Drums and Wires by XTC

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Drums and Wires by XTC
Drums and Wires by XTC

Album Released: 1979

Drums and Wires ::: Artwork

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1.Making Plans For Nigel4:12
3.Day In Day Out3:08
4.When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty3:21
5.Ten Feet Tall3:11
6.Roads Girdle The Globe4:52
7.Real By Reel3:48
9.That Is The Way2:56
10.Outside World2:40
11.Scissor Man4:00
12.Complicated Game4:47


Enter new guitarist Dave Gregory (and producer Steve Lillywhite). Because of that change in line-up, XTC became a much more guitar-oriented band (hence 'wires' in the album title). That was a good thing, as Andrews’ hit-or-miss keyboard contributions on the band's preceding releases often led to frustrating results.

Not only did Gregory’s arrival lead to an improvement in the band's sound, Partridge and (especially) Moulding's songwriting progressed in leaps and bounds too.

Although Moulding wrote only four out of these twelve songs, two of his contributions have become classics in the XTC catalogue (at least, in my fairly unimportant opinion), while another is also among the highlights here.

Partridge’s songs are generally quirkier wilfully-difficult songs that nicely complement Moulding’s more accessible material, but sometimes they’re overly silly or half-assed.

Like the first two albums, Drums and Wires starts off exceptionally well. Moulding’s “Making Plans for Nigel” is an outstanding representative of the album - deceptively accessible yet far from conventional, it introduces a new rhythm-heavy era in the band’s history. With its propulsive bassline, awkward drumming, and angular guitar patterns, it’s really not that surprising that Primus’ Les Claypool acknowledged it as a major influence (demonstrating that, by covering several XTC songs both onstage and in the studio).

The winning streak continues with the opposites of “Helicopter” and “Day In Day Out”. While the former highlights why XTC were often considered an odd band because of its nearly robotic ultra-tight rhythm and Partridge’s frenetic performance, the lazy and more conventional pop of the latter is as charming as they come. I'm inclined to think it was exactly the stuff Blur’s ex-guitarist Graham Coxon must've been studying.

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by Reviewer: Guy Peters (blogging at Guy's Music Review Site)

Well, this is different. Not too different mind. But the arrival of Dave Gregory has stripped away the old hyperactive carnival atmosphere, in favor of sharp twin-guitar pop (not to mention Moulding’s ever-excellent bass playing).

Some of the loopy energy of the preceding two albums has been sacrificed at the altar of maturity, as the previous rebellious party atmosphere gradually gives way to more overtly political material.

For all the blinding primary colors on the sleeve, this is the band’s greyest material yet, and it’s matched by a growth in the band’s already formidable songwriting skills. With “Millions”, Partridge has finally written a long, slow song that qualifies as an epic rather than a dirge.

An obsession with overbearing parents runs through Partridge and Moulding’s lyrics - always told from the adults’ point of view, from the opening son/daughter duo of “Nigel” and “Helicopter”, to the more general childhood torments of “Scissor Man” and “That Is the Way”.

Those songs join together with the album’s web of social and political claustrophobia: We're all safe in your concrete robe - when is A, B? Partridge asks in the near-apocalyptic “Roads Girdle the Globe”. Ignorance may help you cope he notes one song down, before singing the praises of a girl who can’t hear what’s going on in the outside world ... she’s not interested in that.

But the desperate paranoia of “Complicated Game” comes rushing back nevertheless - part catharsis, part nervous breakdown, all AWESOME - with a huge chugging rhythm and more echo than you can shake a finger at. Amazingly, the song has actually become something of a standard, judging by the number of cover versions it's generated.

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by Reviewer: S M Hellebore

Drums and Wires was the band's first album with guitarist / keyboardist / arranger extraordinaire Dave Gregory. It suffers from 'Side One syndrome'. That is, the first side of the album is great, and the second is crap. Also, the production lacks any sort of warmth. Thanks a bunch, Lillywhite ...

Okay, Side Two isn't total crap - "Real by Reel" is one of the most instantly catchy ditties the band have done. But the side also contains two really annoying Partridge compositions - "Scissor Man" is a grating kids' tale, and "Complicated Game" goes from inaudible whisper to cacophonic mess in under 5 minutes. And Moulding's "That Is the Way" isn't much better, featuring a mainly repetitive melody, and "Millions" might've been good had it been edited down to something less than 5 minutes.

So Side One is where all the good stuff lays - it contains the band's first UK hit, "Making Plans for Nigel", and other fine songs, such as the bouncy tremolo-fest "Helicopter". Get the reissue, as it includes "Life Begins at the Hop".

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by Reviewer: Cole Reviews