I belong to an XTC fan group on Facebook. It's the usual stuff with people posting songs and videos, pictures of rare band memorabilia, etc.. Occasionally, there is some news or new music...but not yesterday. Yesterday, someone asked the question, "What is your least played XTC record?"As I scrolled through over 100 or so replies, I was absolutely shocked at the overwhelming dislike for "Wasp Star," their 2000 farewell, a record that falls in my Top 3. Another shocker, though the response was not as overwhelming, was the distaste for "Nonsuch" from 1992, which is indeed, my favorite XTC record.
XTC were two different bands-- pre-"Skylarking" and post-"Skylarking." I love both bands, and the only record I don't play is their second, "Go 2," which would have been my answer to the Facebook question, if I had chosen to get involved instead of just lurking and stewing. Almost every XTC prior to "Skylarking" has moments of brilliance with bursts of quirk over quality. But the last records, starting with 1987's "Skylarking," and continuing with "Oranges & Lemons," "Nonsuch," "Apple Venus" and finally "Wasp Star," find Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and at least on the first two, Dave Gregory, progressing leaps and bounds in both songwriting and musicianship.
One specific comment about "Wasp Star" was how badly Dave Gregory was needed. Fair enough, since Gregory is an outstanding player. But this pushed a button on me, since one of my favorite guitar solos of all time can be found on "Church Of Women" from said record, and it is played beautifully by Mr. Partridge.
I love "Wasp Star" so much, I once wrote an entire post just on the structure and brilliance of its second song, "Stupidly Happy," which you can read here, if you like. "Wasp Star" is filled with one pop gem after another, including the track up top, "We're All Light," which lyrically is both a science lesson and ridiculously romantic.
But okay, I get it. I don't love "The White Album." I mean, I LOVE "The White Album," but it is my least played Beatles record. I think the difference here is, I am not dismissing "The White Album," the way these XTC fans are trashing "Wasp Star." I haven't even started to rave about "Nonsuch," which is a masterwork, and contains another of my favorite guitar solos of all time found on "Books Are Burning," this time as a duel coda between both Andy and Dave.
If you're an XTC fan and you do not care for either of these gems, I'd love to hear why. Or, if you think you might be the only one out there who does not like a record that seems to be loved by many, I want to hear that, too.