Recorded under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear, this is XTC pretending they're a 60's sort of cover-band.
Viewed one way, Psonic Psunspot
is brilliant - XTC recreate the styles of tons of old bands, throw in lots of old-time production tricks, and some of the smartest lyrics you'll ever hear.
To nitpick though, whilst these songs are fun, there's nothing here that would've hit it big in the 60's, and XTC are just continuing their streak of albums that work well more as historical in-jokes, rather than as original artistic statements.
Luckily, the songwriting is mostly up to par. The best song is "You're A Good Man Albert Brown", a bouncy pub number that actually stands on its own rather than as a direct copy, and The Hollies send-up "Vanishing Girl" and the gender-bending singalong "Have You See Jackie" are both catchy and exciting.
XTC also hit the mark on two of the three mock-Beatles tracks: the 'Lennon' number "Collideascope" (ooh, how clever) has a great hook, and the 'McCartney' "Braniac's Daughter" is bubbly and fun, but the mediocre "Shiny Cage" tries so hard to sound like it came off of Revolver
that it doesn't go anywhere - and
it steals the opening chord from "I'm Only Sleeping", a tacky theft that XTC manage to avoid on the other songs.
A few others are mediocre too. The Byrdsy "You're My Drug" is monotone and lethargic, and the much-lauded late-period Beach Boys tribute "Pale and Precious" is pretty and full of Brian Wilson-type production tricks, but has no hooks, sounding more like half of a great Beach Boys song than anything that Brian Wilson himself would've authorized.
by Reviewer: Cosmic Ben
(blogging at Cosmic Ben [Defunct]