Drums And WiresMusic • Album Classics
New wave • Post Punk
08/12/2014, Paul PLEDGER
Following on from the geek-fest that was the CD/Blu-ray edition of the band's final Virgin album Nonsuch, XTC's legacy continues to grow with a similar revisit of key crossover album Drums and Wires. Comprised of no less than four versions of the original album, including Steven Wilson's respectful surround-sound and stereo remixes, plus a raft of previously unreleased demos, sessions, outtakes and rare b-sides (on the blu-ray edition), Drums and Wires stands up as a masterly and majestic record some 35 years after its original release.
Although very much a 1979 sound, Drums and Wires remains an iconic album far beyond its eye-catching Jill Mumford sleeve - it saw an inspired line-up change from Barry Andrews to Dave Gregory and heralded XTC's transition from spunky young art-punks to an accomplished songwriting force. Not least in bassist Colin Moulding's case - he won the silver with the fresh-faced stomper Life Begins At The Hop (a sort of Wiltshire new-wave take on Motown, anyone?) but grabbed gold with the band's first Top Of The Pops hit Making Plans For Nigel. Along with the superlative Day In Day Out, US strum-and-hum-a-long single Ten Feet Tall and a hit-in-the-making That Is The Way, Moulding was proving to be just as capable of joined-up songwriting as this series curator Andy Partridge, when it came to crafting a nifty, whistleable tune. Terry Chambers certainly takes top prize for that drum pattern on Nigel, a veritable percussive powerhouse.
Ultimately though, Partridge once again delivered potential hit after potential hit on here - that's if they'd been selected for singles in the first place. Quite how Virgin failed to even gamble on When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty, Real By Reel, Helicopter and Outside World will remain a mystery - Difficulty is ridiculously catchy yet complex in equal measure and would surely have improved upon actual Nigel follow-up Wait 'Til Your Boat Goes Down (included several times here) had it been sent to radio.
In the end, somewhat surprisingly, Nigel was the only single taken from Drums and Wires but there was still a welter of material recorded at the time, as the extras list ably demonstrates. Highlights include Sleepyheads, Limelight, I Overheard and the truly remarkable Cheap Perfume, taken from the so-called Saucy Plate Session (all unheard songs, XTC fans). It's a testament to a band's unerring talent to turn a tune on a penny when you consider the quality of most of the unissued songs gathered for this release. You also get the first couple of Homo Safari offerings - the title-track is a be-bopping jazzy tub-thumper (boom-dada-boom indeed), Bushman President sports a sub-African shuffle-beat and solemn synth hook - plus the entire original album in instrumental form.
Hours of pin-sharp frenetic fun and the beginning of XTC's forthcoming faultless run of great albums.
Just don't call them 'quirky'.
This review also appeared on Flipside Reviews
SUNDAY BELL RINGERS • SBR
• HELL ON WHEELS SEASON 3
TANZTHEATER WUPPERTAL, PINA BAUSCH • Auf Dem Gebirge Hat Man Ein Geschrei Gehört (Antwerpen, deSingel, 4-6/12/2014)
VARIOUS ARTISTS • Not So Cold, A Warm Compilation
• FALLING SKIES SEASON 3
MAGNE STEINSVOLL & PER-INGVAR TOMREN • Christmas Cruelty
MESMUR • Mesmur
JEAN-MARC VALLEE • Dallas Buyers Club
VILLALOG • Space Trash
PROPAGANDA • Noise And Girls Come Out To Play
Same combination of genres: NEW WAVE + POST PUNK
RITUAL VEIL • Wolf In The Night
CRYING VESSEL • A Beautiful Curse
SHE PLEASURES HERSELF • Fetish
XTC • Skylarking
ULTRAVOX • The Island Years
NEW MODEL ARMY • Winter
THE ASSOCIATES • Sulk
THE ASSOCIATES • Fourth Drawer Down.
THE ASSOCIATES • The Affectionate Punch
VARIOUS ARTISTS • Transmission Wave-West
Same genre: NEW WAVE
LIZARD SMILE • Wandering in Mirrors
TYCHO BRAHE • Triplex [Complete]
THE NAMES • German Nights
SPREADING POINT • MOMENTUM - PART II
KILLING JOKE • Live at Muziek-o-Droom - Hasselt - Belgium 05.12.2016
KILLING JOKE • London, Brixton O2 Academy (04/11/2016)
NEW MODEL ARMY • Live at the Muziekgieterij, Maastricht, NL - 30.09.2016 - Photo Hub Dautzenberg
PAUL HAIG • Metamorphosis
PETE SHELLEY • Cinema Music and Wallpaper Sounds:
THE SECOND WAVE • Various Artists
Same genre: POST PUNK
FACTICE FACTORY • Lines & Parallels
SILENT RUNNERS • The Directory
THE MARY HART ATTACK • The Falling Sun
PARADE GROUND • Sanctuary
STRUGGLER • The Gap
A.D. MANA • A.D. Mana
SUPERNOVA 1006 • Unique World
PRINCIPE VALIENTE • Oceans
DISCO INFERNO • In Debt 91/92
DRAB MAJESTY • The Demonstration