XTC’s career can be divided into two relatively distinct phases, separated by a brief transitional period.
The band's first four albums were recorded with a vague punk ethos - energy levels were cranked up, and the band only play what they could recreate on stage. By 1980 XTC were a self-sufficient band, with the songwriting duo of guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding augmented by drummer Terry Chambers and guitarist Dave Gregory. Then - after frontman Andy Partridge’s nervous breakdown in 1982 - XTC ceased touring and retreated to the studio to create more intricate records.
While I prefer the band'ss more sedate and crafted albums, such as 1986’s Skylarking
and 1999’s Apple Venus Volume 1
, there’s no denying that 1980’s rockier Black Sea
is admirable in its own right.
While most of XTC’s albums are disconnected from contemporary trends, Black Sea
makes a more blatant bid for commercial success, with producer Steve Lilleywhite seldom deviating from a 1980 New Wave sound. So whilst the album has dated, and all sounds the same, the songwriting is generally strong enough to overcome such limitations.
Moulding contributes three songs, all of which are in a similar vein, linking upbeat bouncy tunes to pessimistic lyrics about militarism, lust, and pollution. Partridge is more adventurous, with the 7-minute experimental "Travels in Nihilon", and the surprisingly effective bonus track - the dub "The Somnabulist" - which is far better than anything on Explode Together
, his album of dub experiments.
Elsewhere Partridge is also in splendid songwriting form. The social commentary of "Respectable Street" rocks, the political "Living Through Another Cuba" is all sorts of historical fun (It’s 1961 again and we are piggy-in-the-middle
), and "Towers of London" should've been a hit single.
by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia
(blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct]