‘What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book’

❉ ‘What Do You Call That Noise?’ corners the what’s, how’s and why’s of what made XTC ecstatic.

“Keyboardist Barry Andrews, the one member who declined the chance to give his verdict on Sky Arts This Is Pop, highlights how humorous his bandmates could be to author Mark Fisher, while founder and chief songwriter Andy Partridge candidly discusses the oppressive nature writer’s block held on him.”

This is the Revolution In The Head book XTC fans have long wanted to read. A tapestry of finely meditated insight into the band that saw no limits but those set upon themselves, the book corners the what’s, how’s and why’s of what made XTC ecstatic. Celebrated albums Skylarking, Drums and Wires, Apple Venus demonstrated a flair for the unknown and  un-noted, demonstrating their extraordinary capabilities at their zenith. At their worst, XTC gamely and bravely entered into ideas, scales, sonics and aphorisms few bands dared countenance. A collection of lineated steps from the accidental trips to the wonderful trips, the book opens with an assemblage of photos showing the turns and slants Swindon offers, a city as paramount to the band’s oeuvre as Liverpool was to the Beatles’, culminating in a journey that ends in 2019, recognising Colin Moulding’s public intent to put his solo projects on hold.

Mark Fisher: Photo by Lotte Fisher.

There is a great deal more co-operation demonstrated here from XTC than any Beatle or Rolling Stone would deign to a book. All five members are thanked for their co-operation during the book’s opening pages. Keyboardist Barry Andrews, the one member who declined the chance to give his verdict on Sky Arts This Is Pop, highlights how humorous his bandmates could be to author Mark Fisher, while founder and chief songwriter Andy Partridge candidly discusses the oppressive nature writer’s block held on him.

Though commercial success came little to XTC, their musical remit was admired by musicians of differing tastes and proclivities. The Jam’s Rick Buckler laments how much easier it was for XTC to appear arty compared to other punk bands whereas Squeeze’s Chris Difford enjoyed their live, lippy onstage rapport.  Sodajerker write impassioned pieces to some of their favourite songs while New Wave guru Peter Gabriel himself wrote to the editors to espouse virtues on David Gregory’s guitar playing (used beautifully on many tracks on Gabriel’s third, and best, album). One of the sweeter chapter’s concerns the mileage of session drummers who sat in for the band after Terry Chambers. Overshadowed by low hanging credits and the inevitable passing of time, these percussionists give their views on what made the records they played on so special.

XTC: Photo by Garry Stuart.

Starting in Swindon, the book fittingly closes in Swindon, the writers congregating together to watch Moulding and Chambers perform their wholly composed Great Aspirations set in the Arts Centre. Chambers announces in the gig that this was where they first performed when they were seventeen. There is a sense of circularity to the book. XTC are finished (as, it would seem, are TC&I), yet their music folds page after page, chapters written long after their music ended. It’s a music more potent that Partridge’s poetry, more hypnotic than Moulding’s handsomely-crafted hits, more brittle than Chambers’ mercurial backbeat and more accomplished than the adept workmanship of messrs Andrews and Gregory. It’s a music that deserves to be treasured. What Do You Call That Noise? I don’t know; but I’d call this an exceptionally well crafted book.


❉ ‘What Do You Call That Noise? An XTC Discovery Book’ by Mark Fisher was published by Limelight, 4 March 2019. 

❉ ‘What Do You Call That Noise?’ order link: http://www.xtclimelight.com/buy.html.

❉ Eoghan Lyng is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. His writing has also appeared in Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine and other titles.

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