Friday, March 12, 2010

XTC - Fossil Fuel (Disc 2)

Release Date: September, 1996

★★★★★ Tracks:

Mayor of Simpleton

Soon after the moderate success XTC experienced with their single from 1982, "Senses Working Overtime," the band was to embark on a major tour, but it was cut short due to Andy Partridge's battle with anxiety issues, which crept up during their very first show in Paris. The band decided to stop touring indefinitely, and would never play a live performance again. But that wouldn't stop XTC from writing and producing more records.

This is where Fossil Fuel's disc 2 begins; when, in 1982, XTC transformed from live performers to strictly studio songwriters. The increased time spent on writing and production might have given their music more complexities, but for me, the songs here are less enjoyable. And less to do with XTC specifically, the overall production trends during the era, quickly becoming overkill, are mostly responsible for my waning interest. With the overuse of synthesizers and silly vocal effects, the trebly, twangy bass guitars, and the manipulation of the snare drum mix to give it an echoed, booming sound; 80's production was taking a lot of those innovative ideas from the New Wave and Punk Rock genres and running them in to the ground. In an attempt in sounding cutting-edge and futuristic, musicians and producers were actually accomplishing the opposite, leaving pop and rock from the era to sounds dated. XTC songs are often no different, and "All You Pretty Girls" is the track that best serve as a testament to this.

Putting aside my dislike for a lot of the trendy studio techniques from the 80's, after repeated listens I found a lot of songs I enjoy on disc 2, but only one I love; "Mayor of Simpleton." A breath of fresh air from the sound that defined them for much of the decade, the song represents a change in direction for XTC. It also reminds me a lot of those Gin Blossoms singles MTV would rotate (to death) a few years later.

Being a bit disappointed with Fossil Fuel's disc 2 after being completely blown away by disc 1, I am still very much looking forward to delving deeper in to XTC's discography. After sampling all the songs from Fossil Fuel many times over, I'm almost certain I will love their first few albums, and maybe as I work my way up the latter half of their catalogue, some of those records will surprise me. I might write more on XTC at another time, but for now it's time to move onwards (or backwards) to artists beginning with the letter "W."

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