580. XTC - Skylarking (1986)
1. Summer's Cauldron
3. Meeting Place
4. That's Really Super Supergirl
5. Ballet For A Rainy Day
6. 1000 Umbrellas
7. Season Cycle
8. Earn Enough For Us
9. Big Day
10. Another Satellite
11. Mermaid Smiled
12. Man Who Sailed Around His Soul
14. Sacrificial Bonfire
Take a UK New Wave band with the idea of going back to basics and getting inspiration from the Beatles' Revolver, Beach Boys and such and then add Todd Rundgren as a very hands-on producer and you get one of the best albums of this year, an album which eschews the excesses of the 80's ending up sounding more modern than most pop at this time.
Then you have the ultimate DC geek track in That's Really Super Supergirl, a very funny and referential song from a boyfriend of some Supergirl that feels very inadequate in his manly role. And the lyrics are just generally pretty fantastic with really smart arrangements which are obviously the work of Rundgren and some good work indeed.
We end up with what is really the best pop-album of this year, fantastic stuff which sounds fresh and original even today. A good addition to anyone's library.
1. That's Really Super Supergirl
3. Sacrificial Bonfire
4. 1000 Umbrellas
The album was produced by Todd Rundgren, a gifted guitarist/singer/songwriter in his own right, after the band chose his name from a list of potential producers submitted by its label, Virgin Records. The recording sessions took place in the spring of 1986, at Rundgren's upstate New York recording studio. The sessions were fraught with tension, due to creative differences between Rundgren and XTC's main creative force, Andy Partridge. In the book XTC: Song Stories by Neville Farmer, Partridge says:
(Rundgren) was so bloody sarcastic. Which is rare with Americans. He's got it down to an extremely cruel art. He'd ask how you were going to do the vocals and you would stand in front of the mic and do one run through to clear your throat and he'd say, "That was crap. I'll come down and I'll record me singing it and you can have me in your headphones to sing along to." I just thought it was so insulting.
However, in the same interview, Partridge acknowledged Rundgren's contributions to the album, saying:
He did do great things musically. The arrangements were brilliant and I don't know how he came up with them... The bloke is ludicrously smart when it comes to certain things.