Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Psych-Pop Week Day 3 - XTC

This week SIART is having psychedelic flashbacks...

XTC released their eighth album, Skylarking, in 1986. They were fresh off of recording their gonzo-Nuggets-psych-rock classic 25 O'Clock as The Dukes Of Stratosfear. Their choice of producer was '70s spacepop prog rocker Todd Rundgren. The resulting album was a big change of sonic pace for the band. It largely eschewed the loud and fast angular riffing the band was best known for, and instead was lush and pastoral. Still full of the quirks of Andy and Colin's songs, but couched in such velvety smooth surroundings, with strings and nature sounds and all manner of studio trickery. This is easily the most "produced" album of the band's career, and because of that some people don't like it. Me, I'd rank it as a tie for first, or second best overall. It is an album of much psychedelic beauty - there's something going on in every nook and cranny on these songs. I will spare you the details, but I experienced this album several times in an altered state (ah, wanton youth), and was mind boggled by it's earthy richness. The album's opening two songs are pure sonic bliss for me, starting with the warm, summery buzzing of Andy Partridge's Summer's Cauldron. It begins with crickets and birds before woozy keyboards and a gentle beat kicks in. The song is a veritable hymn to the beauty of nature and warm summer days - "trees are dancing drunk with nectar". In my opinion it's one of his best tunes, and it never fails to makes me feel all warm and gooey. It segues ever so smoothly into Colin Moulding's Grass, a song filled with delicious double entendres - it's sexy and drug addled all at once, and so fantastically orchestrated. It all fades out with the same chirping birds and crickets that began it all. A couple of delightfully psychedelic baroque pop gems.

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