Chips from the Chocolate Fireball by XTC

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Chips from the Chocolate Fireball by XTC
Chips from the Chocolate Fireball by XTC

Album Released: 1987

Chips from the Chocolate Fireball ::: Artwork
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S M Hellebore  15th Jan 2017
This is a compilation of 25 O'Clock and Psonic Psunspot - refer to those releases for my reviews.

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1.[same as 25 O'Clock]26:48
2.[same as Psonic Psunspot]35:49


This album is every 60's fanatic's strawberry alarm clock dream, a loving parody of Sgt. Pepper era mod psychedelia that amazingly pulls it off, not merely as a picture-perfect tribute, but also the finest collection of tunes that Partridge & Moulding ever penned.

I know, I know, you hate those smarmy ain't we clever bastards with hiccupy vocals in XTC, but seriously - even if you hate that band, you need to check this album out. I wouldn't go so far as to say NEED need, but any fan of 60's British Invasion and psychedelia has a hole in his collection that isn't complete until he's heard this compilation (1985's 6-track 25 O'Clock EP and 1987's full-length, 10-track LP Psionic Sunspot).

Actually, it's better than any psychedelic album released during the flower/pot era, excepting The Move and The Beatles themselves, but not excepting the lightweight and inconsistent Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and certainly not the psychedelic efforts of B-listers The Hollies, the Small Faces, The Pretty Things, or The Rolling Stones' great folly (oops, forgot about a certain LP by The Zombies that I recently rated highly).

There again, there is Love's magnum opus, which rivals this platter, but let's forget about that, as the Dukes are content to more-or-less completely bypass West Coast psychedelia and concentrate exclusively upon the UK variant. I said 'almost', as the closing track on the CD, "Pale and Precious", is a loving Beach Boys tribute - and not the surf-era BB's, but the post-Pet Sounds Manson-era BB's.

That's an anomalous track anyway, being a direct tribute to a specific band's sound. Most of the rest swipe specific elements of specific songs from The Beatles, Kinks, Move, Stones, etc., as well as one-hit Nuggets blunders - "Bicycle to the Moon" clearly derives lyrical inspiration from Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle", and there's at least a couple of "She's a Rainbow" piano lines. Plus the clock chiming intro to the CD was obviously swiped from the Floyd.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

XTC's Andy Partridge intermittently fancies himself as a latter-day equivalent to the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band's Viv Stanshall, in that they're both inclined to engage in parody. The difference between them though is that - where Stanshall was genuinely talented at writing parodies that were musically meritable in their own right - Partridge simply isn't.

Rather, it seems to me that Partridge is more in the business of broadcasting to the world just how 'clever' and 'ironic' he can be - the sleeve-art of XTC's second album Go 2 from as far back as 1978 very plainly signalled such a tendency on his part - and Chips from the Chocolate Fireball is an exact sonic equivalent of that album's 'oh so clever' artwork.

So this is the sort of album where the listener has to be 'in on the joke' to fully appreciate it, in that it's Partridge's very carefully constructed homage to mid-1960's psychedelia, with all sorts of subtle references to material from that era, both familiar and obscure.

That might've worked well 30 years ago when this collection was first released - at that time, the era it drew its inspiration from was 'only' 20 years previous. But the mid-1960's are now half-a-century ago, and - at 30 years old - this 'tribute' is itself now substantially older than the timeframe between the originals and itself, of 20 years.

As a result, the more subtle nuances of this material are increasingly lost to the mists of time, such that nowadays the album has to increasingly stand on its own intrinsic merits as a collection of standalone compositions, without being propped-up by cosy little plaudits / nods-and-winks from 'in-the-know' collectors of 60's psychedelic ephemera.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon