XTC Songs Ranked

XTC was an English rock band formed in Swindon in 1972. Fronted by songwriters Andy Partridge (guitars, vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals), the band gained popularity during the rise of punk and new wave in the 1970s, later playing in a variety of styles that ranged from angular guitar riffs to elaborately arranged pop. Partly because the group did not fit into contemporary trends, they achieved only sporadic commercial success in the UK and US but attracted a considerable cult following. They have since been recognized for their influence on post-punk, Britpop, and later power pop acts. Between 1979 and 1992, XTC had a total of 10 albums and 6 singles that reached the UK top 40, including “Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)” (1980) and “Senses Working Overtime” (1982). In the US, “Mayor of Simpleton” (1989) was their highest-charting single, while “Dear God” (1986) was controversial for its anti-religious message. The group also inspired tribute bands, tribute albums, fan conventions, and fanzines across the UK, US and Japan. In 2006, Partridge announced that his creative partnership with Moulding had disintegrated, leaving XTC “in the past tense”. Moulding and Chambers briefly reunited as the duo TC&I in the late 2010s. Partridge and Gregory remain musically active. Here are all of XTC’s songs ranked.

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15. Dear Madam Barnum (Nonsuch, 1992)

“This song was written by Andy after his breakdown on stage and refusal to ever tour again. He was dealing with chemical dependency, anxiety issues and a a failed marriage. However, the biggest motivation in the song was his statement that the band never made one cent from touring. He said that the band was touring constantly to sold-out shows, dumbing down songs so they could be played in concert, yet were not receiving any monetary reward. I believe Andy is likening himself to a circus performer, like a clown, that made others money, but never saw any reward for themselves. In the end of the song, Andy announces to the people that were exploiting the band for touring money, that the band had in fact resigned as their clown.”

14. Life Begins at the Hop (White Music, 1978)

“Shows that XTC, once they’d established that they could do a jittery punk thing with the best of them, had a knack of writing complex yet catchy singles of the highest quality. Oh how I long for the days when intelligent bands weren’t afraid to write excellent pop songs, and when pop songs still held some degree of intelligence.”

13. Earn Enough for Us (Skylarking, 1986)

“Perhaps the most “normal” of the singles off of Skylarking – in that it has a catchy fun melody that’s easy to sing along to. But it’s not entirely clear how much that chirpy melody is hiding. The narrator is enduring “humiliation and hurtful comments from the boss”, and with the happy news of a baby on the way, he says “the belt’s already tight/I’ll get another job at night”. Sometimes, though, a happy song may be all you have to get you through another day slogging it out.”

XTC: Skylarking Album Review | Pitchfork

12. Respectable Street (Urgh! A Music War, 1980)

“Another patented thudding riff from Andy Partridge and we’re off on a little bit of toff-bashing, one of manyist the time inspired, if that’s the right word, I would imagine by the polarising election of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister. One might cry hypocrisy given the band’s own less than humble origins, but it’s still a crunching track, generally hits its targets and if I was being honest still brings out the class-warrior in me too.”

See more: XTC Albums Ranked

11. King for a Day (Oranges & Lemons, 1989)

“There are some songs are so good that even the sound is heavenly before you even get to the words which are equally great, this is one of them.”

10. Playground (Wasp Star, 2000)

“Great songs, great playing, but it is missing one thing: Dave Gregory. Never thought I’d ever say it, but it’s true. His guitar playing grabs you, and his best vehicle ever was XTC.”

XTC's English Settlement: 35 Years Old Today | movingtheriver.com

9. Here Comes President Kill Again (Oranges & Lemons, 1989)

“This song shows that regardless of how far our technology improves human beings do not, otherwise why is this song as relevant today as it was over 30 years ago when it was written?”

8. Garden of Earthly Delights (Oranges & Lemons, 1989)

“No other band has blended pop irony with orchestrated distortion as well as XTC and anyone who “gets” them will agree this is a masterpiece that transends 80s brit-wave. It is a timeless recording.”

7. Generals and Majors (Black Sea, 1980)

“Generals and Majors” was the song that introduced me to XTC, thanks to a late-night AM radio binge one night back in 1980. Didn’t take me long to snag this single, and it’s been with me ever since. Wasn’t long until i picked up the parent album, Black Sea. But i still kept this. A few years later, i picked up the CD issue of Black Sea. I got rid of my LP, but i still kept this.”

Black Sea by XTC (Album, New Wave): Reviews, Ratings, Credits, Song list -  Rate Your Music

6. Ball and Chain (English Settlement, 1982)

“It would be simplistic and reductive to call this new wave music, though it was created at the crest of the wave by a group that was strongly identified with the movement. Instead, it is music of a stunningly original variety, reflective of British culture and society at the time, yet lyrically, rhythmically, and harmonically very different from anything else the period produced.”

5. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead (Nonsuch, 1992)

With the opening riffs of the first track “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead” begins the listener’s musical journey on XTC’s 1992 album “Nonesuch.” An album containing a whirlwind of comparisons to the band’s sound that permeates with that song and proceeding tracks of how far the band has come since their debut record White Music (1978).”

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4. The Mayor of Simpleton (Oranges & Lemons, 1989)

“Colin Moulding’s exquisite bass lines that barely touch the root of any chord, yet perfectly anchor and frame the melody and harmony at any given moment, are a perfect example of the depth and breadth of this music. Enjoy!”

XTC Serves Up “Oranges And Lemons” For Day 26 – TRACK x TRACK

3. Dear God (Skylarking, 1986)

“”Dear God” is a very powerful song. The guitar riff is wonderful, the vocals are powerful, and the stoptime is emotional— and I’m not even talking about the lyrics. Religious or not, everyone should enjoy this song.”

2. Making Plans for Nigel (Drums and Wires, 1979)

“This is a very odd little song indeed, I always found the Slits to be pretty interesting and if they were men this is what they would sound like. They sound like some crazy people in a bush who decided to get into some new wave and electronic music, and sing like some post punk. This folks is good music pure and simple. Awesome, Sensational, Amazing, Weirdness.”

1. Senses Working Overtime (English Settlement, 1982)

“A weird number from XTC. The chorus is nearly standard power pop (but with excellent drumwork), but the verses sound insanely wobbly, as Andy Partridge sings poetic semi-nonsense near the top of his register. And it’s still all strangely compelling somehow.”