"IT'S NEW TO ME" WEEK (OCTOBER 20-26, 2013)
Note: the CD I listened to was the 2001 Virgin UK reissue.
When I was in high school, my buddy Jim had this group's Drums And Wires LP and I dug the song Making Plans For Nigel, but didn't think much about XTC beyond that. When I heard Dear God a few years later, I wrote off the group entirely. Then, in the very early days of Facebook, a "friend" posted a YouTube video of this album's final track, Chalkhills And Children. Normally I would pass right over such things, but for some reason I clicked on the link. What a beautiful song. After listening to that one song only a few times, this CD went on my wishlist. In this post from March 2012, I wrote the following: "The band's 1989 album Oranges & Lemons has been on my wishlist for a few years. I should go ahead and pull the trigger on that." And, according to the disturbingly "big brother" record keeping of Amazon, I finally purchased this album on April 18, 2012.
The songwriting is quirky and the production is as psychedelic as the cover art. At the time, critics often used the word "Beatleseque" with Rolling Stone magazine going so far as to mention this album in the same sentence as The Beatles' White Album in its review. Andy Partridge is no McCartney but, much like The White Album, when Oranges & Lemons is good, it's fantastic pop music. Listening today, two questions arise in my mind: "Why didn't I hear about this one in 1989?" and "Why haven't I gone out and listened to more of this group's music?" It reminds me a lot of some Squeeze music in that it requires multiple listenings before you begin to appreciate the wonderfully odd chord progressions. That fact, the orchestration, and the multi-layered production make each listening a unique experience. I'm thankful the group went with a real drummer instead of the synthdrums of the day. Good choice.
Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #44
Tracks: In addition to the aforementioned Chalkhills And Children, my other top tracks are Mayor Of Simpleton (the band's only single to crack the Billboard Hot 100 at #72), King For A Day, and One Of The Millions. I'll usually skip Across The Antheap and Cynical Days (while I dig the muted trumpet solo, the song is sorely out of place on this disc). To be honest, by the time I'm about 9 tracks in, I get in a hurry to hear Chalkhills, so I'll just skip straight to it.
Personal Memory Associated with this CD: see above