Drums And Wires

(1979), 7/10
After releasing two frenetic new wave albums in 1978, XTC made a fresh start with Drums And Wires. Frenzied organist Barry Andrews was replaced by guitarist Dave Gregory, giving XTC a more measured approach. Steve Lillywhite gives Drums And Wires a curiously rigid production; compared to the denser Black Sea, also produced by Lillywhite, Drums And Wires is jerky and brittle, and the only intense moment is the riveting culmination of the album closer ‘Complicated Game’. This production approach is hypnotic on the more interesting songs, but stultifying on the lesser tracks. Colin Moulding’s simple writing style is well suited to the treatment; ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ is the obvious single, with ironic social commentary lyrics, while the funky ‘Day In Day Out’ and ‘Ten Feet Tall’ are similarly captivating. Andy Partridge turns in quirky compositions such as ‘Helicopter’ and ‘When You’re Near Me I Have Difficulty’, but the second half of the album is less impressive. XTC are consistent, and most of their albums are consistently good – I generally prefer their later, lush studio creations, so I’m rating Drums And Wires possibly a little lower than it deserves.

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