Friday, August 30, 2013

XTC - Mummer

Today (August 30th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Mummer, the sixth studio album from the UK rock band XTC. It was originally scheduled for a May 26th release in 1983 but was delayed because the label thought it was too acoustic and out-there for the American market; it was held off in the US until February of 1984. This one charted at number 145 on the US Billboard 200 Album chart, number 51 in the UK and number 28 in Sweden.

The line-up for this one was Andy Partridge (vocals and guitars), Colin Moulding (vocals and bass) and Dave Gregory (vocals, guitar and keyboards). Drummer Terry Chambers quit the band during the recording sessions; he only played on two of the original vinyl tracks. Peter Phipps was brought in to record most of the tracks. Additional musicians Nigel Warren-Green, Steve Nye and Gavin Wright also appeared on the album.

Side one begins with the interesting rhythm of "Beating of Hearts". It has a Middle Eastern flavor courtesy of the percussion and guitars.

"Wonderland", with its synthesized bird calls and insect buzzes, was released as the second single. It sets up a very tranquil mood.

The band goes for a simpler approach for the next track. "Love on a Farmboy's Wages", which charted at number 50 in the UK as the third single, goes with a straight-forward guitar and drum melody. The lyrics too celebrate an uncomplicated lifestyle.

"Great Fire", a song about a domestic tragedy, was released as the first single. It goes from a heavy waltz beat to a more urgent tempo and back again. I like how it builds just a real fire does when left unchallenged.

"Deliver Us From the Elements" bubbles like beakers full of colorful concoctions in a scientist’s lab. Midway through, the synths explode like an atomic bomb and drive home the lyrical message of fear of a man-made doom.

Side two opens with "Human Alchemy". I like the tribal beats and the background chanting here; they put a dark spin on this theme of man exploiting man.

The gears shift to a more jazzy style with "Ladybird". While the subject matter is clearly that of a winged creature, I have to wonder if the title and music style is meant to also pay tribute to “Lady Bird”, a jazz standard by American jazz composer Tadd Dameron. It could just be a happy coincidence.

"In Loving Memory of a Name" starts out with a church like organ but shifts quickly to a bouncy pop-rock rhythm. The up-beat music contrasts the lyrical funeral of a soldier who was killed in the line of duty.

"Me and the Wind" dances about on a tango rhythm like a leaf tossed on a breezy autumn day.

The original vinyl release ends with "Funk Pop a Roll", a rousing rocker with danceable beat. The song denounces some of the popular music trends at the time.

Mummer is definitely a quirky, experimental kind of album. XTC does well though dabbling with the various styles, creating some delicious treats for the listeners’ ears.

Here are more of my XTC album reviews;

- For 1982's English Settlement, click here.

- For 1986's Skylarking, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Though not often played here at The Hideaway, XTC's Mummer is still a favorite.

It holds up well after 30 years with a timeless, genre-defying sound and the polished production is especially enjoyed via headphones.

The six bonus tracks added to the album in 2001 only serve to increase the panoramic sonic-scape of the original album, making a good thing even better in the process.

Listening to the music of XTC throughout my life has made me happier, smarter, taller, richer, stronger and better looking (at least according to those who have to see me regularly).

Thnaks for this, Martin - it had been a while.