Let’s say you’re like me—an XTC fan—and you meet someone who’s never heard of the band. Where to begin? With so many stellar albums to choose from, it’s tough to recommend the one where novices should start with.
It’s at this point where I’m resigned to recommend starting with the very same record that turned me into an XTC fan, Black Sea, an album so near-perfect that you’re most assuredly going to delve deeper into the band’s catalog after listening to it.
Black Sea marks the end of their “drums and wires” period, the culmination of the quirky guitar pop of their first three albums. With each album, they got better and Black Sea shows the perfection that all of their rehearsing and touring provided.
For those of you who thought that Andy Partridge had simply gone the route of “closet cleaning” with the release of last year’s vast Fuzzy Warbles: Collector’s Album box set, his latest project wants to assure you that he isn’t ready to reside on the merits of his history just yet.
Monstrance finds Andy partnering up with Shriekback members Barry Andrews and Martyn Barker for a two-disc exercise in improvisational exchange. Andrews, you might recall, was a member of the original XTC line-up before leaving to form Shriekback, but be warned: Monstrance sounds nothing like either of those bands.
So what does it sound like? Pretty much what you’d expect from an album with liner notes that read, “There was no rehearsal or discussion about key, tempo or feel and no overdubbing. It just came out this way.”