A weak one this, probably the least good XTC album, but also unjustly kicked by many.
is a classic sophomore album though - a band that had years to build up material in preparation for their first album, are suddenly thrust into the studio again, with just a few weeks to one-up their younger selves.
The album starts off on entirely the wrong foot. “Meccanik Dancing” and “Buzzcity Talking” are brash clumsy rockers that sound like attempts to justify the band’s detractors, while the dirgey “Battery Brides” shows that Partridge has not yet learned from the mistake that was the debut's “I’m Bugged”.
Thankfully, things pick up starting with “Crowded Room”. There are some very high highlights from that point on, like the spiky ska-punk of “Red”, and “Beatown”, with its extended astral coda. Lead single “Are You Receiving Me?” (a bonus track) was a spectacular success (not commercially of course. Just a success inside my own fevered brain). But there are also misfires like “Life Is Good in the Greenhouse”.
Part of the problem was the infighting within the band, which led to the departure of Barry Andrews shortly after this album’s release. Andrews recorded four songs for the album, but Partridge - jealously guarding his role as leader - kept Andrews’ best songs off the album. Partridge has since come clean about his control-freakdom and made up with his ex-keyboardist, but he can’t change history.
Both the Andrews songs that made it are good, but a bit out-of-place; “My Weapon” is a bit of pointless cock-rock parody, and “Super-Tuff” squanders a great damaged-reggae groove on a slighty WTF-inducing attempt at a gang-war narrative.Rated:
by Reviewer: S M Hellebore