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Big Al

What happened to the old XTC thread?

85 posts in this topic

Did it get swallowed up in the crash?

Oh well, at the risk of doubling threads, I'll start it back up again, because I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Caroline remasters of the following:

Drums and Wires

Black Sea

English Settlement

Skylarking

I'd certainly forgotten how powerful Drums and Black Sea were, and the remastering brings out the explosiveness that is Terry CHambers like no other issue I've heard! I have the old Geffen CD Of ES, but will soon be selling it, as this remaster blows that one out of the water.

This is the first time I've owned Skylarking on CD, just because I've been waiting for this album to come out on CD in its originally intended form: with "Mermaid Smiled," and without "Dear God." My, what a heavenly sound this disc has! A summer day blowing the clouds away from the dark dreary afternoon that hovered over the Metroplex today. "On graaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssss........."

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Big Al strikes again ... XTC (and the albums you mention) totally kick ass!!!

Eric

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Who started it? We did not lose any threads and we've had no crash. The server that hosts this site has crashed once or twice, but no data was lost. It's kind of like rebooting your computer.

:blink:

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Hmm.... I just searched for it myself for about 20 minutes... can't find anything. Who started it?

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I think it might've been Bev Stapleton. He's a bigger fan than I am. Maybe he deleted it when he left?

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No... I checked the moderation logs... he did not delete a thread at all.

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maybe this was actually a BNBB thread?

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Probably. Or maybe it was at AAJ. I dunno, but I coulda swore it was here.

So I guess me & Eric are the only fans? :g B)

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I came to them a little later ... I have Oranges and Lemons, as well as Nonsuch ... I love their poppier songs (Mayor of Simpleton, Peter Pumpkinhead, President Kill Again, Madame Barnum), but, IMHO, they get a little too "precious" on some of their other stuff.

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Al, perhaps that is the case. Do you have any of the Fuzzy Warbles stuff? I bought all four, but have not had time to digest yet. Seems like some interesting stuff, some crap too.

Eric

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No, I remember the thread being here myself.... I think. Maybe it was at AAJ... but that doesn't seem right.

:blink:

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Well pop music just don't get any better than on SKYLARKING, ENGLISH SETTLEMENT, and MUMMER, imho. I see these as a kind of trilogy, albeit with THE BIG EXPRESS - for me eaily the most disappointing "glory period" XTC album despite a few typical gems - crashing in to interrupt the sequence temporarily.

As huge a fan as I am of the group, with the piercing view of hindsight, it seems clear to me that sometimes XTC fell off the tightrope they sometimes tried to walk between hard edged rock and annoying dentist drill yammering. Part of the problem is the 80's production job on many of their louder cuts - industrial strength reverb on the drums, for example, when a nice flat sound would have done so much more nicely and held up better with time. It's bad enough a mar on the face of a beauty like "Ball and Chain," but on the tunes where they tried to "get loud" and turned up the thin sounding distorted guitars, with Partridge in full bellow/whine mode, it's frankly kind of embarrassing and, at the very least, unlistenable.

So anyway, despite being a huge fan of grungy, unpolished, and yes, loud rock and roll when it's done well (witness: LONDON CALLING, The Fall's THIS NATION'S SAVING GRACE, X's UNDER THE BIG BLACK SUN, glory period JAM, etc) by and large I find myself returning far more often to XTC's gentler, more pastoral music than their attempts at getting heavy.

Big Al: I'm interested in the Caroline reissue of SKYLARKING and how it compares with the recent Virgin paper sleeve reissue. I have the latter and the sound quality absolutely shreds the old U.S. Geffen edition - no surprise there I guess. Plus it does have the original sequence with "Mermaid Smiled" etc - and they still put "Dear God" on as a bonus track at the end. Have you heard that edition?

Edited by DrJ

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Well pop music just don't get any better than on SKYLARKING, ENGLISH SETTLEMENT, and MUMMER, imho. I see these as a kind of trilogy, albeit with THE BIG EXPRESS - for me eaily the most disappointing "glory period" XTC album despite a few typical gems - crashing in to interrupt the sequence temporarily.

Defintely agree about Big Express. In fact, there really isn't ANY song on the album I can listen to all the way through. But I understand what you're saying in this context:

As huge a fan as I am of the group, with the piercing view of hindsight, it seems clear to me that sometimes XTC fell off the tightrope they sometimes tried to walk between hard edged rock and annoying dentist drill yammering. Part of the problem is the 80's production job on many of their louder cuts - industrial strength reverb on the drums, for example, when a nice flat sound would have done so much more nicely and held up better with time. It's bad enough a mar on the face of a beauty like "Ball and Chain," but on the tunes where they tried to "get loud" and turned up the thin sounding distorted guitars, with Partridge in full bellow/whine mode, it's frankly kind of embarrassing and, at the very least, unlistenable.

....because this is my favorite period of XTC, and it has everything to do with Terry Chambers. So, naturally, we heartily disagree on this one! :) I really enjoy it when these guys rock it out, especially on "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Respectable Street."

Seriously, though, I think Chambers helped define the sound of the band, and when he left, so did a lot of their thunder. BUT, at the same time, a new band was born from these ashes, a more pastoral reflective band, and I hear you indicating this in your thoughts.

Which is to say that I love Skylarking as much as any of their albums. In fact, I can still remember that first rush of joy I felt when I heard those first four songs, thinking with each passing song, "Can it get any better than this?" With that in mind....

I'm interested in the Caroline reissue of SKYLARKING and how it compares with the recent Virgin paper sleeve reissue. I have the latter and the sound quality absolutely shreds the old U.S. Geffen edition - no surprise there I guess. Plus it does have the original sequence with "Mermaid Smiled" etc - and they still put "Dear God" on as a bonus track at the end. Have you heard that edition?

I haven't heard the Virgin reissue, and it's been over ten years since I heard the old Geffen CD of the album, so I really couldn't tell you if the Caroline sounds better than the Virgin (boy, that sure sounded psychedelic, like it could've been a lyric outta a song by the Dukes!). I can tell you that it sounds phenomenal to these ears, anyway! And I'm glad I waited for the original issue to hit the CD. I always hated the way "Dear God" just stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise brilliant song cycle.

As for the Fuzzy Warbles, who they? :huh:

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This is the first time I've owned Skylarking on CD, just because I've been waiting for this album to come out on CD in its originally intended form: with "Mermaid Smiled," and without "Dear God."

Is "Dear God" much different from their other music? It's the only song by XTC I've ever heard, but I've always really liked it. Any recommendations on where I can hear some sound clips, or on where I should start out with this band?

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I'd like to hear some recommendations as well. All I ever bought was Black Sea way back when, and it was stolen before I got a chance to hear it.

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Big Al: I actually don't mind the "loud" XTC of the first few albums at all - while not my favorite period, there they had a raw energy and the production was appealingly scruffy, fitting with the music. The "loud" stuff that loses me is on THE BIG EXPRESS, and some of the later albums where the production is so far over the top. I dig "Life Begins at the Hop," "Generals and Majors," and that lot as much as any XTC head! ;) I will say that even then it wears on me after a while...for example while I'm glad I have the boxed set of mostly unreleased demos and live stuff they put out a few years ago, after about 30 minutes of disc 1 or 2 I'm ready to scream...but maybe I'm just getting old!

Re: "Dear God," I seem to be one of the only "die hard" XTC fans who thinks it's pretty brilliant. Then again it reflects my views on religion almost perfectly, so that's a factor. But also as a pop single, it's catchy, perfectly produced, expertly played and sung, has passion and packs a lyrical wallop for a 3 minute ditty. What more can you ask for? But I do agree it didn't fit in with the flow of SKYLARKING and is much better as a stand-alone single.

My recommendations: as above, SKYLARKING, ENGLISH SETTLEMENT, and MUMMER, three of the finest pop albums of any era - and if you have to take only one, SKLARKING, which is most certainly near the top of my Top 10 pop albums of all time list.

Edited by DrJ

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I think Oranges and Lemons is a good place to start as well.

Gotta have 'Mermaid Smiled' on Skylarking. It just fits the flow so much better....

...I think 'Dear God' is brilliant as well.... B)

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The "loud" stuff that loses me is on THE BIG EXPRESS, and some of the later albums where the production is so far over the top.

Glad we cleared that up! ;) I totally agree.

As to the question of if "Dear God" is representative of the XTC sound, I would say "no." At that time, they were wearing their Beatles influence proudly on their sleeve, so it differs greatly from pretty much anything they had done to that point. With that in mind, if you like that sound (I know I do!), by all means get SKYLARKING.

For me, any album between DRUMS AND WIRES and ORANGES AND LEMONS (with the exception of EXPRESS) will likely satisfy your curiosity, but be forewarned: no two albums sound alike. DRUMS and BLACK SEA rock hard; ENGLISH SETTLEMENT is heavy on the 12-string guitar and fretless bass; MUMMER is lush and pastoral while remaining stripped-down; if SKYLARKING is their SGT. PEPPER, then ORANGES is their "white album."

It's hard to have an XTC thread without discussing "Dear God," and I dno't want to sidetrack this thread too far onto one song, but I would like to briefly say why I don't care for the song by itself, apart from it's mistaken inclusion on SKYLARKING. Only problem is, I've been trying to verbalize why I don't like "Dear God" now for the last 30 minutes, and it's all been coming out as the usual flowery mumbo-jumbo pseudo-religious BS that I guess, in the end, Partridge is railing against. So, I'll just be honest and quit BSing you guys: the song makes me sad. While I agree with his sentiments against "organized religion" (an oxymoron if there ever was one), it makes me sad whenever one gives up and blames God for it all. Not that I don't understand why it happens or deny that it happens; it just makes me sad is all.

(In the interest of keeping this thread focused on the band, as opposed to just one song, I would love to discuss this song in private with anyone interested. Just PM me or e-mail me. Thanks.)

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I was the guilty starter of the thread. I've never deleted any thread I've started to my knowledge! I suspect it was on the old BNBB. I think I posted it around the time of the box set issue which was spring, 2002.

Don't overlook the two most recent XTC albums - Apple Venus and Wasp Star. I'd put the former up there on a par with English Settlement, Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons.

Most people seem to give up on them after Oranges and Lemons (In the UK they gave up after English Settlement!).

I'd recommend taking a chance with Apple Venus.

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Bev's back! Bev's back! Bev's back! Bev's back! Bev's back!!!!!!!

I knew all it would take to get him back here would be to start a thread about one of his favorite bands!

So, what is this Fuzzy Warble stuff? Is that collections of demos or something?

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Well, if they’re anything like a couple of EPs I have (“The Meeting Place” and “Mayor of Simpleton”), then maybe there’s something there worth hearing. But then, I got those EPs at a time when I wanted EVERYTHING recorded by the guys, even if it was Partdridge sneezing on Colin’s fretless just to hear the feedback thru the Dukes old tubes!

Still, the demos on the b-sides of those EPs are worth hearing. I particularly like “Living in a Haunted Heart” and “The Good Things.” Pity they weren’t taken any further past their demo stage, but then again they sound just fine the way they are.

Heck, their B-sides and unreleased stuff are just as nice as the released stuff: how ‘bout those B-sides from the English Settlement era? Crank it up to “Heaven is Paved with Broken Glass” as a good example! For my monet, I always enjoyed Beeswax over Waxworks any day of the week!

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Yeah, I have all four of the Fuzzy Warbles stuff. It is mostly Partridge demos. Reminds me of Scoop, the Townshend demos. I would say there is one good song for every two junkers. But, I do find it pretty interesting and one day I'll burn a "best of".

I will second the rcommendations for Apple Venus and Wasp Star. First class XTC in my book. I find I struggle a bit with Oranges and the one that followed. Some good stuff, but some of it seems a but forced to me. Big Express has its moments, but is one I can live without.

I love English Settlement. Killer songs and playing straight through. The opening song cycle on Skylarking, IMHO, ranks with anything by the Beatles or anything off Pet Sounds.

FWIW, I like Dear God and think it fits in OK. Does anyone see "Your Dictionary" from Apple Venus as sort of a musical cousin to it? Maybe in the ranting factor - I don't know for sure.

Eric

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After having ignored them for years, I checked out XTC's post-"Skylarking" material a few years ago (around 2001, although I can't really recall..)...My favorite is probably "Oranges and Lemons," although I'm quite fond of the rather underrated follow-up "Nonsuch" too. Based on my experience at the time, I think it can be rather hard to find on CD these days.

As for the most recent pair of "Apple Venus" and "Wasp Star": I like a lot of the songs but don't find that the albums flow the way the earlier ones did. Perhaps with the group narrowed down to a duo it's just not the same. In any case, I often find myself pulling the two new albums out to play individual tracks rather than playing the albums all the way through. Over all, I like most of "Apple Venus" and my two favorite songs on "Wasp Star" are "You and the Clouds will still be Beautiful" and "Church of Women."

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I need to check out those two new ones. I just remember hearing "Stupidly Happy" on the radio when Volume 2 came out, and was so put off by it, that I didn't bother pursuing it any further.

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