Blog entry

the ecstasy of XTC

song of the day: Dear God (XTC, from Skylarking)

Did You make disease,
and the diamond blue?
Did You make mankind
after we made You
and the Devil too?

word of the day: alaudine (of or pertaining to skylarks)
punk monk of the day: kismet smith

sorry for the gap in blogs, i was on vacation in Minnesota, well- a working vacation (did a show in Duluth-you people ROCK! i love playing Duluth!). i'm back in Colorado now, home sweet home, and that's good cause all the fun and frolicking in the lake state knocked me a bit off my routine. today it's back in place solid, wake up, meditate, work out, blog, do the music business till dinner time, dinner with family, then come back out and make music and the language of IS till about midnight. watch a movie, go to bed.

while in Minnesota (don't try to figure out why or when from one blog to another i capitalize proper names and places, it's completely random and there's no hidden meaning or agenda other than i don't really like to capitalize. it's superfluos- there's no caps in IS and it's worked out just fine;-) hell the romans {hee hee} didn't capitalize OR include properspacingandpeoplestillfiguredthatshitout...). i picked up a copy of Skylarking, XTC's album from 1986. i've been listening to it since about 1990, i remember picking up a copy in college. it's been out 18 years, and when i put it in today, it sounded like it had just come out yesterday. in fact, if this album had come out yesterday i would be blown away by it- the production alone is landmark. i easily place this album in the top 10 or 20 of all time in pop music, i'd put it above most Beatles albums even. it's true that XTC (Andy Partridge is the one who writes 90% of the songs) really owes most of what it does with production, arrangement, melody and such to the Beatles, but that's flatly the case for every pop or rock band in existence, since the Beatles fucking invented pop music and nothing truly innovative has come along since them (except rap and hip hop) and that includes grunge, techno, yadda yadda. there was Bach (who essentially made music everything it's been since he died) and then there was the Beatles (who invented pop music, and wrote pretty much every song we've ever heard. we've all been re-writing Beatles songs since i wanna hold your hand or whatever came first.

anyway, that qualification aside, XTC towers over the history of pop music as one of the most imaginative, daring, brilliant bands the world has ever heard. their albums English Settlement, Oranges and Lemons, Skylarking, Nonsuch, and Apple Venus Volume One (the come-back album of the decade) are landmark works- each one a unique revelation reminding us of the possibility of art at its best. these albums have everything a listener could hope for in lyrics, subject matter, masterfully crafted produciton, virtuoso musicianship, and mind-blowing arrangements.

even after hearing Skylarking hundreds upon hundreds of time over the last 15 years, putting it in today i was surprised and astounded in dozens of ways. there's 14 tracks, and every last one of them (except Big Day) is a diamond. i still cannot believe the fucking string arrangements of 1000 Umbrellas, and even though this band uses a good dose of effects and tricks, this album does not sound the slightest big dated. perhaps my favorite thing about Skylarking is the way the subject matter of the album morphs on you without you noticing it: the album begins with songs about summer, romance, sex, but then between tracks 5 (Ballet For A Rainy Day) and 7 (Season Cycle) the slide begins to occur in topicality, and around track 10 (Another Satellite) things get darker. the closing tracks of 11 (The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul), 12 (Dear God), 13 (Dying), and 14 (Sacrificial Bonfire) form a stunning sequence that leaves me with a profound feeling of awe and wonder every time i hear it. Todd Rundgren (producer of Skylarking) is said to have conceived of the sequence of songs on the whole album as comprising a life time in one day. i don't believe the songs were ever written with that intent, but the effect after Todd lined them up that way is incredibly effective. this album does indeed feel like a lifetime is flashing before your eyes, and its over so soon! how could it have gone that fast. it's also notable that two of the crucial last songs (Dying and Sacrificial bonfire) were written by Colin Moulding. it seems that through much of XTC's career it's really been an Andy Partridge project with Colin in the band and occasionally writing some songs. but on Skylarking there's no doubting that those last two songs are the ones that launch the album right into the stratosphere, as the soul expires, renewel is already occuring- the cycle continues, and we the listeners are left in a space big enough to witness and wonder the All- as enigmatic as it is infinite. how many bands are capable of leaving us in such a place of awareness?

thanks XTC!!!

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