only has fifteen songs, which isn't a lot for a double album, unless you’re Yes (which hopefully you aren’t).
And if you’d been following the band faithfully since 1977, this is the point where you’ve got to face the fact that XTC have slowed down, stretched out, wised up, and gone all 12-string jangly, vaguely African, and - yes, even a touch mediaeval - on your ass.
So, is this the end of the rabid new town animals that hatched just a few years prior? Well, yes and no. A metamorphosis has occurred, but all the old familiar traits are still there - just warped. Or at least, warped differently than they had been before.
Take the first disc’s epic centerpiece “Jason and the Argonauts” - the guitars jangle where they used to spike, the subtle synthesized soundscape may not have much in common with the keyboard carnival of the band's 'zolo' era, but the riptide rhythms are as tense as anything in their catalogue.
Everyone probably knows “Senses Working Overtime”, an unlikely Top 10 hit, featuring some positively strange bass mumbo-jumbo from Moulding, and rather ambiguous lyrics from Partridge - is it a wholehearted celebration of life, or a dark satire of greed and materialism? Possibly it's both.
But the lesser-known material is just as good. Moulding’s “Runaways” opens things with a thick bed of guitar plinkety-planking and dark atmospherics; “Down in the Cockpit” turns a pun with several more double meanings than should be legal, into a dance/pop success story.
“No Thugs in Our House” - perhaps the only song here that would have fitted on the previous album - finds Partridge roaring out the tale of a white supremacist and his clueless insipid parents; “Fly on the Wall” hides the album’s most infectious melody inside its irregular synth exoskeleton.
As on any double album, not everything goes right. It would've probably benefited if several of the songs were shortened slightly, but then, even The Beatles' white album had its “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?”.Rated:
by Reviewer: S M Hellebore