|Uffington White Horse|
Say what you want about their quirky early work or those weirdos who actually own and listen to the Apple Venus records (they say they're good,) the Todd Rundgren-produced and much gossiped-about Skylarking -- the final version, with "Dear God" included -- is fat-free and complete, every track a classic and with none of those songs which inevitably pop up on every XTC record featuring lyrics of social commentary so humiliatingly jejune and cringe-worthy.
Diffuser ranked Skylarking number three. Number one was reserved for English Settlement.
My son has decided he is unimpressed by modern pop music, and so we tend to listen to the classic rock stations. He likes the production values of the seventies and eighties. But that still means I have to play him albums from that era which even now receive no airtime, and that includes, of course, XTC.
I was looking forward to listening to all of English Settlement on the drive from Athens yesterday, but I was caught flatfooted by the terribleness of some of the songs which deal clumsily with the torpor of modern living, and of gender and race. The male-shaming (and yet not actually pro-female) lyrics of "Down In The Cockpit" are embarrassingly naive, even if the beat is infectious and strong. The sentimentally joyful plea for tolerance in "Knuckle Down" is entirely overwhelmed by its joyfully privileged condescension. And "Leisure" is simply a horrible song to listen to, with or without the words.
This is coming from a guy who really loves XTC.
Distance: 3.25 miles
Route: Forest Hill Loop
Climate: cool. nice.
Also, too, the words in "Melt the Guns" are no less relevant now than they were thirty-five years ago. They are unfortunately much much more so.
Finally, "Snowman" is one my very favorite holiday songs, even though it has nothing to do with Christmas except sleigh bells and the references to snow and cold. It includes one of my most favorite phrases about feel lost and embittered in love; "People will always be tempted to wipe their feet on anything with 'welcome' written on it."
This is where Partridge truly shines, when he is speaking from the heart about emotions that are closest to him. Broken hearts, loss of faith, the British class society. Making grand pronouncements about sex and race, he sounds awfully male and white.
No, seriously. I really love the music of XTC. But though the lyrics were, in my college years, a gateway for me into more progressive thinking, they are, many of them, facile thoughts better left to open the minds of a new generation of young, white men ... like my son.
This is a playlist of the best tracks, and best running tracks, from English Settlement.
English Settlement - XTC (1982)
Runaways (167 bpm)
Melt The Guns (182 bpm)
It's Nearly Africa
Fly On The Wall
Down In The Cockpit (158 bpm)
Snowman (174 bpm)
See? That is some boss beats per minute.
Sprinting down the street, I bust my supporter. Hmn. Need a new supporter.
Didn't even take my kit to Athens. When was the last time I didn't run at Thanksgiving? Pain shot straight down through my leg at one point, but it eased off. Glad I ran. No regrets.