George Starostin's Reviews



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Sylvan <> (12.05.2003)

Mostly right on, although I consider 'All Along the Watchtower' (which, by the way, was recorded live for some reason) to be at least decent, even if the stupid vocals detract from it. Listen to that crazyass groove, man! This album is a whole boatload of fun, and I think it's just as good, in its own way, as Skylarking or English Settlement.

Also, don't be surprised that they sound 'all grown up' right off the bat: contrary to what AMG ("the 'A' stands for Accurisy!") would have you believe, the band formed way back in 1972. Andy, Colin, and Terry (with assorted pre-Barry keyboard players) were recording demos for various record companies under the names "Star Park" and "Helium Kidz" as early as 1974-75. Even back then, the band's sound was quite fully formed, although their songwriting had yet to mature. Check those out if you can find 'em.

In case you're counting, that was before Blondie, The Cars, Pere Ubu, and all those other people with whom you're fond of comparing them. In my view XTC are at least the equals of Talking Heads & The Police in the 'upper tier' of the new wave.

<> (28.06.2003)

I had the privilege of seeing XTC touring the White Music album. XTC were, I believe, the support act for 'Elvis Costello & The Attractions' on that occasion but it's all a long time ago now.

I like the 'oddness' of the material on White Music and it worked very well on stage.

It was interesting to note the effect that the parting of Barry Andrews (keyboard player) had on the band. For me they went on to write some fantastic & well crafted singles without him. The early signs of their potential were there however with the pop type songs on White Music.

In the respect of 'Watchtower' an interesting point of note from the official website was that XTC nearly did 'Citadel' from The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request album.

Now that would have been a better selection in my book as I feel that 'Watchtower' becomes a bit of a dirge and I tend to skip it when playing the album.

Mark Evans <> (08.04.2004)

In my view four stars is much too high a rating for what is a poor debut album. As you say 'Radios in Motion', 'Statue of Liberty' and 'This is Pop' are all fine songs although the single version of the latter is far superior to what is included here. However the rest of the album is largely awful bordering on the unlistenable. Songs like 'Crosswires' sound hideously dated though in truth I can't believe that they ever sounded good and as for 'All Along The Watchtower' the less said the better 4/10.

GO 2

Mark Evans <> (15.04.2004)

This is even worse than the rather dismal White Music. Apart from the unbelievably catchy 'Meccanik Dancing' this complete album sucks. 'Are you Receving' is also a fine song but was not part of the original album. Hence I could not give this album more than 3/10. I read somewhere that around the time of Go2's release Brian Eno said that XTC were the only band he would consider joining but in his words 'they didn't need him'. Shame really as you can't help but wonder what might have been.


Inkei Bence <> (13.08.2003)

Sorry, but in my opinion Drums and Wires is the best XTC album, a true masterpiece with some excellent songs on both sides, and this was the first classic album of the band (the second was Skylarking). Drums and Wires is one of the best albums of new wave, and also much better and accessible than such overrated classics like Remain In Light or any of the Police albums. 'Complicated Game' is not the best song on the album however, but it's a good song for closing the record, a little bit claustrophobic and neurotic - like Andy Partridge always was. Best tracks: 'Ten Feet Tall' (simply beautiful), 'Making Plans For Nigel' (timeless) and 'Hellicopter' (should have been released as a single, it would have been a new wave dance hit).

Mark Evans <> (13.01.2004)

I feel your being a little harsh on this George. in my opinion it is a definite improvement on both White Music and Go2. however thats not to say i think its all that good as i agee that 'Complicated Game' and 'Roads Girdle the Road' are just plain awful. also hate 'Millions' and 'That is the Way'. However the rest is quite enjoyable particularly the excellent 'Making Plans For Nigel'. Not the band's best effort but by no means the worst.


Rick Atbert <> (23.07.2005)

I got this after I got Drums and Wires, because I think that it's a good album, unlike what you say, with songs like "Helicopter" and "Reel by Reel", but true, a bit boring sometimes. Black Sea is really only boring in a few parts (like tracks 5-8, which are all decent, but I don't think they should have been clumped together like that). "Burning With Optimism's Flames" is brilliant, and Moulding's songs, "Generals and Majors" and "Love at First Sight" are nearly impossible to get out of your head. "Travels in Nihilion" is pretty cool too, very different from the band's other works. I also think the first two bonus tracks, are great, "Smokeless Zone" should have been a hit!


Nick Pulliam <> (24.04.2002)

Hi George,

Thanks for creating your great site. I would like to comment about your XTC English Settlement review:

This album is the first I ever heard from XTC largely to the small success that 'senses working overtime' had as a single. Quite a transitional album as it contains their last bits of Ska and almost their last punk type songs. I originally bought the album in the US where it was cut and marketted as a single album. When I got the CD I was thrilled with all the tracks that I had missed and I consider the filler to be minimal. Standout tracks: 'Senses Working Overtime', 'Jason And The Argonauts', 'Yahcht Dance', 'Snowman', 'English Roudabout'. Worst song: 'Melt the Guns', I just can't stand the song.

John Schlegel <> (10.11.2003)

Excellent review; I agree with your rating, and I think you truly "get" this album, whereas some XTC fans don't. Before I proceed, though, I would like to point out that I for one LOVE Partridge and Moulding as vocalists! No, I wouldn't call them technically spectacular singers. But they're competent singers, and the pure uniqueness of their voices can be seen as complementary to their music. You admit that their styles work on the early New Wave albums, but not on their "traditional pop" records of the '80s. True, XTC veered into a more standard pop direction, but their music hardly became "standard." It remains quirky and original, and the odd vocal stylings of Partridge and Moulding only enhance their whole intellectual appeal. I guess they're an acquired taste, but so is their music. XTC have an emotional impact on me, but you can dismiss me as fucked up for that reason if you'd like.

Okay, on to the album. What could I possibly add? It's a sprawling epic (in a good way) rich in stylistic diversity. Like you, I wouldn't want to see any of this trimmed. I enjoy all the songs for some reason or another. Even the tracks I used to dislike grew on me eventually. "Leisure" is bouncy enough to enjoy, and the vocal work is interesting. I think the chorus of "Melt the Guns" is quite catchy, and "It's Nearly Africa" has mesmerizing rhythms. (Those are the songs I have written off in previous reader comments.) I think the highlights are many, but I'll just point out the ones you didn't. "Yacht Dance" is beautifully atmospheric, and really makes me feel like I'm kickin' it in the tropics or something. "Down in the Cockpit" is SOOOO infectious, and "All of a Sudden (It's Too Late)" creates a very somber mood. A masterpiece, and my second favorite XTC album, bested only by Skylarking.

Mark Evans <> (11.02.2004)

Pretty much agree with your review. However I actually think the album would have benefited from being cut down. The first seven tracks are all fine but then things start to get a bit sticky. 'Melt the Guns', 'Leisure' and 'Knuckle Down' are in my opinion just plain awful songs that should have never seen the light of day. The last few tracks show an improvement but they are not up to the standard of the first seven. Neverthless this is still one of the band's best albums IMHO.

Rick Atbert <> (23.07.2005)

You were, did THIS album ever grow on me. At first listen, I thought it was just too long, and too boring, but a lot of this is prime material. Every song I can sing along too, and some of the guitar work is great. "Runaways" is fantastic, but I have really started to like "Yacht Dance"...besides maybe "Sacrificial Bonfire" I think it's the most captivating song XTC ever did.


<> (03.10.2003)

Three stars? maybe two and a half...maybe just two. There are awful things on this record like this kind of "Maria" (Bernstein-West side story) line-melody-ripof that Moulding sings on "In loving memory of a name", buaj! awful one. And the rest is not focused into something, they seemed lost, and the worse of all is that there was nobody outside the band allowed to tell them that "Mummer" did not featured more than three good tracks. By the other hand I agree absolutely with you about the extra tracks, the record is worth because of them. What a great instrumentals, what a great "Desert Island" or "Jump" or "Toys" are really right on this one.


<> (17.08.2002)

Well, I think the album's great, but then again I think all my XTC albums are great (I only bought 4: this, Black Sea, Skylarking and Chips from the Chocolate Fireball). What I wanted to comment on, though, was how could you leave 'seagulls screaming kiss her kiss her' out of your review? It might be the best song on the album! It's so offbeat and clever and quirky and so eccentric that it probably needs years of therapy while still being quite melodical, albeit in an unconventional way. A real stand out track; to avenge this omission from your review I'm never going to send you another reader comment about the Big Express. Yes, I know that seems drastic, but you need to be taught a lesson. Writes about stupid donkeys getting shaken but not seagulls screaming... speciest.

<> (03.10.2003)

Mixep up feeling about this one.I think they failed in production terms and the global sound of drums does not work well with voices,guitar and bass. "Shake your donkey" features a bad drum pattern that does not help the song at all and throws away this kind of "Xtc" goes Bluegrass". Same thing for "Seagulls..."a bad pattern again. But good news is that the record has one of the best beginnings of all times and yes, there are also great tracks on "Big Express". I would like to remember a lost one: "Train running..." whoaaaaaaaaaa, is that really Xtc or is King Crimson (Belew line-up) doing their heavy-atractive style?

And there is a good extra track by Moulding: "Wash away" with a catchy piano sequence that I reallly love. The record is not as great as Black sea or English settlement but it is one of the good records of the band.

Mark Evans <> (18.04.2004)

On first listen I was horrified by this album but after repeated listening I now regard it as a half-decent effort. It's kind of like a return to the Black Sea sound though ultimately not as good. I think the main reasons for this are poor production and inconsistent songwriting. Apart from the awful 'Shake Your Donkey Up' side one is uniformly good with 'Wake Up', 'All You Pretty Girls' and 'This World Over' being the stand out tracks. However the second half of the album is nowhere near as good. 'Reign of Blows' and 'Train Running Low on Soul Coal' have no melody whatsoever and are painful to my ears.'I Bought Myself A Liarbird' is an improvement as is 'You're the Wish I Had' but the vocals are weak on these tracks and spoil my enjoyment of them. Nevertheless I would still give this 6/10.

Mark Evans <> (28.04.2004)

George, What can I say? You were right and I was wrong. This is definitely better than the 6/10 I gave in my previous review. I still don't like 'Reign of Blows' and a couple of other tracks. But I have to admit that the rest is pretty damn good and I now think that this could be a better album than English Settlement, which I have gone off somewhat due to its very weak second half.

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