Geffen Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's sometimes hard to believe so much time passes between reviews of certain artists here at "The Daily Vault"; I'm constantly reminded just how long it's been with my daily excursions into the Pierce Archives (good morning, Mr. Jordan... shall we dust Utah?).

Another thing that hits me often (besides dinnerware thrown at my head by Mrs. Pierce) is how long it's been since certain groups have released any new studio material. One such band is XTC; I can't believe it's been six years since Nonsuch came out. (One wonders what the future of the band is, with the recent departure of Dave Gregory from the fold.)

Andy Partridge and crew have been in a serious quandry: they've been putting out a lot of quality albums that not a lot of people have been buying. Most radio stations have all but ignored the band - a damn shame, seeing how many songs they've had that would easily fit into many different formats. And if any one of their works was ready for prime time, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Nonsuch was it.

Opening up this fifteen-song epic, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" is a backhanded slam against organized religion that has a poppy, dance-all-night beat (courtesy of drummer Dave Mattacks - who, if I remember right, has been a member of Jethro Tull recently). Partridge's vocals are in fine form on this track, and is one of the best songs on the album. Other songs that actually saw a little airplay (at least in Chicago, anyway) that are just as strong are "The Disappointed" and "Dear Madam Barnum," which happens to be an addictively good song.

Sharing the lead vocal duties, Colin Moulding turns in some strong performances as well. "The Smartest Monkeys," a slap in the face to the "civilized" society that won't help the downtrodden, benefits from powerful jangly guitar work, as well as Moulding's sarcastic "praise" of mankind. XTC also had to have learned something positive from their experience with producer Todd Rundgren back in their Skylarking days; the synthesizer work on "My Bird Performs" is hauntingly beautiful.

In fact, many of the songs on Nonsuch are some of the strongest this band has ever released. "Omnibus" catches your attention with its offbeat rhythm and alluded to sexuality ("makes your Shakespeare hard"? "makes your Union jack"? Hmm, wonder what Partridge is talkin' about...), while "Then She Appeared" shows its power in its softness.

The "masterpiece" of the album, "Rook," is the first inkling that Partridge (who proclaimed no existence of an Almighty on the song "Dear God") might have discovered some type of spirituality, asking in the song if he does indeed have a soul that it be watched over. (I once read an interview with Partridge where he said he kept bursting into tears when he recorded the vocals.)

There are some clunkers on Nonsuch, which prove when XTC were off their game, it was pretty bad. "Bungalow" is a very weak song that could easily have been cut, while "Humble Daisy" isn't the best song to come into after a rocker like "Dear Madam Barnum".

Nonsuch is one album that, thanks to bargain-line releases, is an album that's worth the minor expense to experience. (Hell, I paid full price in 1992, and I don't regret it for a moment.) If this album doesn't get you interested in the music of Partridge et al., then you need to have your head and ears examined. If this turns out to be the final XTC album ever, they chose a hell of a strong album to make their ezit with.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.