Once again, XTC has managed the difficult feat of sounding accessible even while moving into evermore abstruse and adventuresome territory. Driven along by the rolling thunder of Terry Chambers' drumming, the smooth electric glide of Colin Moulding's fretless bass and the angular guitar work of Dave Gregory and Andy Partridge, the ten songs on English Settlement take on the world, by turns, in concretely political and dreamily mythic terms. On one side, "Melt the Guns" pleads for global disarmament, singling out the U.S. in particular for fecklessly courting apocalypse. "Jason and the Argonauts," though, is almost the stuff of parable, an imagistic recounting of a modern-day vision quest.
Musically, XTC's new songs attain something of an anthemic grandeur through repetition of a musical theme or fragment, sustained over the course of five or more minutes by a steady rhythmic pulse (African and third-world rhythms figure prominently). The result is a program of numbers that resonate across all manner of invigorating wordplay with a jazzy, stoned ambiance.
"Senses Working Overtime," which could be this band's long-overdue hit, sums up the XTC aesthetic perfectly: employing all of their faculties for taking in the world around them, they digest that input and send out some new wisdom of their own. This process is called communication, and to XTC, it's as natural as breathing. (RS 368)
(Posted: Apr 29, 1982)