12 February 2013

12th Feb - XTC's English Settlement

Artist – Album: XTC – English Settlement
Released:  12th February 1982    
Sounds Like: British bombast

It’s Pancake Day, yay! Elsewhere in the world today is known as Mardi Gras, a day of feasts and carnivals and bead-winning, topless ladies; in England we just have pancakes, lemon and sugar. No chocolate and ice cream please, we’re British.

XTC are quintessentially British and this, arguably their finest album, celebrates this to the full. Take the title, English Settlement; take the cover art, based on the prehistoric Uffington White Horse which is carved in to the chalk on a hill in Oxfordshire; take the song ‘English Roundabout’ inspired by an actual roundabout in Swindon named The Magic Roundabout. They also are part of the lineage of great UK bands, from The Kinks to Blur, who consistently craft excellent, catchy and layered pop songs that could only come from these shores.

What XTC do here that’s different from the likes of The Kinks or The Jam is the level of bombast they add to each songs acoustic beginnings. None of the songs are rushed – the shortest of these fifteen tracks is nearly three and a half minutes long – and each is surrounded by thumping drums and epic production. The brilliant ‘Senses Working Overtime’ was a new wave hit and the two other, less successful singles ‘Ball and Chain’ and ‘No Thugs In Our House’ are equally excellent. The bitter ‘Snowman’ is masked by a lovely melody and ‘All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late)’ contains some of the best imagery of their entire back catalogue, a beautiful lament to lost love.

The only problem is the length – it’s a double album and, towards the end, feels it. Otherwise, it’s flipping (pancake joke!) fantastic.

Albumaday... rating: 8/10

1.       Runaways – 4:34
2.       Ball and Chain – 4:32
3.       Senses Working Overtime – 4:50
4.       Jason and the Argonauts - 6:07
5.       No Thugs in Our House – 5:09
6.       Yacht Dance – 3:56
7.       All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late) – 5:21
8.       Melt the Guns - 6:34
9.       Leisure – 5:02
10.   It’s Nearly Africa – 3:55
11.   Knuckle Down – 4:28
12.   Fly on the Wall – 3:19
13.   Down in the Cockpit – 5:27
14.   English Roundabout – 3:59
15.   Snowman – 5:03

Listen to ‘All of a Sudden (It’s Too Late)’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gZ274Wy6_Y

Also released on the 12th February:
1981: Rush – Moving Pictures
Also released on the 12th February:
1996: The Bluetones – Expecting to Fly

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