Tuesday, December 29, 2009

XTC: "Nonsuch" Reconsidered

Originally posted on June 26, 2008

It is funny how one can look back at personal listening patterns. I find that certain groups and styles enter my life in fits and starts. It’s not always that I reject something or have given up on it. (Although that happens, too.) I often just get distracted. XTC, for example, I came upon a little late, loved them, then got involved in other things and missed what they did after 1990. I am now just getting around to their 1992 Nonsuch (Geffen).

It is perhaps not as haunting as some of the earlier ones; there is a more minimal, bare-bones approach to instruments. The songs are still as quirky as ever, with an art rock vision that juxtaposes pop and more heady styles as a sort of extension of what Brian Wilson has been after at times. Partridge is king of the insightful or deliberately bland lyric and comes up with the musical equivalent of such a contrast in his arrangements. They haven’t always had huge success. I guess some people have trouble figuring out where to “put” them. Nonsuch has an assortment of strong pieces. “The Smartest Monkeys” is a killer. I do miss the more symphonic rock-orchestral richness of the middle period albums like Skylarking, but nonetheless it is great to have more to hear by these folks. Time eventually to catch up on the ones after this.

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