XTC's time machine lands in 1967,with paisley swirls dancing upon a string tape-laden Mellotron. A masterpiece of two albums - 25 O'clock and Psonic Psunspot ( get them on vinyl if only for the covers ) is this CD only release, and it is a worthy addition to the collection of anyone with ears to hear. There's so many influences being channelled here that to list them would be pointless. ( And probably had already been done ). Suffice to say, any pop/ psych combo from 1967/68 gets a musical nod from Messrs Moulding, Partridge and both Gregory brothers. It goes without saying that the musicianship is excellent, use of period backline, guitars and keyboards faultless, and attention to detail inspiring, particularly Dave Gregory's carefully crafted guitar parts, and Colin Moulding's inspirational basslines, even more so when apparently he was the least enthusiastic about the project. Everyone should have a copy of the album - essential listening, especially with headphones on...pan-tastic heaven! Even the original atomic run out groove message is on there.. class!
The Dukes of Strastosphear are XTC, s indulgence, a chance to play the music they listened to in their youth, namely 60,s era psychedelic. Chips from a Chocolate Fireball are a compilation featuring all the material from both of the albums they produced under that moniker. ("Psionic Psunspot" and "25 O, Clock") It's a remarkable pastiche featuring all the requisite elements needed. Backward guitars phased out vocal effects, bongo's tabla, s and more woozy keyboards than you could shake a joss stick at. Of course the lyrics are eccentric too without descending into wearisome wacky territory. What really makes this such a special album though and where Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are concerned this shouldn't be that big a surprise is the quality of the songs. Every single track on here has something to offer and half a dozen are flagrantly brilliant. "Vanishing Girl" revels in an irresistible pristine guitar melody. "Collideascope" has chunky swirls of reverse looped guitars and an insistent sing along chorus. "You're a good man Albert Brown" is a piano led stonker sung with a cod Cockney verve by Partridge while "Mole from the Ministry " is a monstrous Beatleesque anthem with kiddy choir backing and Wagnerian all enveloping sound. It's fantastic. "Pale and precious" is made of far more fragile material but it wears it Beach Boy heart on its sleeve and by the second verse has morphed into another joyous celebration of euphonious brilliance. This whole album is almost like a celebration of music and its diversity, all be it within the confines of one genre. It showcases how unashamedly enjoyable beautifully crafted songs can be and 60,s obsession or not, that's something that will never go out of fashion.
Chips from the Chocolate Fireball (sadly not reissued with the artwork that came with the originals- though with a pleasant remastering)was a 1987-compilation taking in the two mini-LPs released by The Dukes of Stratosphear. The Dukes...were the alter-ego of XTC, developed in the period following their live retirement & loss of drummer (English Settlement onwards). They memorably got a thank you on the sleevenotes of Skylarking (1986)! Like The Rutles, The Dukes... took pastiche to a deeply original level- rather than plumping for a record of cover-versions, The Dukes got at one with their psych-selves & recorded songs very much in the style of various 60s heroes- from The Beatles to The Yardbirds to Pink Floyd to The Move to The Electric Prunes to The Hollies to The Zombies to The Byrds to...It got stuff out of there system and appeared to contribute to the originality of the great XTC LPs Skylarking & Oranges & Lemons (1989). The Dukes...weren't the sole act getting psychedelic in the 1980s- psych-peers at the time included Banshees/Cure-side project The Glove (influenced by The Prisoner & Yellow Submarine amongst other things), the so-called Paisley Underground & the classic World Shut Your Mouth/Fried double-set from Julian Cope. The first six songs come from 25 O'Clock (1985), which is the superior of the two mini-LPs; the title track has a vocal very reminiscent of Julian Cope, while the first two opening tracks smack very much of Syd's Floyd (with nods to I Had too Much to Dream Last Night, Time & pre-Dark Side Floyd too!). They make an exercise in postmodern intertextuality fun though!; this CD remains perfect music for parties! My Love Explodes has a feel not unlike Over Under Sideways Down, while What in the World (which almost became a film!) is a great song written by Colin Moulding, at one with 60s psych and surrealdom: "2032 housewives shock in blue/What is the world coming to?/What in the world...2033 Cannabis in tea- what in the world?- Acid is free- what in the world?...2034 women fight the wars- men are too bored, they're scrubbing floors..."! Moulding nods also to Manfred Mann and Yellow Submarine-Beatles (Only a Northern Song, Hey Bulldog); Your Gold Dress sees Andy Partridge nod to several bands at the same time (notably Satanic Majesties Request-Stones)& should appeal to anyone who likes Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation (perhaps more the Nuggets II British sequel?). 25 O'Clock concludes on the deeply strange The Mole from the Ministry, which nods to a George Martin-produced oddity called We are the Moles! There are plenty of nods to Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour-Beatles (Strawberry Fields, Walrus, Day in the Life); this shows just how pedestrian Noel Gallagher has been in his attempt to mimic Lennon & co! The rest of Chips...stems from the 1987 follow-up Psonic Psunspot, which is almost as great as 25 O'Clock & easily a work of genius! Partridge & co display their pop-song prowess (always a constant of XTC- the thinking-persons Beatles/Kinks)- the jangly Holliesesque Vanishing Girl, more Floyd-nodding tracks (Albert Brown, Collideascope) & a nod to Younger Than Yesterday/5D-Byrds (there are even spoken word parts that make you think of Alice in Wonderland & the early releases by The Orb!). Shiny Cage is a brilliant nod to Revolver's I'm Only Sleeping- Moulding easily matching Lennon here!; as great is Pale & Precious- which no doubt nods to Smile/Smiley-Brian Wilson- this is very much a precursor to Oranges & Lemon's Chalkhills & Children (Brian Wilson lost to Albion...) Chips...is a great compilation & a hugely influential record- co-producer John Leckie would be employed by The Stone Roses to get that authentic 60s sound on that overrated debut LP! A CD all homes should have, even if only in 2033!
No, I am NOT going to try and keep up with the other reviews herein; they more than make the case for this terrific little (double?)album! I just wish to add my sincere appreciation for the way the boys have re-captured my 1960's soul with an astonishing accuracy of homage. Each track sounds SO familiar, with echoes of (takes a deep breath here:), the Beatles, the Hollies, ? and the Mysterians (remember THEM?), the Moles (remember THEM??), the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney (circa "Ram"), the Monkees, "Satanic Majesties" period Rolling Stones... the list goes on, and I'm sure there are several that I have missed. I love that the mix on the "25 O'Clock" album sounds like every '45 B-side (oh dear, REMEMBER THEM???) I ever owned; scratchy top end, missing midrange and slightly fluffy bass-end, pure GENIUS! Oh yes, I forgot that "You're My Drug" is PERFECT "Five Miles High" Byrds! And as for the closer "Pure and Perfect", it is most certainly the most wonderful song the Beach Boys NEVER wrote! It is such a shame that there seems no place for this kind of artistry in the pop world today. I guess you kinda had to have been there, didn't you?
XTC's time machine lands in 1967,with paisley swirls dancing upon a string tape-laden Mellotron. A masterpiece of two albums - 25 O'clock and Psonic Psunspot ( get them on vinyl if only for the covers ) is this CD only release, and it is a worthy addition to the collection of anyone with ears to hear. There's so many influences being channelled here that to list them would be pointless. ( And probably had already been done ). Suffice to say, any pop/ psych combo from 1967/68 gets a musical nod from Messrs Moulding, Partridge and both Gregory brothers. It goes without saying that the musicianship is excellent, use of period backline, guitars and keyboards faultless, and attention to detail inspiring, particularly Dave Gregory's carefully crafted guitar parts, and Colin Moulding's inspirational basslines, even more so when apparently he was the least enthusiastic about the project. Everyone should have a copy of the album - essential listening, especially with headphones on...pan-tastic heaven! Even the Tuli Kupferberg-esqe run out groove message is on there.. class!
Hollies and Del Shannon, Pink Floyd and Move, Beach Boys and Byrds, Yardbirds and Stones, and of course the BEATLES - all in one album. And many more, find out which ("doesn't that sound like...")! If you think (as I do) that pop music's inventiveness reached a peak in the sixties it will never climb again, you will absolutely love XTC's hommage 20 years after. It's funny, witty and nostalgic.
I played this (and enjoyed it immensely) while driving in my car accompanied by my 13 year old daughter and three of her friends. While I was nodding at some of the many cameos and references to other groups, the kids just took it at face value and absolutely loved it anyway which is a far greater and much deserved compliment. The songs are beautifully musical and laden with affection for their influences, but they stand up by themselves without needing the prop of "tribute" to justify their existence. Perhaps this compilation should have been released as a straight XTC album somewhere between Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons, with no reference to tributes or influences at all. It deserves to stand on its own feet without being seen as merely an indulgence or pet project of its creators, and I think as other reviewers have rightly stated, nobody would mention Oasis without acknowledging XTC's greater ability to write not just "Lennon songs" but Lennon Beatles, McCartney Beatles or George Martin Beatles as distinct sounds. Personal favourites include Vanishing Girl, Little Lighthouse, and You're my Drug (all could have been top 20 hits in the sixties), but the groove stuck permanently in my head is the glorously cheesy guitar and mad pounding drum riff from "Your Gold Dress", a song that so captures and encompasses all the self indulgent, self regarding sour psychadelia of the late 60s "underground" and offers it up for the froth that it really was. Never mind Syd Barrett, who remembers Pete Brown's Piblokto?? Yes this is a clever album but more importantly it's realy really enjoyable.
It took about 3 plays for this to get under my skin completely. A brilliant recording, with lots of weird early-Pink Floyd and late Beatles-sounding psychedelia. Channelling mid to late 60s pop perfectly, this is finely-crafted album of infectious pop songs played through a haze of incense and grass. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are very fine songwriters, and their playing, with the multi-talented David Gregory, is spot on. Highly recommended.
I used to have this on vinyl and lost it years ago, so to have on remastered CD is fantastic.
This is a real labour of love and done with such care and skill. The instrument sounds, backwards vocals and general 60's 'feel' of the whole thing are a joy to listen to. You don't have to be an XTC fan or even particularly a fan of psychedelic (for want of a better word) music to love this.
If you didn't know this was a fun side-project of XTC from the 80's you would swear that it was recorded by some obscure British (it could only be British) garage/psychedelia band in Carnaby Street in 1967
Having had the original ep and album on dodgy vinyl for years it was great to hear it all on one cd. I had completely forgotten what great 60s psychedelic pop forgerers the Dukes were. Not only do you get the supreme melodicism you would expect of anything to do with XTC but tracks like "Bike ride to the moon" and "Youre a good man Albert Brown" are great fun lyrically too.They must have had a blast making it and the project enhanced their reputation and career. Shame on Virgin (their record company) when a few years later the band suggested making a spoof album of great "lost" 60s bubblegum music from the "legendary" Zither records label, Virgin turned it down flat, what a great loss that was!