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XTC – The Disappointed (90s – 51)

December 31, 2013

Nineties’ XTC was dominated by… nothing. Silence. For most of the decade they were in conflict with Virgin Records. Otherwise the decade is merely topped and tailed by two records: 1992’s Nonsuch and 1999’s Apple Venus.

It was the failure of Virgin to release Wrapped in Grey from the former record which created the conflict – effectively a strike against their contract until it ceased. This is a pity as Nonsuch was as finer a sculptured as and XTC created in the last half of the Eighties.

The most known track off Nonsuch is the wonderful Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, a typical Andy Partridge’s third person protagonist. But Patridge is often at his best when he wears the narrator’s cloak. Thus it is on the classically pop The Disappointed.

Classic too is Partridge’s trick of blurring a concept or emotion with a character or mob: Scarecrow People, Snowman, Toys. Like all such anthropomorphism it is to prove a point.

The mind eye can see the grey Disappointed shuffling, empty, vacant-eyed, a Tom Waits marching band announcing their jerky procession down the street. The narrator, once disbelieving has had his mask removed and discovers he is not merely one of their number but their king and spokesman. Has be been placed their by the misery masses, finally understanding their pain or is there a hint he still conceited, believing his is the heart-break against all must be judged?

Either way this is another variation on the idea no matter how you feel there are always others just like you.

And all this against a subtly nagging guitar line, not quite mournful, but never dominating. This is arguably XTC’s last great pop song.

Oh, and doesn’t Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory suit their medieval get-ups.

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