Hard cut to college.
One of the things about going through college is that your realize you don’t know shit about shit. And I don’t mean in whatever subject matter you are choosing to spend your life on. I mean about life. Just shit. You don’t know shit about shit.
It took me time, but I learned to just let others take the wheel. Show me some shit I wouldn’t know about otherwise. So, one day I am in a CD Warehouse with the newly formed college crew. I had a big drive coming up to visit my girlfriend (now wife) over New Year’s, so I had some money to spend on CDs.
I was looking for blind picks. Some shit I wouldn’t normally do. I walked out with four random CDs. Skylarking was one of them.
I didn’t listen to it until the drive. I put it in and got this:
I remember yelling outloud in my car by myself, “Are they fucking using birds and insects and shit as beats?”
I was hooked from the second it started. This became an album I recommended other people. Was in constant rotation for the rest of college.
Pastoral pop music. Like other artists have done things that are sort of similar, but nothing with this kind of scope. That’s my biggest takeaway from my latest relisten, the fucking scope of the thing. They knew what they wanted, they didn’t care how much work it took to get there.
The songcraft here is unparalleled. Andy, et al have the clear idea of being the people’s band. Singing for the workers proletariat. We have a meditation on nature, seasons, and human struggle through it all.
And its impressive. Every single song is sharp. The album has a full arc. And behind it all, the steady hand of Todd Rundgren. Supposedly he and Andy Partridge butted heads constantly. I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise. I wonder who he fought more with Andy or Steinman.
I think I keep coming back to this record because of the raw emotion of it. Or at least, my version of raw emotion. I think alot of people point to something that is overly luxuriating in sadness like emo etc.
I think a record like this is much better at expressing its chosen emotional landscape than any sad bastard caterwauling. Here we have something completely unique. A band devoting their all on a type of sound and hitting the target right on point.
Take something like Earn Enough for Us. Classic workers struggle song, mixed with love, and fitting right into this sort of pastoral seasonality vision that this album has.
And every song is like that. Hitting its topic deadon, but finding a way to blend in with the rest of it. A soulshattering listen.
A brief interlude for the elephant in the room. Modern releases of this album include Dear God at the end. Don’t get me wrong. I love everyone’s favorite atheist anthem as much as the next guy, but it only barely fits with the suite here. I think the actual album track listing and closer makes more sense.
Overall, what we have here is a fucking album. It’s records like this that makes me give other band’s efforts a hard critical view. Look if you aren’t coming out to make a skylarking, why did you get out of bed.
It’s this kind of record that should push shit forward. Be this ambitious. Try something fresh. Do something original. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but you can be rewarded (I feel like I have said this).
4/4 – A masterpiece. Another album I wish I could wipe from my mind just to hear it again for the first time. A record I will be taking with me to my grave.
Well done XTC. Well done.