Lex on Andy Partridge (XTC)
It was Clover Club Larry that introduced me to XTC. We had heard “Mayor Of Simpleton” on one of the hipper radio stations while driving around in his car. It was then he started going on about how XTC had better songs than “Simpleton,” and how they were now “catering to the masses.”
All I knew was that I had to own a copy of “Simpleton.” Soon afterward, I was at Record Retreat and purchasing a copy of their then-current album, Oranges and Lemons. Song after song, I was hypnotized by the power of the songwriting. Turned out, Andy Partridge was doing most of the writing.
After borrowing 4 of Larry’s XTC albums, Andy’s writing became a constant source of inspiration and study. Of the earlier albums, I was first drawn to Drums and Wires. The sound was unlike anything that came out of the UK during the “New Wave” period. Songs like “Life Begins At The Hop” and “Making Plans For Nigel” were the British hits, but the band’s quirky underpinnings were apparent in Andy’s songs like “Scissor Man” and the great “Complicated Game.”
XTC’s Black Sea album contained some of my favorite slices of Andy’s take on English life. Dig “Respectable Street.” They could have been talking about the weird neighbors I had growing up in South Central Los Angeles. The guitar riff is sharp, simple, dissonant, and menacing. “Living Through Another Cuba,” “No Language In Our Lungs,” and “Towers Of London” are also excellent examples of Andy’s powerful wordplay and melodic sense working well in the realm of studio experimentation.
English Settlement became my favorite XTC album because of its playful and dense sound. The way that the band plays with rhythms and melodies on this album really tickled my musical ears. You may remember Andy’s songs such as the classic pop gem “Senses Working Overtime,” the rock ’em-sock ’em “No Thugs In Our House,” and the almost ethereal “All Of A Sudden (It’s Too Late).” My favorite of Andy’s songs, “Jason And The Argonauts,” appears on this album. The sound contains so much magic, juxtaposed with Andy’s lyrics about the dire side of the human condition.
Oh, my head is spinning like the world and its filled with beasts I’ve seen,
Let me put my bag down and Ill tell you it all right from the start,
Like the scarlet woman who would pick on the boys she thought were green,
And the two faced man who made a hobby of breaking his wifes heart.
Seems the more I travel,
From the foam to gravel,
As the nets unravel,
All exotic fish I find like Jason and the argonauts
Every time I hear “Jason and The Argonauts,” I’m reminded all over again of Andy’s writing, and I think I’m fortunate enough to have experienced a lot of what he has brought to music and songwriting. I could go on and on about the plethora of great songs to be discovered in albums such as Skylarking, White Noise, or Chips From The Chocolate Fireball, XTC’s take on late 60s English pop psychedelia via their alter-egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear.
(Sidebar: Wanna hear Andy’s spot-on impressions of ’67-period Brian Wilson and John Lennon? Check out “Pale and Precious” and “Collideascope” by the Dukes of Stratosphear. Absolutely righteous music.)
I can go on and on about Andy Partridge and my love of his music, but chances are you’ll get a better taste by seeking out these recordings. If you are a student of music, Andy’s songs are great study material. If you are a lover of music, than you probably already know. XTC is one major reason why I decided to stop touring and gigging and concentrate of what I wanted to say musically.
Andy is a true inspiration to me and Poppermost. Happy birthday, AP!
(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost. Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).
Note: Original release date of the ‘currently listening’ album below is listed as February 12, 1982.