THE XTC SINGLES (Part 19)

I mentioned a while back that I was going to run into difficulties with the series due to the fact I had stopped buying XTC singles and albums after English Settlement. I did at least manage to hear the singles off Mummer back in 1983 but by the time of the release of The Big Express the following year and later on I was hardly listening to any radio outside of Kid Jensen and John Peel and so wasn’t remotely aware of what the band were up to. As a consequence, the next three singles in this series, and their b-sides, are all new to me.

September 1984 saw the pre-album single written by Andy Partridge:-

mp3 : XTC – All Your Pretty Girls

It was released on 7″ with this b-side written by Colin Moulding:-

mp3 : XTC – Washaway

While the 12″ had this extra Partridge composition:-

mp3 : XTC – Red Brick Dream

I’m listening to these while thinking back to the singers and bands who were making waves in 1984 and realising just how of kilter these are with all that was going on. The single isn’t very good and the b-side sounds like a demo tune written by the boys of Abba. The extra track on the 12″ is probably the best of a bad lot.

There was still enough of a fan base to take the single to #55 in the charts.

JC

9 thoughts on “THE XTC SINGLES (Part 19)

  1. It’s so weird that XTC released their worst music smack in the middle of their career. Mummer was a dud (sorry, Echorich) and The Big Express was worse. Put this single against any LP side from 1979-1982 and it’ll pale in comparison. Never heard either of these b-sides before. The Moulding tune is basically the middle 8 of the Beatles ‘Hey Bulldog’ sped up a bit. The other one is forgettable.
    On a positive note, I met a nice guy from Swindon at a party today!

  2. Didnt like the Big Express singles and the lp is their lowpoint. I cant really remember any songd from it. Stll much better stuff is round the corner. I am probably in a minotity of one in prefering skylarking onwards to what came before

  3. Really enjoying the XTC posts (and the rest of your blog). I’m one of those XTC fanatics who owns one of everything. We tend to seek each other out.
    I like to read what someone w/a little less bias has to say about their music!

  4. Thanks for the feedback DJC….I’m someone who has lots of the early stuff but no so much of the later material.

  5. weirdly enough (???) this is one of the XTC singles that really got hooked into that strange place of the brain that always and immediately turns on the happy internal signals. Love it!

  6. Ugh…the lone leg left holding up a crashing table…When I listen to XTC today, I constantly return to Mummer and Big Express. I really feel like there is a wonderful musical strategy at work from English Settlement through The Big Express. Sure it’s easy to judge the singles, as a studio band, well into long contract with a label, there was going to be outside pressure regarding what songs were released as singles. But these are albums worth a deeper dig than just being taken to task by the singles. Mummer stretches its musical muscles and paths on songs like Deliver Us From The Elements and Me And The Wind.
    The Big Express is an album full of studio experimentation by a band making music for itself as much as for public consumption. It opens with one of my favorite album openers – which we will get to next week in this space, I suspect. But more than anything it is a template for the next three albums and represented a shift in XTC’s music, that while not extreme, was certainly avoiding the expected, well what was expected of them. There are certainly some Beatle-esque qualities to the songs but, while not a real fan of the Fab Four, I seem to always enjoy that other bands do with the influence they have.
    So if I haven’t lost you, as for All You Pretty Girls, I’ve always enjoyed the almost nerdy sentiment of the song and sea shanty delivery. The Big Express is the album where the word eccentric would start to really appear in reviews of XTC…not a bad thing in my mind.

  7. Trying to be as open-minded as possible after reading Echorich’s well-thought evaluation, maybe it’s true to say that while the 83-84 period wasn’t the best time for the XTC’s SONGS, it was a formative time for the band’s SOUND. By the time the group had figured out how to work out their passion for psychedelia (as the Dukes of Stratosphear) they had brought all the pieces together, resulting in the brilliant Skylarking. So, while I’m still not a fan of the Mummer/Express LPs, it’s true that there’s a subtle musical thread running through the entire period that our boy has picked up on that I failed to recognize. Since XTC came out alright in due course I’m willing to go with Echorich’s more charitable view of the band’s development. Doesn’t mean I’m going to listen to those albums, mind you.

  8. Oh, I stop listening to XTC with the inertia-filled “Nonesuch.” An album I’m so cold to, I had to look its name up just now! Give me the “Mummer” to “Oranges + Lemons” arc any day! If I weren’t so chilly to “English Settlement” I’d extend that arc back to the powerful “Black Sea” for a fascinating and diverse 7 album career arc to compete with all time favorites by Simple Minds or Elvis Costello + The Attractions for an arc to set standards with. While I can’t say why Virgin picked a stirring sea shanty as a pre-release single, I was glad to hear it in any case! Yes, this music really was at odds with the 1984 pop landscape, thank goodness. Everyone shouldn’t have sounded like FGTH! I liked “The Big Express” a lot. Enough to buy the UK circular cover LP after owning the UK CD! And it’s home to one of my very favorite XTC songs; the delicate chamber psychedelia that was “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Hiss Her.”

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