I like Skylarking
, though I can't figure out what the point is - really, it's pretentious perfection.
The album consists of a suite of 14 beautiful songs, each of them entirely memorable, such that even after just a few listens, the refrains of each runs through my head at least once while I'm walking to class, or talking to someone especially boring. In addition, the melodies are exquisite, and the lyrics range from creepy to brilliantly clever to poetic.
The instruments are impeccably played, with head honcho Andy Partridge providing some nice fills on guitar, Dave Gregory adding tasteful and inventive synth parts, and Colin Moulding earning his keep on bass (at least, I assume so - my stereo sucks). In addition, studio whiz kid Todd Rundgren gives each song a glossy sheen and lots of intriguing sound effects - check out the bee buzzing its way across your headphones during "Summer's Cauldron". And studio player Prairie Prince does a capable job on drums (XTC's drummer quit once they stopped touring).
But although the music ranges from eerie to calming, I can't stand the vocals. Partridge is grating, and Moulding is just annoying, his sneering even manages to negate the irresistable piano riff on the closing "Sacrifical Bonfire". But the main reason I find it hard to completely love this album is the ego on display, and I'm not even talking about professional egomaniac Rundgren. The three chaps in XTC know they're melodic, they know they've mastered the studio, and they know they can imitate their sixties idols, but in the end, that's all it is - a soulless imitation.
For example, Partridge creates a tuneful Beach Boys homage/ripoff with "Season Cycle", and it's bouncy and memorable and nicely harmonized, but without any humility in the mix it's ultimately off-putting. That's also why I can't see the bouncy "Earn Enough for Us" as a great rocker - sure, it's a great studio creation, but nothing more than that.
But to be fair, I do really enjoy Skylarking
- it's a good solid album - I'm just hoping XTC's earlier rockin' stuff is more sincere, because here they don't even seem like a real band, more a tuneful, professional facsimile of one.Rated:
by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben
(blogging at Cosmic Ben [Defunct]