Oranges And Lemons

(1992), 7/10
After fighting with Todd Rundgren during the Skylarking sessions, XTC hired producer Paul Fox, a fan of the group, for double LP Oranges And Lemons. While Rundgren bought a discipline and thematic unity, Fox allows XTC the freedom to indulge themselves, and coupled with the extra running time that the CD format provided, the result is a less coherent album. The raw material isn’t necessarily inferior to that on the surrounding albums, but Oranges And Lemons is a less satisfying record. The mix is often very busy, with loads of percussion and horn parts thrown into XTC’s already ornate arrangements. Sometimes this works – the vibrant ‘Merely A Man’ showcases over-driven guitars and a lovely horn section – and sometimes it doesn’t – opener ‘Garden Of Earthly Delights’ is messy, and never really gels. ‘President Kill Again’ is musically predictable and ‘Across This Antheap’ is preachy, while a lot of the songs have promising ideas that aren’t properly disciplined into a cohesive form; ‘Pink Thing’ has hilariously ambiguous lyrics, while ‘Hold Me Daddy’ has a lovely guitar riff. ‘The Mayor Of Simpleton’ is a catchy single, but is surprisingly formulaic by XTC’s standards, while Moulding’s ‘King For A Day’ is enjoyable but slight. Oranges And Lemons does end superbly with two of its best songs; the jazzy ‘Miniature Sun’ and the beautiful ‘Chalkhills And Children’, a lovely statement of contentment. While it isn’t as strong as XTC’s other albums from the period, Oranges And Lemons still has plenty of bright retro appeal and it’s more reminiscent of the Dukes of Stratosphear side-project than any other XTC album.

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