1979, Music

Drums and Wires (1979) by XTC

I maintain that the Atlantic created a pretty different sonic difference between American and British New Wave and and, later, American and British Post Punk. With New Wave that gulf is so big that it almost feels silly to call them the same genre; compare to Elvis Costello or the Police to Pere Ubu and it’s pretty hard to believe that these three bands should be classified the same way. By the date of their debut album, you could definitely claim that XTC are a Post Punk band rather than a New Wave band. But of all the British New Wave/Post Punk bands I’ve heard from this era, I’m not sure another one sounds so much like an American New Wave band in affectation as XTC do on this record.

This is only my second XTC record and I don’t have any idea what their first two records sound like. But this one sounds heavily indebted to American New Wave bands such as Pere Ubu and Talking Heads on a number of tracks, most notably in the vocal delivery. At other times, the influence of Brian Eno’s solo career is particularly evident and Eno is a pretty big influence on early British Post Punk. (And occasionally a Dub influence sneaks in, which is just sooooooo British Post Punk.) So maybe I should just throw my attempts at categorization out the window.

Regardless of where it falls on the New Wave/Post Punk spectrum, this is a strong set of songs full of compelling melodies and relatively eccentric performances -albeit not that eccentric – which feels to me like quintessential New Wave, with its mixture of quirk and energy in relatively brief songs. It’s a pretty great record.

In fact, the only thing really keeping me from rating the record higher is that it just sounds too much like other things I like. And though I get that a lot of people in the UK at the time maybe weren’t aware of those things when they encountered this record, I certainly am. So I like it, but it’s not quite the big deal that I have read about.


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