Statue of Liberty
Making Plans for Nigel
Love at First Sight
I generally don't like "Greatest Hits" collections. I'm the meticulous type of person who likes to hear an album in order and in its entirety, at least for the first couple of listens. I just don't feel I am properly digesting the material otherwise. A collection of singles not only cuts an artist's work in to bits and pieces, but it's also not often ordered chronologically, and when a band has such an extensive catalogue like that of XTC's, spanning decades, it's nearly impossible to pinpoint what they sounded like during a specific period in time. So when I found out that XTC's Fossil Fuel was in chronological order, covering 31 tracks from 1977-1992, I ignored my disdain for an album's worth of singles and decided it would be the best place to start.
And I wasn't disappointed. I can't believe it took me 29 years to try out any of XTC's music! Not many in the U.S. have, as their success in the UK, Canada, and Australia has not carried over to the States. Other than "Senses Working Overtime" (Mandy Moore's a fan, and covered the track on her 2003 album Coverage) peaking at 10 on the charts, none of their singles cracked the top 10 until 1989, when "Mayor of Simpleton" climbed to #1 on the Rock charts. I'm not sure why, either. Almost every song on Fossil Fuel's first disc is incredibly catchy. The song I most recognize and one of my favorites is "Making Plans for Nigel." It holds up infinitely more than most the singles hitting the charts in 1979, like "My Sharona" and "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." We also get to see an early music video here, and a very odd one at that. How much fun is it to sing along to this?
The first three tracks on Fossil Fuel are taken from XTC's first LP, White Music, and they're phenomenal. I haven't heard the whole album yet, but these songs sound like the UK's answer to the Talking Heads, and a collection of tracks Hot Hot Heat have been mimicking since their existence. My favorite of the bunch is "Statue of Liberty." It was their first ever single, but banned in the UK soon after its release because of its suggestive lyrics. Or I guess, suggestive in terms of 1978:
"I leaned right over to kiss your stoney book.
A little jealous of the ships with whom you flirt.
A billion lovers with their cameras snap to look.
And in my fantasy I sail beneath your skirt."
Disc 2 is up next.