Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 by XTC

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Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 by XTC
Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 by XTC

Album Released: 1996

Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-1992 ::: Artwork

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1.Science Friction3:13
2.Statue Of Liberty2:52
3.This Is Pop2:39
4.Are You Receiving Me?3:03
5.Life Begins At The Hop3:45
6.Making Plans For Nigel4:12
7.Ten Feet Tall3:13
8.Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down4:20
9.Generals And Majors3:39
10.Towers Of London4:38
11.Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)3:36
12.Love At First Sight3:07
13.Respectable Street3:37
14.Senses Working Overtime4:33
15.Ball And Chain4:29
16.No Thugs In Our House5:07
17.Great Fire3:48
19.Love On A Farmboy's Wages3:58
20.All You Pretty Girls3:56
21.This World Over4:45
22.Wake Up3:40
24.The Meeting Place3:12
25.Dear God3:36
26.The Mayor Of Simpleton3:57
27.King For A Day3:35
28.The Loving3:54
29.The Disappointed3:28
30.The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead4:59
31.Wrapped In Grey3:46


XTC have been sadly neglected commercially, despite some excellent work in the field of popular music, as demonstrated on this double CD.

Included in the original lineup - along with vocalist/guitarist Andy Partridge and vocalist/bass ist Colin Moulding - was a prominent but tasteless virtuoso keyboard player named Barry Andrews. Whilst his style is effective on "Statue of Liberty", generally he's distracting (Partridge states 'Barry had a ludicrously idiosyncratic style').

XTC's line-up improved when guitarist/keyboardist David Gregory joined and Moulding's songs were released as singles - catchy pop songs such as "Making Plans for Nigel", "Generals and Majors", and "Love at First Sight", all complement Partridge's darker and more literate singles very well.

Moulding is also the instrumental star with his innovative basslines, and his initial success in turn inspired Partridge's songwriting to new heights such as with "Senses Working Overtime", "Respectable Street", and "Towers of London".

So the first disc of Fossil Fuel chronicles the group's stripped-down New Wave sound, which although now sounding slightly dated, does feature Partridge's and Moulding's always interesting songwriting.

Around the time of the second disc, beginning with 1983's Mummer, XTC softened their approach and retreated into the studio, in an attempt to emulate their 1960's influences, such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Kinks. That's in contrast to their earlier work, where a primary influence was Captain Beefheart.

XTC also developed an attractively romantic sense of archaism with "Love on a Farmboy's Wages", "All The Pretty Girls", and "Grass". My favourite though is "The Meeting Place", with its innovative piano riffs - I can't figure out why it works so well! Also noteworthy is the dual rhythm guitar introduction for "Wake Up".

Although the music on Fossil Fuel is excellent, the evidence is there as to why XTC never enjoyed much commercial success, as in the bizarre coda tacked onto the end of "Wrapped in Grey", and the bridge that interrupts the flow of "King for a Day". Maybe that's a good thing though, as it meant that all the great songs were untainted by the demands of commercial radio.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])

Although a tiny number of releases have been omitted due to space constraints, at 31 tracks Fossil Fuel is an otherwise complete set of XTC singles presented in chronological order-of-release from 1977 to 1992 - all the tracks are A-sides only.

I think though, that you'd have to have a particular affection for XTC's quirky approach to songwriting to derive much pleasure from this collection. So it doesn't surprise me that the band had relatively little chart success, for - in spite of releasing so many singles - they only had six so-called 'hits' in their homeland, with three of those failing to even crack the Top 20. Their biggest success was "Senses Working Overtime", which peaked at No.10.

The first four tracks here are from 1977 / 1978 - the dawn of punk - and are accordingly punky in character, all are generic and quite tuneless. Beyond those however, the distinctive XTC sound does start to emerge, such that by track [8] "Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down", the band's signature style is pretty well fully-formed.

The remaining eight tracks on the first CD see the best examples of that sound, peaking with their biggest hit "Senses Working Overtime", and "No Thugs in Our House" (both 5 stars). And - aside from those four early tracks that kick off the first CD - the rest of the material sits in the 4 to 4½ star range - it's OK, but not great.

CD2 sees a noticeable drop in quality, with XTC increasingly departing from their characteristic sound, with the material instead sounding more and more like latter-day Paul McCartney-styled album-pop ... forgettable, lightweight, and inconsequential, such that most of CD2 sits in the 2½ to 3½ star range.

All in all then, I found Fossil Fuel to be a disappointment - thin pickin's for what is a quite substantial amount of material - and as a result my homemade compilation of XTC material remains at a paltry five tracks, of which three are album tracks not included here - "All of a Sudden", "Rocket from a Bottle", and "Desert Island" - all much better than most of the stuff on offer here.

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by Reviewer: bluemoon