viola Holly Partridge – backing vocals on "Playground" Prairie Prince – drums (2–4, 12) Chuck Sabo – drums (1, 6–11) Kate St. John – oboe Matthew Vaughan – programming Gavyn Wright – violin Production

Haydn Bendall – recording engineering Nick Davis – producer, mixing, recording engineering Simon Dawson – mix engineer Alan Douglas – recording engineering Barry Hammond – recording engineering Bob Ludwig – mastering Leonard B. Johnson – A&R Coordination

XTC took full advantage of their studio-bound status with The Big Express, creating their most painstakingly detailed, multi-layered, sonically dynamic album to date. The more upbeat material and brighter sound recall some of the band's earlier moments, but most of all, The Big Express signals a turning point for the band, setting the blueprint for their later approach -- a combination of studio perfection matched with impeccable songcraft that results in a thoroughly consistent and enjoyable album beginning to end. Skylarking, the album that followed, gets much more glory, and certainly its impact was greater (this one was virtually ignored), but really, The Big Express covers much of the same territory and is just as strong an album in many ways. [Three songs were added to the middle of the CD reissue -- "Red Brick Dream," "Washaway," and "Blue Overall" -- but they fit seamlessly into the complete picture.]

n 1984, seven albums deep into their career, things weren’t quite going XTC’s way. Having been chastened by the indifference that greeted 1983’s Mummer, the Wiltshire progressive art-rockers stubbornly sought to up the ante with follow-up The Big Express, a concept record largely influenced by their home town, Swindon, and its famous railway shed, Swindon Works.

Train Running Low On Soul Coal became the spring from which the songs would flow, with chief songwriter Andy Partridge exploring his existential tribulations through the titular metaphor over a chugging, industrial sample.

It wasn’t all insular parochialism – This World Over addresses geopolitics, and in particular the oh-so-80s topic of the proliferation of nuclear warheads and the feeling that it could only be a matter of time before somebody used them (the line where the protagonist’s children ask, ‘What was London like?’ speaks volumes).

Sponsored Links Why ‘Nature's Adderall’ Is Taking Over The Internet Health Headlines If the plan had been to get commercially back on track, then what XTC actually made was a stubbornly baroque pop album where Partridge and producer David Lord demonstrated a wilful lack of restraint. With new toys at their disposal, including a Mellotron and a full 24 tracks to play with, The Big Express feels like a labyrinthine opera with harmonic vocal passages that come off like the British answer to Brian Wilson’s then-mythical Smile album. It’s ostentatious and even maddening at times, but there’s no faulting the ambition.


Almost inevitably, the record-buying public at the time were as incurious as they had been about Mummer, but disdain also came from some quarters of XTC’s fanbase. Yet The Big Express has weathered far better than the Swindon Works that inspired it, demolished in 1986.

Nearly 40 years on, the album teems with invention and surprises: Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her is a swirly, psychedelic trip to the seaside where madness can be purchased almost as easily as a bucket and spade. I Bought Myself A Liarbird and Shake You Donkey Up are emphatically, naggingly insistent, the latter hypertrophying on 5/4 tangents that prove irresistible, despite their complexity.

This is XTC in excelsis, for those who can handle such a riotous melodic imposition. Steven Wilson’s mixes arrive on CD a year after The Big Express was reissued on vinyl, and his steady hand brings some much-needed clarity to an album brimming over with ideas. It’s as though it was made for 5.1 Surround Dolby Atmos three decades before the technology even existed.