Five Singles From - XTC
XTC, in my opinion, are one of the most undervalued and yet influential bands in British pop history. Why undervalued, you say? Because, well, they're not underrated, and its not as if their influence isnt recognised. It's more the fact that despite their huge influence on the recent post-punk revival, despite their huge run of amazing albums and singles, and despite being (sorry for assuming that most of my audience are British here) ours, they still haven't been rediscovered by younger people in the same way as say, Gang Of Four or their ilk. Maybe it's because they're not as well dressed, or as politically right on, but in my simple and (I feel) unbiased ears, they're far far better. They're our Beach Boys. Or something. They were hip, funny, clever, experimental, catchy, danceable, and often an incredibly deep and beautiful band. Anyway I thought I would reset the balance by pumping five of my very favourite XTC singles in your direction. First up is Statue Of Liberty, the bands second single, which was taken from their debut album (and something of an underrated classic compared to the more successful Drums And Wires), 1978's White Music. Top, Costello-like new wave magic. Second is perhaps the bands best remembered single. Making Plans For Nigel is nigh-on perfect. Devo-esque herky jerky mania. Released in 1979 and taken from the aforementioned Drums, it gave me one of my happiest moments of 2006 when a crazy crackhead gangster ran onto American Idol, sang a few bars of R&B and then started screaming 'WE'RE ONLY MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL! NIGEL! NIGEL!' Wonderful man.
A few years, and albums, later came the underrated English Settlement album (1982). The lead off single was the unbearably catchy Senses Working Overtime, demonstrating the band's incredible knack for almost sickenly sweet melodies tied to hooks a plenty. I loves it. 1986's Skylarking is recognised by most as the band's peak. Produced with American singer/songwriter genius Todd Rundgren, it's a concept album taking in the birth, life and death of a regular English person. One of my favouritr albums of all time, and featuring the most beautifully sad song about death ever written (which I will feature another time), it also happened to have an outtake that became one of the bands best known singles. Originally released as the bside to the Grass single, Dear God was discovered by American college radio DJs and turned into a rather sizeable hit. That kid may get fucking annoying after a while, but other than that it's pure gold.
Proving that Skylarking wasn't to be the last in a fantastic run, 1989's Oranges And Lemons gave us the uber-catchy Mayor Of Simpleton. Wrapping Byrdsy jangle with some of Andy Partridge's best lyrics, it's one of my favourites and a great way to wrap up this post. So there you are. Download, enjoy, and then go buy some albums. XTC are the best band you've never bothered to listen to. Or maybe you have, in which case you've just wasted your time reading this post. Silly you. (Silly Me).
XTC - Statue Of Liberty
XTC - Making Plans For Nigel
XTC - Senses Working Overtime
XTC - Dear God
XTC - Mayor Of Simpleton