New Wave Band:
by New Wave Dave
The British band XTC had roots in the early-'70s glam rock scene. After a couple of earlier incarnations, they
settled on the name XTC (sounds like "ecstasy", get it?) in 1976. The following year, they signed with Virgin
Records and started recording New-Wave-influenced pop songs.
Much of XTC's music was characterized by an amalgam of passion and control: tight harmonies, often hopeful but
restrained singing, and simple but nonstandard and catchy instrumentation.
In 1978, they released their first two albums, White Music and Go
2, both of which reached the UK charts. Although their third album, 1979's Drums & Wires, didn't
climb as high, it did produce XTC's first definitive single: "Making Plans for Nigel", which drew listeners in with
its odd rhythms and lyric repetitions. This song reached the top 20 in both the UK and Canada, though it failed to
crack the U.S. charts.
Continuing its frequent release schedule, XTC turned out Black Sea in 1980. Oceania
had developed a fondness for the band; this album hit #1 in both Australia and New Zealand. Its top single,
"Generals and Majors", which cheerily mocked warmongers over a propulsive beat, failed to reach "Nigel"'s heights
in the UK, but it did become their first U.S.-charting song. (Virgin Records chief Richard Branson appeared as one
of the "majors" in this song's video.)
Two years later, English Settlement became XTC's highest-charting album in the UK,
peaking at #5. The single "Senses Working Overtime" hit the Top 20 in several countries, though it failed to chart
in the U.S.
Unlike some flash-in-the-pan New Wave bands that didn't survive past the early '80s, XTC kept turning out solid
albums throughout the decade. In fact, their biggest U.S. hit, "Mayor of Simpleton", came out on
the Oranges & Lemons album in 1989.
Subsequently, XTC released three more albums. 1992's Nonsuch contained their final
top-100 single, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead". Like many of their other songs, it had a political bent, though
in more an implied than a strident way.
Band leaders Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding parted ways early in the new millennium, and Partridge doesn't
plan to use the XTC name for any projects without Moulding. So the band's run finally ended, but not without
producing a lot of memorable music — much of which can be heard on the compilation Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles