Oranges & Lemons
XTC’s long-awaited tenth album was released in July with a late ’60’s pop-art style drawing of the group on the cover. I was suspicious at first that this two record set would be yet another group’s vain attempt to sound like the Beatles, but after hearing “Mayor of Simpleton,” the album’s first single on the radio, I decided to take a chance. Contrary to my fear, I found that this album can be judged by its cover. XTC, as always, doesn’t try to sound like anyone but themselves, and the result is another great album from this highly overlooked group.
The album is actually a conglomeration of the many different styles XTC has played in the past. “Scarecrow People” and “Across This Antheop” echo their punk rock days in the ’70’s while “Mayor of Simpleton,” “The Loving,” and “Pink Thing” are all reminiscent of their early ’80’s new wave albums, and “Merely a Man,” “Cynical Days” and “The Garden of Earthly Delights” are modern psychedelic tunes in the tradition of their 1986 album “Skylarking.
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” But XTC also seems to be moving in a jazz-rock direction, and they make brilliant use of a horn section on “Miniature Sun” and “Chalkhills and Children,” the last two tracks of the album. The horn section also combines with the old XTC style on “Merely a Man” and “Here Comes President Kill Again.” Even after 11 years, Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge are still coming up with ideas for songs that have never been used before.
“Oranges & Lemons” doesn’t quite have the initial effect of “Skylarking” but that’s only because it’s a more complete album. After listening to it several times, tunes like “King For a Day” and “Miniature Sun” grew into my favorite songs, although they seemed quite ordinary at first. It’s clear that this album took a lot of polishing, and that the group wanted to get every note right. In this sense, “Oranges & Lemons” was well worth the wait.
Additional Note: And if you like this album, I recommend two of their others, “Skylarking” and “English Settlement,” (which is a two record set from 1982), both of these are at least as good as “Oranges & Lemons,” though the variety of music isn’t quite as broad.