1) Scatter Me
2) Greatness (The Aspiration Song)
4) Comrades Of Pop
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It might only be fifteen minutes long, but ‘Great Aspirations’- the debut release from ex-XTC members Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers- tackles an admirable number of weighty topics in that short space of time.
The cutthroat nature of the music industry, hopes and dreams as one gets older, and even death itself are all subjects discussed within this new batch of songs, and, as fans of Moulding’s songwriting (he penned all four of the tracks) in particular will have expected, it is all done in a typically English fashion.
Not that this is a bad thing. It is decidedly glorious in fact, as even though what we hear doesn’t necessarily have the same excited urgency of some of Moulding’s better-known compositions for XTC (‘Generals and Majors’, ‘Life Begins At The Hop’, ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ etc), it doesn’t make the tracks any less satisfying to listen to. From the outset, strong melodies and even stronger imagery within the lyrics dispel any doubts the listener may have of this project not being a worthwhile undertaking.
EP opener ‘Scatter Me’ for example, begins almost hymn-like, then blossoms into a full and atmospheric track that evokes thoughts of rolling hills, long walks and the English (Wiltshire?) countryside; “Scatter me where we lived/under your favourite rose/over the blossoms falling/scatter me on one hazy morning”.
‘Greatness (The Aspiration Song)’ is a mellow confession of both yearning and determination, helped towards just the right amount of swing by Chambers’s typically jaunty yet powerful drums.
However, although it is very difficult to find fault with any of the lyrics on this EP, there is an issue with a line of this track that I feel others might also pick up on, should one be feeling particularly pedantic.
‘Like McCartney’, goes the line, presumably referring to the ex-Beatle. ‘That’s where I wanna be!’
Now, obviously Macca would have had an enormous influence on XTC (and most likely Moulding’s songwriting), but if we are talking in terms of recent releases, in my opinion the songs on ‘Great Aspirations’ far outweigh the quality of the ex-Beatles’s most recent output. Though McCartney’s sixties tracks are the sort that will appeal to generations for years to come, if it was a choice between anything he has released in the last ten, or even twenty years, or ‘Great Aspirations’, for me TC&I would be the victor every time.
XTC in 1980. From L-R: Colin Moulding, Terry Chambers, Andy Partridge, Dave Gregory.
This is evidenced even further in the EP’s final tracks. The first of which (and the undoubted highlight of the release), ‘Kenny’, revels in its own eccentricity as if it were depicting the charmingly off-kilter thoughts of a slightly mad professor, whilst ‘Comrades of Pop’ is a playfully reflective ode to times gone by, both good and bad. ‘It’s the guy that writes the hits that gets the money in this funny old world of pop/the bassist and the drummer might be lucky but never seem to get a lot...’ Moulding tells us in his low Wiltshire lilt.
And it’s the familiar humour in lyrics like these, combined with the XTC-esque forlorn melodies, as well as Chambers’s quirky, ever-reliable drumming that make this EP such a joy to listen to.
A very English breath of fresh air.
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TC&I are also due to play a run of four dates at Swindon Arts Centre later this year, from October 29th - November 1st. Obviously incredibly exciting news considering XTC have not played live since 1982! More information can be found here: https://swindontheatres.co.uk/Online/tickets-tcandi-swindon-2018#BookTickets
To buy the full ‘Great Aspirations’ EP on CD please visit: https://burningshed.com/tcandi_great-aspirations_signed-cd
View the full music video for ‘Scatter Me’ here: https://youtu.be/Zkh_0ejs12Y
All TC&I photography credit to Geoff Winn
XTC photo credit to Getty Images
Artwork design by Andrew Swainson from a concept by TC&I