Golly damn, XTC are good.

XTC are one of those bands that I’ve always known I would really like if I gave them a chance, but with their ridiculously huge catalogue (basically an album or more a year since about 1980) was always too daunting; I just had no idea where to begin and kept thinking I’d just get into them eventually.

Well, I finally took the plunge and picked up Skylarking and Drums and Wires and just FUCKING LOVE both records. I can’t stop listening to them.

Great, great, great band.

Yes, yes they are. For me, they’re probably only second to the Beatles for sheer pop songwriting goodiness.

If you e-mail me, I’ll send you some more stuff - I’ve got everything they’ve done (including side projects and the 8 discs of “Fuzzy Warbles”, filled with non-released and demo versions of Andy Partridge songs). If you want to buy more on your own, my recommendations for your next purchases would be Black Sea and English Settlement.

Interesting that those are the two albums you would pick up as I think that (almost) everything before Skylarking was great, and (almost-less a tiny handful of songs) everything after was awful.

Skylarking and Drums and Wires happen to be two of my favorite albums, and I would second the suggestion of Black Sea as the next place to go. I think the first side of English Settlement is great but gets kind of boring towards the end.

I think this is the problem I have had with their later albums. Andy Partridge’s writing has gotten a lot more…self-indulgent, perhaps? I am not sure what it is, but a lot of his stuff has really bored me. I have always been more of a Colin Moulding fan anyway and I think that his two songs on the last album of theirs I bothered to get–Apple Venus–were the only songs worth listening to. I think Dave Gregory leaving also had quite a negative effect on the last few albums.

I think you have the best two albums, by far. If you like fun, manic, and dumb with crazy carnival organ maybe pick up the first two albums as well (for some reason I like White Music quite a bit). Very different, but enjoyable in a strange way.

…and don’t forget their alter-ego psychedelic band, The Dukes of Stratosphear

Vanishing Girl is one of the most perfect pop songs I’ve ever heard.

Alas, if only that were true.

Kneepants, I must strongly disagree with your dismissal of their later albums.

They have always been one of my touchstone bands. I saw them tour with the Police in, what, 79? I forget. *English Settlement *is one of a handful of 1982 albums that for a long time formed the core of my musical existence. And I still pull Black Sea out pretty frequently. For a long time in the 80s I was a completist: I had every single 7", 10", and 12" ever minted, with all the sculptural packaging, everything.

I’m still trying to get a jazz singer to cover “Ladybird,” one of the greatest jazz songs ever written by a non-jazz composer.

And XTC’s clear influence is one of the things I like best about the Shins, whose songs always sound a bit to me like a young Andy Partridge channeling a young Brian Wilson.

XTC remains the most powerful indictment of the induction committee [or however it’s organized] of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which has snubbed them every year since 2002, their first year of eligibility.

My advice: just break down (or break your piggy bank) and get the entire album catalogue. You will in the long run anyway, and in the long run we’re all dead, so why not enjoy them sooner rather than later? Besides, Andy & co. could use the royalties.

Even XTC’s least-idolized albums (the first two, plus Mummer and Apple Venus Vol.s I & II) have must-hear, must-own tracks. The mid-period Rag and Bone Buffet compilation of castoffs, demos and miscellany is well worth having, too. Even the relatively worst XTC albums and compilations beat the pants off of all but the best efforts of almost everyone else, but I’d skip over “best of/singles” compilations and get the complete album catalogue, instead.

And for concert recordings, the best one-disc purchase is BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert [1980], with the best bootleg that I’ve got being Fab Foursome in Philly [1979].

I think the way to go is to buy the albums, plus the Rag & Bone Buffet compilation and the Dukes material, in chronological order, to better follow the twisting turns in the band’s evolution over the years. But if you would rather cherry pick as finances allow, I’d go with this order: The Dukes of Stratosphear Chips… Anthology, Black Sea, The Big Express, Oranges & Lemons, English Settlement (the landmark double album that inaugurated their acoustic sound), Mummer, Nonsuch, Go2, the Rag & Bone Buffet comp., AV Vol. 1, White Music, AV Vol. 2, BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert 1980, and only then the Fuzzy Warbles discs 1-9 (see the fan site Chalkhills for their rankings of those), the Drums and Wireless Live at the BBC compilation, the Waxworks singles compilation (with the rarity “Wait 'til Your Boat Goes Down”), and the Homespun discs. Skip the Fossil Fuel and Upsy Daisy best-of and singles comps (they’re superfluous).

And if you can afford only one copy of each album, opt for the Japanese digital remastered versions of the albums if you can. They sound fantastic and recreate the original album packaging, too.

And also include some B-sides that weren’t on the original US releases, IIRC.

Black Sea is interesting, if for no other reason that the first N cuts are all ironic and humorous and biting, then comes the final cut of the album (“Adventures in Nihilon”) just cuts through all the clever rhetoric and allows the band to say exactly what’s on their minds. I don’t have any of their stuff at the moment, but it is fun to tap your foot to the likes of “Generals & Majors”.

If you like them I’d also recommend The Teardrop Explodes and Julian Cope’s solo stuff.

Two more things: VCO3, does your Skylarking linup include both “Mermaid Smiled” and “Dear God,” [as in a recent Canadian version] or just the former [the original U.K. and Canadian release] or just the latter [the original USA release, where it was an extra track slotted in at #12, between “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul” and “Dying”]? 'Cause if you’re missing “Mermaid” in the lineup (it should be track #11, between “Another Satellite” and “The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul,”) you can score it in the Rag & Bone Buffet comp.

Also, the Mobile Fidelity limited-release 24-karat gold digital remasterings of Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons are terrific, but if you can’t find or afford them, don’t sweat it. Especially since the Mo-Fi Skylarking includes “Dear God” but not “Mermaid Smiled”. :smiley:
Welcome to my abyss of sheer nerdiness.

When I was club DJing in Chicago, I used to throw on “Travels in Nihilon” every once in a while. Frenzy, absolute frenzy.

Hmmm. XTC is one of my favorite bands but RR Hall of Fame - it never even occurred to me. Not that I follow it that much. Maybe it’s because they were never very big in the States.

I too find that Colin Moulding’s songs have a certain quality that touches me more than a lot of Partridge’s work.

Of course the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” is going to snub them. Unless you sold gazillions of gold records they wont even give you a first look. It’s a shrine to commercialism and celebrity-ism, and nothing more. I’ve criticized the Baseball HoF to death but even they usually get the right guys in there.

Another big Dukes of Stratosphear fan here. It’s not just a great XTC album, it’s a great album, period.

Agreed. The whole enterprise is foolish.

I just wanted to say that Nonsuch was really disappointing, in the way an album can only be disappointing to a band’s best fans. And I still think that “No Thugs in Our House” should be the temporary national anthem until the current administration is out of power.

Add me to that list. I love Partridge, and his “seal bark” vocals, but my favorite XTC tracks tend to be Moulding’s: Ten Feet Tall, Ball and Chain, Making Plans for Nigel, Fly on the Wall, Smokeless Zone…

If there is ever an army formed to evangelize the world to the wonders of XTC, sign me up. Though I think the Drums and Wires to Mummer (or was it English Settlement?) line up of Partridge, Moulding, Gregory, and Chambers highlighted the band at their finest. Most of the stuff they did with Barry Andrews leaves me cold, though the singles on the first two albums are fab.

I think outside of those allbums, Oranges and Lemons was an incredible album that should have been a monster. Virgin really handled the band terribly, and the biggest tragedy would be the contractual silencing of the band for many years in the 90s. Last time I was over on the XTC boards it sounded as if Colin and Andy have acrimoniously split. A real shame - first Dave Gregory walks off and now this!

Amen, brother; Oranges and Lemons is probably my second favorite, just a hair below Skylarking and several hairs above English Settlement. My copy is the one on three 3" CDs packed in a cigarette box.

I thought the same about Nonsuch for years, especially after “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” was released as the first single, which is, IMHO, the worst song in the XTC canon. “The Disappointed” was a similarly weak selection, and after a couple listens I filed it away and began to wonder if the boys had lost it. But after rediscovering it within the past 5 years, I think it’s a damn solid album (still not a fan of those 2 songs, however). “Wrapped in Grey” should have been the lead-off single, and the rest of the songs touch on a number of pop styles, though in a more subdued fashion than their previous work. It’s kind of like their version of Pet Sounds after Skylarking’s (and Oranges & Lemons’s) Sgt. Pepper. Give it another chance - there’s some excellent stuff on there.

Oranges and Lemons probably suffered a lot from being the album after Skylarking. Where Skylarking had a certain cohesiveness and arc to it Oranges and Lemons came off as more of a collection of songs in no particular order and with no unifying elements. Excellent songs of course, but people might have been expecting something maybe a little grander after three years. I remember seeing XTC on Letterman doing King for a Day.