disclaimer is not a toy


Los Angeles

Willie's comments: On their debut album, X offered a few engaging twists on the punk formula that the Ramones had spearheaded. The songs whiz by with minimal arrangements (generally, bassist John Doe and guitarist Billy Zoom play the same parts on their respective instruments) and nary a solo to be found. However, they add to the mix the bracing boy/girl vocal parts of Doe and his then-wife Exene Cervenka, and songs like "Johnny Hit and Run Paulene" chug along to rockabilly rhythms rather than the traditional 4/4 of punk. Los Angeles is only nine songs long, and a couple of them are a bit draggy ("The World's a Mess, It's in My Kiss" outstays its welcome), but on the whole, songs like "Nausea," "Sex and Dying in High Society," and "Sugarlight" are enjoyable. The best of the bunch, however, is "The Unheard Music," a memorable number in which the band slows things down to a point where it sounds like Richard Thompson gone punk. It's still not as catchy as their later arena-rock number "Burning House of Love," but "The Unheard Music," like Los Angeles itself, is a low-key success. Grade: B+

Wild Gift

Willie's comments: X's second album is to Los Angeles is what Thomas Harris's Hannibal was to Silence of the Lambs: a stunningly unpleasant disappointment. The problem with Wild Gift is a simple and total lack of hooks. While the elusive musical property known as "catchiness" is not an essential element in all types of music- abstract art-rockers like Godspeed You Black Emperor can get along fine without it, for example- punk is a genre that is willfully stripped down to the bare bones of rock. Without melodies or riffs that stick to your mind like cooked spaghetti, punk has nothing to recommend it. The Buzzcocks understood this. Bad Religion understands this. CIV would do well to understand this. X surely understands this on an intellectual level, because their debut album had plenty of meaty tunes, so it leads me to believe that Wild Gift is just a misfire rather than a document of an inept band, but it is nevertheless unlistenable. Where Cervenka's riot grrrl singing used to be buoyant, here it is abrasive. Where the rockabilly rhythms used to be propulsive, here they seem sluggish. On this album's best songs- "Back 2 the Base" and "I'm Coming Over"- the band's sheer energy is infectious, but that doesn't make Wild Gift any better. Grade: D+


Scott Michel writes: Just read your X: Wild Gift review.

Saying Wild Gift has no hooks is like saying Pam Anderson has no tits.

It doesn't matter anyway. Under the Big Black Sun is the best thing done by any Los Angeles band ever. Give it a spin if you haven't and it will become one of your favorites.

Paul writes: i just read your review of wild gift. you must be a total tin eared asshole.



X-Files companion albums


Songs in the Key of X

Willie's comments: As an X-Phile, I have to tell you that I can’t imagine many of these songs actually turning up on the show (and, as of this writing, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ “Red Right Hand” is the only one that I recall hearing in any episode). Songs by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper, the Meat Puppets, and Frank Black are all too upbeat to fit the somber mood of The X-Files (though the songs by the latter two are essential), while William S. Burroughs’s spoken-word interpretation of R.E.M.’s “Star Me Kitten” is one of those mind-bogglingly bad ideas that you can’t believe was ever made a reality. However, Soul Coughing, P.M. Dawn, the Foo Fighters, and Elvis Costello and Brian Eno get the show’s creepy, paranoid mood right, and Sheryl Crow’s “On the Outside” is suitably narcotic. And regardless of whether they fit the show, these are mostly top-notch songs to begin with. As TV soundtracks go, this is a masterwork. Grade: B+


X-Files: The Movie soundtrack

Willie's comments: Much like Songs in the Key of X, I can't remember many of these songs actually having appeared in the X-Files film, but at least most of them do stay true to the dark tone of Chris Carter’s vision. The exceptions are bubblier songs by Tonic, the Foo Fighters, Sting (with Aswad), and Ween, and the only one who is forgiven for straying from the Dark Side is Ween, because their giddy “get-it-on” power-pop (“Beacon Light”) would sound great on any album. Soul Coughing, Bjork, and the Cure are up to their usual foreboding standards, while Noel Gallagher’s trip-hop composition “Teotihuacan” is absolutely beautiful, and Sarah McLachlan’s “Black” has a nice rough edge to it. As a special bonus, Chris Carter himself explains the Mythology at the very end of the disc, which should be enough incentive for any X-Files fan to get ahold of this. Grade: B+





Willie's comments: What happens when you try to bring together the mechanized sterility of bands like Kraftwerk and Devo with the clamor and posturing of punk? It was a question better left unanswered, but XTC regrettably chose to try. Result: A big headache. Frontman Andy Partidge’s songs here exhibit none of the cleverness or emotion of his later work, instead relying on patchwork guitar scraping and strangled vocals on songs like “Meccanic Dancing” and “Battery Brides (Andy Paints Brian).” “Are You Receiving Me?” is almost universally pointed to as the only highlight on this album, and with good reason- the song is witty and catchy (though occasionally overly frenetic) while everything else just sounds like a noisy mess. (The thumbnail picture above, however, doesn't do justice to what is possibly the most clever album cover of all time.) Grade: D+


Drums and Wires

Willie's comments: Barry Andrews got sick of Andy’s tyranny after Go2 and split, but even without his distracting (though admittedly unique) keyboard playing, Drums and Wires is pretty much unlistenable. “Making Plans for Nigel” was a deservedly huge hit, with its weird-yet-accessible tune and sympathetic lyrics, but herky-jerky rhythms and unidentifiable melodies pervade the rest of the album. It’s chock full of good ideas- the Tim Burton nursery rhyme of “Scissor Man,” for example- but then, so are the collected writings of Freud, but that doesn’t mean you should ever have to wade through the friggin’ things. Grade: C


Black Sea

Willie's comments: A year or two ago, I wordlessly dismissed this album (along with Mummer, English Settlement, and The Big Express) with a C+; an action that Rich and Charles rightly scolded me for below. In all honesty, I hadn't paid full attention to these albums while I was listening to them, and I was trying to put together a very frustrating bookcase at the same time, which was irresponsible of me. This summer, I've resolved to actually review these albums in a thoughtful fashion (except Mummer, which I can't seem to find), and let me kick things off by saying that I was totally wrong about Black Sea. It's terrific.

Guitarist Dave Gregory joined the band during Drums and Wires, but he didn't seem to know what to do on that album (possibly because of Partridge's famously dictatorial tendencies). Here, though, his technical skill and ear for a good hook nicely smooth the edges of Andy's rocky new-wave compositions. Songs like "Burning with Optimism's Flames" and "Rocket From a Bottle" might have been more grating musical collisions in the Drums and Wires vein if not for Gregory's blessed ability to create nifty little riffs out of unconventional tunes. Black Sea isn't as melodic as XTC's superb later work, but witty, infectious rockers like "Respectable Street," "Smokeless Zone," and "Generals and Majors" are still required listening, as is the appropriately minimal bonus track "The Somnambulist." (More useless trivia: if you live near Louisville, Kentucky, you can go to the awesome record shop Ear X-Tacy and marvel at a huge, autographed representation of this album's cover hanging above the entrance.) Grade: A-


English Settlement

Willie's comments: Even Gregory's musicianship can't save English Settlement, however. Out of 15 songs, only three contain the skewed lyrical brilliance, infectious songwriting, and intellectual cheek that are XTC's marks of quality: "Senses Working Overtime," "Down in the Cockpit," and "Melt the Guns." The album suffers from Hugh Padgham's poor production, since he lets the repetitive songs go on for much too long and stuffs some songs (most notably "Ball and Chain") with synths that might have sounded nifty in 1982, but just sound corny now. Partridge also performs most of the songs on an acoustic guitar for some reason, which works fine for some quieter songs like "Yacht Dance," but it robs other songs of the electric-fence energy he usually provides. Even some tracks that might be notable in other circumstances, like "Runaways" and "Fly on the Wall," are lost amid the hour-or-so of aimless driftwood here. It goes on forever. Grade: C-


The Big Express

Willie's comments: After English Settlement came Mummer, which my brother seems to have lost and I can remember nothing about, so I'll move on to The Big Express, which finds XTC at a bit of a crossroads. The band had pushed their trademark formula of arty, angular new wave to its breaking point, but they were obviously reluctant to abandon the style by which they'd made a name for themselves. At the same time, though, the band was tentatively dipping its collective toe into a gentler, more mature style that would come to mark the rest of their career. Alternating between these makes The Big Express a bit scrambled- it doesn't even cohere as well as the B-side compilation Rag & Bone Buffet. The significant, late-XTC songs are magnificent, particularly the cynical, apocalyptic eulogy "This World Over," in which Partridge asks, "Will you smile like any mother as you bathe your brand-new twins? Will you sing about the missiles as you dry odd-numbered limbs?" The more familiar, new wave songs are a bit strained, however. Some of them instantly hit their mark, like bassist Colin Moulding's "Wake Up" and Partridge's sea chanty "All You Pretty Girls," but there's more wrong with the annoying "Train Running Low on Soul Coal" and "Shake You Donkey Up" than unique rhythms and cutesy lyrics can fix. The Big Express is far from a failure- if anything, it's a decent bow-out for the "old" XTC- but by the time the album draws to a close, you can practically hear the satisfied sigh of the train on its cover grinding to a halt. Grade: B



Willie's comments: The new, mature XTC really hit their stride with the layered, tuneful masterpiece that is Skylarking. The music, expertly produced by Todd Rundgren, is summery, poppy, and endlessly listenable. Partridge and Gregory play off one another beautifully on songs like “Earn Enough for Us” and “Summer’s Cauldron,” while Moulding holds his songwriting own with the catchy “Grass” and the Renaissance Festival-ish “Sacrificial Bonfire.” Partridge has never been better, whether admonishing an unwanted suitor (who he'd eventually marry. Whoops!) in “Another Satellite” or expressing his benignly cynical worldview in “1000 Umbrellas,” but the harrowing theological rant “Dear God” is easily the single most significant and thoughtful song in the XTC canon. Grade: A


Oranges and Lemons

Willie's comments: The deserved success of Skylarking evidently gave XTC the impetus to try fleshing out their songs a bit more, as they did with some string arrangements in the past. However, XTC went a bit over the top with the polyphonic complexity here- each song sounds like there are a dozen wind-up musicians chattering away on their instruments, each playing their own song. That’s not to say the songs are cacophonous- quite the opposite, songs like “Poor Skeleton Steps Out” and “The Garden of Earthly Delights” are exquisitely conducted- but over the course of an entire album, exhaustion and sensory overload begin to set in. Oranges and Lemons could’ve been a fun EP, but there are just too many songs to be entirely enjoyable (much like a Beastie Boys album). Apart from the music, the album’s so-so. “The Mayor of Simpleton” has terrific lyrics, but they’re counteracted by the phallic-minded “Pink Thing.” Grade: B-


Rag & Bone Buffet

Willie's comments: Collecting over 20 B-sides, rarities, and side projects, Rag & Bone Buffet is as generous a compilation as any die-hard XTC fan could hope for. The occasionally numbing musical experimentation (“Over Rusty Waters,” “Cockpit Dance Mixture”) won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but there are lots of songs on here that are plenty good, but obviously wouldn’t fit on any album, such as the Broadway new wave of “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” or the smile-inducing “Thanks for Christmas.” It’s jagged and uneven, but lots of fun. Grade: B+



Willie's comments: Paring things down again after the claustrophobia of Oranges and Lemons, Nonsuch is simply 17 of the best pop songs you will ever hear. Producer Gus Dudgeon (who did some of Elton John’s stuff) plays up the grandeur of songs like “Wrapped in Grey” and the almost balletic “Rook” without ever becoming campy, while sugar-coating songs like “The Ugly Underneath” that could very easily become annoying if not for the expert mixing. “The Disappointed” is another of Andy’s brilliant love-lost songs, while Colin’s “My Bird Performs” and “The Smartest Monkeys” are deviously infectious. If this album had come out in the early 60s, Nonsuch would be as much a household name as Sgt. Pepper or Pet Sounds. Grade: A+


Upsy Daisy Assortment

Willie's comments: After going “on strike” for about seven years, XTC released this greatest hits compilation to fulfill their record contract with Virgin Records, and it’s a good CD to have around. In addition to being a stellar introduction to the band’s work by containing masterpieces like “The Mayor of Simpleton” and “Dear God,” it allows the listener to own great songs like “Making Plans for Nigel” and “Senses Working Overtime” without purchasing the mediocre source albums. “Are You Receiving Me?” is omitted for some reason, but it won’t be missed on this solid collection. Grade: A-


Apple Venus vol. 1

Willie's comments: From the perfectly arranged water drop-and-pizzicato string plunks that open “River of Orchids,” it should be evident that Apple Venus is going to make a grand statement that XTC is back in a big way. And it doesn’t fail. “I’d Like That” is a deleriously happy love song from Andy (“Make me grow up really high/ Really high/ Like a really high thing”), and on the flip side of the coin, “Your Dictionary” has Andy spelling obscene words to illustrate a lover’s insensitivity. Meanwhile, Colin’s “Frivolous Tonight” is so catchy it’s physically impossible not to bob your head from side to side as you listen to it. A few songs toward the end (“Fruit Nut,” for example) don’t quite reach the exhilarating heights of the first seven songs, but “The Last Balloon” is one stunning coda. Here’s hoping Volume 2 is this great! Grade: A-


Wasp Star: Apple Venus vol. 2

Willie's comments: Well, as the old saying says, hope in one hand and poop in the other, and see which hand fills up first. Maybe that's being a little unfair to the second- and more "rocking"- half of XTC's comeback opus, but even with such stripped-down, catchy numbers as "Church of Women" and "We're All Light," it's hard not to feel a little let down after the grandeur of Volume 1. Since the album was recorded after Gregory's blustery departure, it makes sense that the songs on Wasp Star have less complicated guitar lines and less ornate arrangements than we've become accustomed to (and, perhaps, spoiled by). That poppy spareness works fine on numbers like Moulding's gorgeously simple "Boarded Up" and Partridge's "Stupidly Happy," but songs like "Playground" and "Wounded Horse" lack that extra oomph that they'd require to be truly great. There are far too many sing-songy numbers here, like "In Another Life," and seemingly unfinished numbers ("I'm the Man Who Murdered Love"), too. Fans of the band's earlier work will probably be ecstatic, but to those of us who dig XTC's more recent material, this seems like a step backward. Grade: B-


Coat of Many Cupboards (four-disc box set)

Willie's comments: Ever since 1996's double-disc Fossil Fuel collection, XTC has had an obsession with clearing their musical vaults. 1997's superb Upsy Daisy Assortment was followed by 1998's Transistor Blast (a four-disc sampling of live tracks from the band's performing days), 1999's Homespun (the original demo tapes for Apple Venus vol. 1, which are amusing, albeit redundant) and 2001's Homegrown (the demos for Wasp Star). Coming on the heels of all that- along with a recent campaign of remastered re-releases- the 62-track Coat of Many Cupboards ran the risk of inflicting fans with the surfeit of overindulging at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Amazingly, though, this four-disc set is a treat for diehards and, prohibitive pricetag aside, new converts alike. The set includes generous samplings from XTC's entire Virgin Records career, from a demo of the early single "Science Friction" to Nonsuch, but rather than focusing on "greatest hits" reselling of old favorites, the box mostly consists of alternate takes, unreleased tracks, live recordings, and demos of more familiar songs. "Dear God"? It's here, but in an eerie band demo that appends an extra verse and a guitar break that should've been left in. "All You Pretty Girls"? Yup, we get to hear Andy stumbling through a hilariously off-key intro to this home recording. "Life Begins at the Hop"? Take your pick from three working versions, none of which is the single recording most fans are familiar with. Rather than dragging these songs down the way the Beatles' ill-executed Anthology series did, with poor sound quality and flat performances, many of XTC's early songs are improved by the straightforward demo run-throughs, as opposed to the disorienting production of their first three studio records. (Good thing, too, because the only flaw in this compilation is that it's rather top-heavy with White Music, Go2, and Drums and Wires-era material.)

All that is very interesting for XTC completists, sure, but what makes Coat of Many Cupboards an essential purchase is how consistently listenable it all is (as opposed to the off-putting "psychotic fans only" excess of, say, Guided by Voices' Suitcase). The handful of album tracks that have been included here aren't the band's big hits, but rather are oft-overlooked songs that benefit from being highlighted away from their original context. (As stated above, English Settlement's "Fly on the Wall" reveals itself as a charmer when it's not surrounded by that album's gassy filler, while it's nice to see Drums and Wires' sparkling "Ten Feet Tall" finally get its due.) The unreleased tracks are, too, as contagious in their slap-happy catchiness as most of the band's proper output. "Fireball XL5" is a tribute to ? and the Mysterians-esque psych-pop that's a peerless joy to listen to, for example, and "Terrorism," "Didn't Hurt a Bit," and even the Barry Andrews-penned "Us Being Us" are prime XTC. The band's glut of ancilliary material in the past five years might seem like an obsequious apology for their lengthy silence in the '90s, and for those of us who thought that Apple Venus vol. 1 was worth the wait, perhaps an unnecessary one. Still, it's nice to see our patience rewarded with a career retrospective as lovingly assembled and flawlessly enjoyable as this one. Grade: A


Rich Bunnell writes: Regarding XTC's pre-Skylarking work, I realize that they didn't begin reaching streamlined musicality until that album, but the idea of calling the Black Sea album "inessential"(and Big Express too, but I'm seemingly alone in liking that one a lot) is beyond my comprehension. I once could only bring myself to enjoy the later work, throwing off anything before as jerky and irritating(for example, "Respectable Street," which I once hated but now worship), but soon the early albums just really started to appeal to me. Except for the band's debut "White Music," which is just a mediocre, messy album which even Partridge himself disowns.

I'm not gonna chastise you, though, for not caring a lot for the early work because the early XTC and later XTC are really in essence two different bands, and not everyone can bring themselves to like both. I've met some people on the internet who claim that everything past Andy's departure from touring (that being the English Settlement album) is mediocre--basically the opposite of your standpoint. It's good that you subscribe to the "Apple Venus 1 is good" group rather than the "Apple Venus 1 is boring and disjointed" group, though--my only objection with the album is that Colin could've spent a bit more time with his songwriting.

(Added 5/26/00): Awwww, come on! I saw this coming a mile away. Seriously, I was waiting for this review to come up because I knew that it would be a review disappointed with the album. Sometimes it really seems like you're working against these bands instead of with them. Wasp Star is great! I really don't get your descriptions of two of the songs-- first off, "Playground" is AMAZING. The song doesn't need extra "oomph," it's absolutely nothing BUT "oomph." It's become practically my official summer theme song-- it's catchy, it has a great riff and full, breathing production, great lyrics (except for all of the dumb rhymes in the chorus), this is possibly one of my favorite XTC songs of all time. As for "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," it sounds perfectly finished to me-- it's meant to sound like a huge, off-the-cuff singalong, and the lyrics are absolutely hilarious. And what about "The Wheel And The Maypole"? One of the band's top 5, no doubt. An absolutely amazing, catchy opus of pure greatness. Two completely different songs merged into one like they were meant to be that way from conception (which they weren't), and they're each catchy in their own right!

I'm glad that you like "Stupidly Happy" and "Boarded Up" though (too many fans are acting superficial and slamming the songs for being "too repetitive"--gee, really? Well, then, they must SUCK, despite atmosphere and quality and other factors like that), and a B- is still above average, though just barely. It just sort of irks me that you give this the same grade as They Might Be Giants' album of throwaway 2-minute MP3 songs, even though this had a lot more time and energy involved. I really can't see how this compares to the band's early work-- it sort of just sounds like a rocking version of "Oranges & Lemons" to me. The only songs that disappoint me are "Some Lovely"(an absolutely -gorgeous- song on Andy's Hello EP marred here by clunky add-ons like crunchy guitar) and "Wounded Horse"(not the kind of material the band's suited for, though I like Colin's "Back in the saddle!" part). I really wish that Andy had put "Ship Trapped In The Ice" and "I Don't Wanna Be Here" onto the album, they were two of his most promising demos but they sadly got thrown in the crapper. Anyway, I didn't give my grades for the band's albums the first time around, so here goes: White Music: C-, Go 2: B, Drums & Wires: A-, Black Sea: A+, English Settlement: A-, Mummer: C+, Big Express: A, Skylarking: A, Oranges & Lemons: A-, Nonsuch: A-, AV1: A-, Wasp Star: A.  

Best band ever. At least, in my little pretentious quirky-nerd-pop loving world, but who'd want to live in any other?!?

Charles Oliver (from Australia) writes: I've just read your reviews on the various XTC albums and wonder if the USA versions of the albums are the same as the ones I own. My versions of Black Sea, English Settlement and The Big Express are truly 'essential' recordings with a capital 'E'. In fact, Black Sea is probably a favourite amongst many XTC fans and is a good starting point for new listeners. I'd advise listeners to steer clear of the first 2 albums and the strange Mummer - everything else though is great! Can't fathom how an XTC album can have too many songs on it (Oranges & Lemons) - too much XTC ain't enough in my book. You found Drums & Wires unlistenable? - maybe after too much Chemical Brothers it was . Sorry, I'm with Rich Bunnell on this one - good onya Rich !

For the record, here's MY ratings for their albums :- White Music D+, Go 2 C-, Drums & Wires B+ , Black Sea A+, English Settlement A-, Mummer D+, The Big Express A-, Skylarking A+ , Nonsuch A+ , Oranges & Lemons A-, Apple Venus, Vol 1 A-, Wasp Star B+ (still making my mind up about this one).

Richard Armenio writes: well it's just incredible that i discovered XTC about 20 years ago in the south of france with the black sea album; since then, i still can't help looking for a new XTC album each time i go in a music store even though i know i've already bought all of them and i will have to wait maybe a long time for a new one!

In one way i'm as excited as if i was waiting for the sergeant pepper's album,or the village green society !

On the other way, it seems andy and colin are old friends we won't never forget or let down, even if it may sounds awfully stupid or childish because we ain't really know much about you, WE kind of love you guys (is that correct?)

p-s: i won't never forget the people clapping once iwas testing the sound before a concert ,singing:"LEI...EI..EISURE...if you think i'm clowning.."

John Schlegel writes: Great stuff; truly sublime, masterfully-crafted pop. Like you, I am definitely a bigger enthusiast of their 'second phase,' or studio-bound work. I love new wave, and the band's earlier albums produced some phenomenal moments, but their material from Skylarking onward is just so unbelievably gorgeous and engaging. I have to disagree about English Settlement though; one of my favorite XTC albums. Yes, the production is a little flat, and the record is too long. However, I think the song-for-song quality of the LP is outstanding. I can't say the meandering "Melt the Guns" or even any of the singles are my favorites, but "Runaways," "Jason and the Argonauts," "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)," "Down in the Cockpit," and "Snowman" are all masterpieces! I think English Settlement was a real compositional and melodic milestone for the band, and as such it really foreshadowed their second incarnation. I am also one of those rare fans of The Big Express; again, we have questionable production, but most of the songs are gems in disguise (C'mon--"You're the Wish You Are I Had" is one of the catchiest songs in the band's canon!). I can't say Nonsvch is my favorite XTC album, but it certainly has some bright material. A strange and eclectic band to like, I know, and they're lyrics are often heavy-handed and pretentious. But XTC's music is some frighteningly addictive stuff.

SYMPHONIE@aol.com writes: You gotta be kidding! Amidst the plethora of intelligent and open-minded reviews on this site, I am shocked to find the classic English Settlement slapped with a "C" rating. Maybe the reviewer didn't play it loud enough? I find it hard to imagine a long road trip without this album.

Rick Atbert writes: Surprised you don't like "Drums and Wires". "Black Sea" is a better album, but "Drums and Wires" isn't far behind, especially if you count the song "Life Begins at the Hop" as part of it. "English Settlement" I also disagree with you on...maybe you haven't listened to it enough (first time I did, I couldn't pick out anything I really liked...for me all I wanted to hear was another song like "Generals and Majors"), or maybe you legitimately don't like it, but I think it's excellent. Likewise, you have a lot of respect for "Nonsuch" while I personally find it morose and boring. And Skylarking should be an A+! :)

LoadesC writes: Everyone has something to say about XTC but what about the Skids? Why do they always get forgotten? They pissed all over the likes of XTC and Squeeze and they were a big influence on U2! My ratings for XTC:
Drums and Wires B-
Black Sea B
English Settlement C
Skylarking B+

The Skids:
Scared to Dance A
Days in Europa A+
The Absolute Game A-
Stuart Adamson went on to form the forgettable Big Country and Richard Jobson became a TV presenter.

Rod Steele writes: Very nice XTC reviews. However...I was in John F's "Hello" Club, so I have the Andy Partridge disc. Ugh, D+ at best. I remember being really disappointed when it finally arrived in the mail. But the rest of your XTC calls were pretty good, so maybe I'll dig it out of the pile and give it another try.

Two things:

1) I didn't care much for "Pink Thing," either, until a friend informed me that the real, or other, "pink thing" was his infant son, Harry. Pretty clever, eh?

2) "Your Dictionary" was aimed squarely at his ex-wife. I recalled hearing or reading somewhere that his daughter wasn't too keen on it, so I Googled around and found this:

Q: One track on the album that's drawing a lot of attention is "Your Dictionary," which is a pretty caustic rebuke directed towards your ex-wife. Has she heard it?

Andy: Oh, no. No! I played it to my daughter, who's 13, and she said, "Daddy, you can't let Mummy hear this. She's gonna die." I said, "Well, look, I didn't write it to hurt your mum. I wrote it because I was upset, and I had to let the pus out in some way. I had to pull the cork out of the top of my head and let just let some of this evil out of my head or else I was going to go crazy." She said, "Well, just don't let her hear it. I won't take a copy home with me, and don't let her hear it. It'll destroy her." But, as I said, I didn't write it for that reason. I wrote it as some therapeutic thing for me.






A Testimonial Dinner- XTC tribute album

Ginny's comments: XTC is a legendary band that has influenced bands worldwide. Although the intitial line-up for this seems less than palatable, (Okay, Crash Test Dummies and Rembrandts I can stomach, but Verve Pipe!? Sarah McLachlan?!?) these B-movie equivolent bands pull through quite well, thank you. Except Sarah McLachlan, who gave "Dear God" a hypocritical spin that didn't ever need to happen. However, this album is surprisingly nice to listen to- it even offers geek-friendly gems like They Might Be Giants and Spacehog. Oh- and XTC contributes to this dinner, too– under a pseudonym, of course. Grade: B+

Willie's comments: I question whether a couple of these bands are actually XTC fans or if they were just asked to do this tribute album for no real reason. We know the Crash Test Dummies are big XTC fans because they’ve made a career out of low-grade XTC rip-offs (luckily, their jaunty version of "All You Pretty Girls" on here is well-done), but P. Hux ("Another Satellite") and, God help us, The Verve Pipe ("Wake Up") seem grungily out-of-place on this compilation full of tuneful bands. Almost everyone is fairly faithful to the original versions here, with a few minor tweaks- They Might Be Giants add Arabic keyboards to the already psychedelic "25 O’Clock," and Joe Jackson turns in a stellar, bass-propelled "Statue of Liberty," while Reuben Blades turns "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" into a full-on Salsa fiesta. The Rembrandts’ version of "Making Plans for Nigel" is virtually identical to the original, and therefore, it’s good even though it lays bare the ‘Brandts’ lack of talent. No one is more deserving of a tribute album than XTC, so it’s nice to see that some effort was actually put into this one. Grade: B+


Rich Bunnell writes: Funny--- this surpasses all but three of XTC's releases? I really don't care for it at all, with three exceptions: They Might Be Giants' wonderful, if non-psychadelic take on "25 O'Clock," Ruben Blades' really cool big-band version of "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul," and of course XTC themselves who cameo with a remake of "The Good Things," one of the absolute coolest songs they've ever made. I don't care for anything else, however-- too loud and annoying most of the time (the Verve Pipe and Spacehog covers in particular) or just uninteresting (Joe Jackson, even though I like the guy normally, really does nothing at all to "Statue Of Liberty" besides sing it in a normal voice). I'd give this one a C- or a D+, though I'd lean towards the latter because "The Good Things" is so wonderful.

Steve Johnson writes: Wrong. The only song worth including on this compilation (other than XTC's inclusion) is "Dear God." It's better than the original. Okay, maybe I'd include Joe Jackson as well. But the rest of these artists should concentrate on recording some decent songs of their own. None of them can hold a candle to XTC.

Todd Kopec writes: I thouroghly enjoyed ALL of the bands' interpretations of XTC's music. All of you are WAY to critical. And to say the bands may have been asked for no reason...ridiculous.