For our next installment of the journey through the XTC catalogue, I thought I’d skip to a low point in their chronology.
Well, sales-wise, anyway. Right when the timing was perfect and all the ducks were lined up in a row for the band to break big…. the beginning of what would have been an American concert tour to promote their most popular & best record to date in English Settlement…. Andy Partridge went cold turkey on the valium he’d been taking since childhood thanks to his wife flushing it all down the toilet, and this led to a total breakdown. Partridge fell to pieces, developed enormous stage fright. The tour was canceled, and Partridge resolved never to tour again. After a time but actually during his slow recovery (and you can hear it evolve on the album I’m about to discuss) the band retreated into the studio to begin their evolution towards production wizardry. But their first effort, 1983’s Mummer, would show the growing pains in taking this approach.
Those early 80s music years were frustrating ones for listeners/fans of the energetic burst of punk and new wave that splashed across everywhere in the late 1970s. 1983 marked a year when it seemed that EVERY sharp ‘n’ angry young rockernewwavepunk act with a debut in 1977 decided to change their sound, and ALWAYS in a more mellow direction. Paul Weller went from fronting The Jam to The Style Council. Elvis Costello released the aptly titled Punch The Clock, a record that…. well, let’s just be honest, it doesn’t hold a candle to This Year’s Model, now does it? Or how about Graham Parker, who released his mellow and happily married The Real Macaw, a decent record, but certainly no Squeezing Out Sparks or Howlin’ Wind. Or perhaps you prefer Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds and Rockpile? Well, in 1983 they both released solo albums post-Rockpile breakup. Edmunds Information, a decent record, although his backup band is basically ELO and the synth/tech sound was not exactly what we’d hear before. Lowe released what’s arguably his weakest solo album, The Abominable Showman, a record that never really seems to get going and moves in way too many directions (or tries to) stylistically. Talking Heads put out Speaking In Tongues, probably the peak of their “funk” sound period and probably the best 1983 album I’ve mentioned on this look-at-all-of-us-get-mellow list.Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC Part 3”