This year marks the 40th anniversary of XTC’s fifth album, English Settlement, a record that represents the inflection point in the band’s career between the frantic, high-energy post-punk they made their name with to the more orchestrated, pastoral sounds that defined the remainder of their active years. It also marked the final record that the band toured, with Andy Partridge suffering the mental breakdown that ended their days on the road just one show into their US dates.
With anniversaries come think-pieces, and there’s been a couple worth perusing though to be honest, there should be more. But that’s rather par for the course for XTC’s eternal underappreciatedness.
PopMatters has a celebration of the record, along with a healthy dose of “what if”:
And The Quietus turns the clock back four decades to revisit Partridge’s difficulties on the road and valium addiction, the songwriting and recording sessions, and subsequent fracturing of the band with drummer Terry Chambers’ departure:
Though perhaps more interesting is the same outlet’s celebration of the record’s 30th anniversary, for which they scored an interview with Partridge directly, collecting his reminiscences about the record, including the very correct observation:
I still think it’s a great album, although not my favourite. It was a joy to write and to record and despite what happened I still look back on some of that period fondly. We might have missed our chance at making it really big but in the years that followed we still made some great, critically acclaimed albums and expanded our sound to include other genres.
I do still listen to the album now and then. It sounds especially good when I listen to it when very drunk because then it’s like I’m someone else and I’m hearing it for the first time. And when I do that I realise just how fucking great it really is.Andy Partridge, A Watershed Moment: XTC’s Andy Partridge On English Settlement @ The Quietus
Produce Like A Pro took a deep dive into the record last year, with a particular emphasis on the nuts and bolts of the recording (naturally). They also made a companion video for those who prefer to watch rather than read:
And a touch late but still worth reading, Classic Pop took a deep dive into the making of the record:
And while live performances for the record didn’t go so well, they did still make a handful of videos. Because the ’80s.