Drums and Wires
Released: December 1979
Chart Peak: #176
Weeks Charted: 8
I think it was Saint-Saëns who once remarked of a rival composer that his work was "good and original, and what is original isn't good." That could sum up XTC. Here's a band that undoubtedly has a lot on the ball: they've a real flair for melody, they're sharp instrumentalists, and their lyrics are dry, cheeky, and funny. Yet they seem almost compelled to trick up everything they do with percussive, jaggedly dissonant instrumental detail. Granted, sometimes they achieve a certain wacky logic, as in the charming "Life Begins at the Hop." where the avant-garde surf-guitar effects enhance what is already a near-perfect copy of 1965 Brian Wilson. But more often it simply sounds like they're trying to damned hard to be modernist. Lighten up, guys: I know you art-school drop-outs find this hard to believe, but sometimes the pursuit of innovation for its own sake is nothing more than Calvinist busy work.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 3/80.
This is an interesting package from a label that's beginning to make headway in the U.S. It's fresh rock'n'roll in a new wave vein with a dash of '60s English melody. Of particular note is the inventive mix as instruments sparkle in both left and right channels. Best cuts: "Life Begins At The Hop," "Ten Feet Tall," "Real By Reel," "Scissor Man."
- Billboard, 1979.
My reservations about this tuneful but willfully eccentric pop are ideological. With its playful clash of cross-currents (crossed wires, really, to go with the jingle drums) it's just a "Complicated Game" -- like everything else under the sun, Andy Partridge believes. This idea is an attitude rather than an analysis, and it assures that the music's underlying passion will be strictly formal. But I like games, especially those -- like Clue or categories or three-handed hearts or this record -- which require concentration but not lifetime dedication, and Partridge and Colin Moulding are moving toward a great art-pop mean that will set standards for the genre. Catchy, funny, interesting -- and it rocks. A-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Behind the punk posturing there lurked considerable style in the Partridge/Moulding band XTC -- something on a par with The Kinks' essentially quirky Englishness, that same wry humour. Musically, the third album Drums and Wires, with its sweet'n'sour hit "Making Plans for Nigel," was more slick than what had gone before and no worse for being a shade more commercial.
- David Prakel, Rock 'n' Roll on Compact Disc, 1987.
By the release of the Steve Lillywhite-produced Drums and Wires, XTC had developed a unique sound that integrated (and plundered) late-'70s new wave, '60s-style pop, and psychedelia. The album produced XTC's first big British hit, "Making Plans for Nigel" (number 17 UK). * * * *
- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Of XTC's early catalog, Drums & Wires is among the best. Partridge tones down his idiosyncratic tendencies ever so slightly to turn in terrific and lively pop on "Life Begins at the Hop," "When You're Near Me I Have Difficulty" and "Roads Girdle the Globe." Moulding's stellar offerings include "Ten Feet Tall" and the British hit, "Making Plans for Nigel." * * * *
- Christopher Scapelliti, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
When guitarist Dave Gregory joined the quirky UK combo, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding came up with their best batch of pop-punk songs and put it all together on this superb, high-energy fun album that packs a lyrical punch. Alternately spastic and reflective with traces of herky jerky new wave, this seminal ear candy achieves the tight sound that they worked toward on two prior releases. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
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