1980’s Black Sea is my favourite album from XTC’s early period. With a fuller sound from producer Steve Lillywhite, it’s a more conventional sounding rock album than the thin Drums and Wires. Black Sea actually topped the charts in Australia and New Zealand, XTC’s only number one album anywhere to my knowledge.
Moulding only contributes three songs, which are all in a similar vein, with upbeat bouncy tunes contrasted with pessimistic lyrics about militarism, lust and pollution. Partridge comtributes the social commentary of ‘Respectable Street’, the political ‘Living Through Another Cuba’, while ‘Towers of London’ sounds like a hit single. Partridge has disowned ‘Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)’, but the punning lyrics are really cute: “get the expert on mademoiselles/he could diffuse, any bombshell.” Partridge also gets adventurous with the seven minute experimental ‘Travels in Nihilon’ and the surprisingly effective dub track ‘The Somnabulist’.
Black Sea does drag a little in the second half, and arguably could have benefited from more Moulding tunes, but it’s still the highlight of their early career.