In 1991, when Virgin was migrating XTC’s catalog into the CD age, they decided to get tricky with the B-sides and rarities.
Most of the B-sides wound up as bonus tracks on CD reissues of the band's LPs, but they also collected a good-sized pile of rejects that warranted their own CD. Of course, this isn’t even close to the last of the rarities, with the rest relegated to a horde of box sets, archival documents, CD singles, greatest hits albums, else eternal vinyl limbo.
So Rag & Bone Buffet
is only an introduction to the never-ending task of being an XTC completist, but it’s a good introduction, with a solid core of classic songs - particularly the English Settlement
B-sides, included here so Virgin could fit both of that album’s LPs onto a single disc. Those songs, “Blame the Weather”, “Tissue Tigers”, “Punch and Judy”, and “Heaven Is Paved with Broken Glass”, show the band at a time when they were churning out great pop songs at a freakish rate.
There’s some crap of course. “Strange Tales, Strange Tails” is inexplicable; “Officer Blue” is a childlike ode to a policeman, making it possibly the most un-punk rock song ever written. It’s really too bad about the dippy lyrics, cause it’s a cute little song with a fine melody, but it’s just a bit too dumb to take.
“Countdown to Christmas Party Time” on the other hand, is so dumb that you can’t help but love it. We’re so happy and we want to share the secret of happiness with you!
How could you say no to that? It’s far better than its A-side, the smarmy “Thanks for Christmas” (recorded under the pseudonym 'The Three Wise Men' - they’re no Dukes of Stratosphear).
by Reviewer: S M Hellebore