“Geometric jerky quickstep” was how Miles of the NME once described the music of XTC who formed in 1972 and made a celebrated series of albums up to 2006.
Initially, with their brand of nervy pop, smart lyrics and choppy guitars, they were feted as England’s answer to Talking Heads but, taking their whole career into account, it’s probably more accurate to think of them as one of a kind.
TC&I comprise XTC’s founder member and bassist Colin Moulding alongside the band’s original drummer Terry Chambers. They join forces again to celebrate facets of this much loved band and to play some of their own newer material.
‘Naked Flames’ selects the best of TC&I's six shows in Swindon, XTC’s home town in Wiltshire. These were the first live shows together for Moulding and Chambers in 36 years. They were joined by Steve Tilling on guitar and Gary Bamford on keyboards and guitar.
The songs are taken from TC&I's debut 'Great Aspirations' EP although I’m sure most of the enthusiastic audience were there to hear selections from the XTC catalogue. The band duly oblige by playing tunes written by Moulding who says : "my songs have been stuck in the closet too long, and I wanted to dry clean them and give them an evening out”.
Andy Partridge is the obvious missing link in this project so, inevitably, this record really only reflects the poppier aspect of the XTC sound. The only Partridge tune they feature is Statue Of Liberty. If you want the bigger picture and to fill in the gaps, the illuminating documentary 'This Is Pop' is highly recommended.
However, if you accept the limitations, there’s plenty to enjoy on this album. The soprano voice of Susannah Bevington helps make Scatter Me a highlight. The hit singles Life Begins At The Hop and Generals and Majors are failsafe crowd pleasers and ,predictably, the main set ends with the hardy perennial Making Plans For Nigel.
Any between song banter has been edited out but the record captures well the enthusiasm at this mini-residency and is released primarily for the fans who went and for those who wished they had been there.