Another Dose of XTC

After years in the shadows, XTC's Andy Partridge is ready to rejoin the human race.

As a result, Upsy Daisy Assortment is a pleasant XTC sampler--nineteen fine songs, including every modern-rock semi-smash and album tracks like "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her." Partridge describes it as "a bit of a mess, but don't complain to me about it. Please forward all letters of complaint to Mr. David Geffen at Geffen Records. Send them written on a powder-blue sweater and he may take notice. In the meantime, I'm going to get one of those little toy dolls made up where you pull the string and it says 'Blame Geffen. Blame Geffen. Blame Geffen.'"

In the meantime, Partridge is already looking forward to the next XTC album, which should appear within a year on a label to be named later. (He says several offers are currently on the table.) He composed most of the material while at war with Virgin, but that was only one of the obstacles he faced during the period. "The last four years have seen the biggest upheaval I've ever experienced," he says.

"Because of Virgin, my career has been in the fridge, and on top of that, I went through a divorce and I blew my eardrum out. Not to get too medical, but pus built up in my ear, and the only way out was to burst through my eardrum. It was the worst thing on earth. It was two o'clock in the morning and I was banging my head on the wall by my bed, because I didn't know what to do about the pain coming from the center of my head. And then, suddenly, bloop--and I touched my neck and there was all of this blood running down it.

"I was completely deaf in my right ear for two or three months, and it was really frightening. The doctors didn't know if it would heal over; they said it was fifty-fifty. But thankfully, it did, and now I have about 60 percent of my hearing in my right ear. Which is better than none."

Partridge says the songs he came up with while all of this was going on fall roughly into two categories: "All the stuff that was written directly after Nonsuch tended to be more acoustic or orchestral--kind of non-rock-and-roll things. And the stuff I've been writing lately has been noisier, just out of the desire to hear electric guitars again. So we're contemplating corralling off these facets and having one style on one record and the other style on the second. I don't think we'll be able to interweave them, because it's like, 'Here's a slice of pork with a dollop of ice cream, and here's some jelly with some chicken.' So we'll probably keep all of the bright, zesty, fluorescent desserts on one end of the table, and the pig's head with the apple in it on the other."

Right now, Partridge is casting about for a producer--or, as he puts it, "We've been putting our taut little buttocks about. It's a bit like flirting." At the same time, this famously stage-shy performer has actually begun to consider the prospect of touring again for the first time since English Settlement. But this time, he says, things would be different. Very different.

"I fancy playing off a truck," he announces. "Which is an old idea, of course--I mean, everyone's played off a truck. Everyone other than us, that is. I don't know why not. But it really appeals to me, probably because it doesn't have all the usual show-business connotations. The idea of being trapped in a phony show-biz zoo really appalls me, but somehow, playing on the back of a truck doesn't seem that fake to me. I don't know how the hell we'd play our orchestral songs like that; we'd probably just play the noisy stuff." He pauses for effect before commenting, "And if things aren't going too well, we could always just kick the cab and drive away.

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