XTC’s Andy Partridge is a legend of the alternative music scene. From his former band’s early punk beginnings, through their angular post-punk and dub experiments and, latterly, into a world of epic pop-rock, Partridge’s unique voice always shone through. In terms of grasping off-kilter melodies and making them truly work, he shared a unique talent.
Since the demise of XTC, new music from Andy has been rare, but often very welcome, and this EP from The 3 Clubmen – teaming Partridge with Lighterthief’s Stu Rowe and inventive guitarist Jen Olive – is no exception. It’s a true collaboration, too, giving all three musicians equal space within the arrangements, and feels like something that pushes their artistic agenda into new territory.
After XTC’s career came to a slow and somewhat unceremonious end, with Andy Partridge recording ‘Spiral’ and Colin Moulding recording ‘Say It’ for, in Moulding’s own words, “the XTC album that never was”, Colin retreated even further from the limelight. Fans wouldn’t hear any more from him for almost a decade. In 2015, he appeared as a guest performer on Billy Sherwood’s ‘Citizen’ album before he withdrew again, seemingly having no interest in fame or re-igniting his career on a full time basis.
The previously unthinkable happened three years later, when ex-XTC drummer Terry Chambers returned from Australia and recorded new material with Moulding, instigating new musical project TC&I. Their sole studio recording was a little scrappy, but somewhere within its DIY style, Colin’s gift for melodies remained obvious. The TC&I project really came into its own the following year when the duo took to the stage for three nights of shows in Swindon, resulting in an excellent live document placing the new material in context with some old XTC classics. A few weeks after those shows, Moulding announced his retirement, effectively putting fans back in the mindset of 2006: was that it? Would we never hear from him again?
…And so, Real Gone reaches the inevitable end of The Great 80s Project, but what an amazing year for music! The charts didn’t always reflect the interesting things going on, but in terms of albums, it’s a year full of wonder.
With debut albums from Crowded House and The Housemartins standing alongside massive hits from Madonna, a-ha and Red Box, 1986 would already have a strong enough grounding to challenge 1984 as one of the decade’s finest years for music. With Huey Lewis’s ‘Fore!’ challenging 1983’s as his masterpiece, a strong AOR debut from Robert Tepper and Jackson Browne’s ‘Lives In The Balance’ channelling a very commercial sound, it was also very much a year for great Transatlantic AOR and sounds that now seem so entrenched within that decade, you can’t help but love them.
In terms of pop, 1982 was a strong year: Madness took a further step towards songwriting sophistication with their album ‘The Rise & Fall’, Prince made a huge breakthrough with his ‘1999’ double platter of much filthiness and Phil Collins showed us that the previous year’s ‘Face Value’ wasn’t just a one-off solo success when his “tricky second album” spawned a #1 hit single and a few of his best solo tunes.