I’m not sure how a cable network like Showtime makes a business case for financing feature-length documentaries on cult bands like XTC, but I’m certainly glad that they do because ones like 2017’s XTC: This Is Pop are really terrific. In the opening minute, guitarist and frontman Andy Partridge takes the piss out of the very idea of rock documentaries, and then proceeds to guide the viewer through the story of the band while setting straight myths about the band as much as such a biased narrator as himself can. Of course, bandmates Terry Chambers, Colin Moulding, and Dave Gregory all weigh in for balance.
Particularly interesting are the creative tensions between Partridge and Moulding as songwriters – I didn’t before realize how many of the singles were actually Moulding compositions – and the “real” story of Partridge’s sudden retirement from live performance (he blames valium withdrawal, not stage fright). And while the world lost a really dynamic live band, it’s hard to imagine their crafting the studio opuses of their second act if they remained a touring act.
The doc is a lovely and entertaining tribute to a band that, while they are known and respected, aren’t nearly known and respected as much as they deserve. It doesn’t appear to be available to watch in an “official” capacity anywhere, so let’s be happy that it’s found its way onto YouTube for all to see and enjoy.