At 15 songs, and with nearly every one of them filled with warp-speed vocals, inventive percussion, weirdly intriguing horn parts, and crazy melodies, Oranges & Lemons
is a whole lot of XTC to swallow.
If you can sit through it, this album's quite rewarding, but that's a big 'if'. I'm usually zonked by the fifth track, not only because it's tiring, but because the glossy sheen puts me to sleep. For example, "Here Comes President Kill Again" is clever, but is it really entertaining?
Still, XTC seem to have taken it upon themselves to prove that they're smarter rockers than anyone else, and what the hell: they are. Andy Partridge's lyrics are more entertaining and insightful than anyone's this side of Bob Dylan; the melodies are quirky and addictive; guest drummer Pat Mastoletto is virtuosic, adding something interesting to every track; and there are enough crazy tricks buried in every song - even the boring ones - to keep a listener interested. In fact, condensing the whole thing into a short review like this is probably a huge injustice to such a densely packed work of art.
There are several flaws to this record though. For one, in a career of trying to prove their brilliance (and usually succeeding), XTC has never really produced a standard, something like "Imagine" or "Like A Rolling Stone" - a song with simplicity, soul, raw honesty, and a timeless melody, the things that make great music great. As it is, XTC are just the hardest-working men in the recording studio, showing up most other artists as uncreative lazy asses, but themselves falling short of creating anything truly transcendent (although the beautiful closer "Chalkhills and Children" comes closer than any other XTC song I've heard).
That doesn't stop "The Mayor of Simpleton" being one of the most genuinely catchy songs ever written (if only Partridge had dumbed down the lyrics, it would've been huge), or the rest of the record from being an exhausting yet intriguing load of fun, but there are plenty of less inventive, more rewarding albums out there that will probably end up meaning significantly more to punters.Rated:
by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben
(blogging at Cosmic Ben [Defunct]