XTC recorded Nonsuch with long-time Elton John producer Gus Dudgeon, with Fairport Convention alumni Dave Mattacks filling in on drums. Nonsuch is notably more mature and reserved than previous XTC albums – the exuberance from the Dukes and Oranges and Lemons has dissipated, and there are plenty of quiet piano ballads and mid-tempo pieces.
It feels like Colin Moulding lost his songwriting touch at this point – while ‘My Bird Performs’ is a well written piece, his other contributions feel sub-standard, although ‘The Smartest Monkeys’ features one of Dave Gregory’s most memorable guitar solos. On the other hand, Andy Partridge’s songwriting is excellent throughout Nonsuch, extending from quiet piano ballads ‘Rook’ and ‘Wrapped in Grey’, mid tempo pop/rock ‘The Disappointed’ and ‘Then She Appeared’, the fantastically strange ‘Omnibus’, and the more raucous ‘Crocodile’.
While Nonsuch teeters a little close to mainstream blandness, and it’s another victim of the CD format bloating album running times, there are plenty of treasures among its 17 songs.