XTC have been called the 'Great Lost Pop Band', and with good reason. For nearly 40 years, they’ve churned out infectious pop songs in vast numbers, yet they’ve barely scraped the lower reaches of the charts.
It’s not hard to see why. Andy Partridge’s signature wounded yelp wouldn’t exactly fit in with MTV, nor does the band's appeal extend to schoolgirls. So although they’ve always been critically acclaimed, they’ve never been trendy enough to catch a true hype wave.
The band sealed its fate as a cult act by refusing to tour subsequent to Partridge's wife forcing him to stop taking valium, so he ended up having a couple of breakdowns on stage in 1982. Since then, XTC has been strictly a studio entity, give or take the odd radio or TV appearance.
There seem to be two schools of thought about XTC. One is that they're distant, too-clever, even soulless and insincere. That I think is borne of Partridge’s vocal style - the man just doesn’t have a great set of lungs, and he often tries to hide it with a weird goofy delivery that, combined with his wordy lyrics, alienates a lot of people.
The other school of thought is of course naturally inclined to be sympathetic towards geekiness, and this is where I count myself a member. With XTC, maybe you just have to be a geek to 'get it'. But where earlier nerds Gentle Giant often seem to be writing solely out of intellectual curiosity, with the lyrics as an afterthought, Partridge puts real heart and soul into his music.
The nice thing about being an XTC fan is they’ve released a lot of albums, and they’re all good. So you can get lost in their catalogue for a while (an activity I highly recommend). If it wasn’t for XTC, I may never have started caring enough about music to write reviews in the first place.
by Reviewer: S M Hellebore