So, if I'm covering the XTC albums in order, I guess my next stop is Drums & Wires. I can't very well complain about that, since I've always loved this one. The band is starting to get more into the Beatle-based pop sound, but still retains some of their unusual structures. And now for the songs:
Making Plans for Nigel - The biggest hit on the album, and while it's not my personal favorite, I can't deny it's a great song.
Helicopter - This song is just so absurdly catchy that I'm not sure how anyone could dislike it. The words are pretty cool as well. "She's got to be obscene to be obheard." And I'm quite amused by the bit toward the end when Andy says, "Look out, town!"
Day In Day Out - Not one of my favorites on the album, but I think Colin does do a good job at capturing the tedium of the work day. I've noticed a general tendency for artistic types to be really bored by more mundane jobs (not that the rest of us aren't, but it seems worse for the artsy ones).
When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty - Another one that's just catchy and fun to listen to. I particularly like the wobbly noise that comes in after the word "jellyfish."
Ten Feet Tall - It seems a little weird to me, having gotten into the band in the late nineties, that Colin was once the band's main hit-maker. Like the preceding song, this is a catchy song about how it feels to be in love.
Roads Girdle the Globe - One of the weirder songs on the album, this is a sarcastic hymn of praise to the automobile, presented in kind of a dirge style. Andy would later revisit this topic in the more pastoral "River of Orchids." Andy never learned to drive, and was of the opinion that cars have become too central in our lives. Since I didn't drive back when I first started listening to XTC, I found that rather appealing. I do drive now (honestly, I didn't have much of a choice once I started looking for a permanent job), but I still think there's some merit to Andy's argument.
Reel by Reel - A song about the lack of privacy in today's society. Even this early on in his career, Andy could hit on some pretty serious topics, although he usually did so in a relatively light manner.
Millions - A song with a faux-Chinese sort of sound. I know that one of the band members referred to the guitar part as "Yangtze Doodle Dandy." I like the song, and it's intended as a positive ode to China (this was in the days before Tiananmen Square, after all), but some of the lyrics are a bit cringe-worthy in this day and age.
That Is the Way - Another Colin song, with a sort of similar sound to "Day In Day Out," but this one is about proper etiquette and such.
Outside World - When I was in college, this was sort of my anthem, as pretty much everything that I heard about the world at large just disturbed and saddened me. These were the days of Slobodan Milosevic, Operation Desert Fox, and Clinton's strike at Bin Laden. I was a history major, so I certainly couldn't totally avoid current events, but I could identify with Andy's desire to drown out the world with tongue-twisting animals. If only I'd known things would get much worse in just a few years.
Scissor Man - I really like this song, although there are other recordings of it that I like better than the album cut. The album track just comes across as a little too subdued when compared to live versions. The Scissor Man is a character from a cautionary tale meant to scare kids into behaving, but I can't help imagining him as looking like Cut Man from the first Mega Man game. Oh, and if you haven't heard it yet, you owe it to yourself to listen to Robin Goldwasser's cover of this song. I believe Primus has also covered it, although I haven't heard their version.
Complicated Game - A song with a lot of build-up, starting out really quiet and concerned with mundane matters, and working up to politics and the placement of the world, while getting progressively noisier. This song has also been covered quite competently, by the band Moonshine Willy.
And now, for the bonus tracks:
Life Begins at the Hop - The first XTC CD I bought was Upsy Daisy Assortment, a greatest hits kind of deal, and this was the opening track. I kind of think they should have used it as the opening number for D&W, seeing as how it's quite engaging. Oh, well. I believe there were pressings of the record that included this song, but I'm not sure of its placement.
Chain of Command - You know, it's pretty much expected that They Might Be Giants would write songs about the inner workings of the human body, but it's a little odd coming from XTC. Oh, well. It's actually a pretty good song, but I can see why it was a B-side.
Limelight - One of those songs examining fame from the outside, which is an interesting idea, but done better in other XTC songs.
I suppose it'll be on to Black Sea next week. Get ready for a trip from Respectable Street to Nihilon, stopping at the Towers of London along the way.