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Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear- 25 O'clock


ARTIST: XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear

ALBUM: 25 O'clock

LABEL: Ape House

REVIEWER: Matthew J.

DATE: 3-20-09

The Dukes of Stratosphear are the alter egos of British New Wave act XTC's Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and David Gregory (as well as David's brother Ian), and first emerged in the mid-'80s with this EP of '60s psychedelic rock tracks in the vein of The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and maybe a hint of The Kinks and The Who. Taking the concept to the extreme, they didn't mention the XTC connection anywhere on the album, and in places the connection is barely there at all. The masterful title track, "25 O'clock" explodes with fuzztone guitars and driving garage rock organs, all dangerously raucous sexuality in the vein of Question Mark and the Mysterians. "My Love Explodes" is similarly upbeat and hard-hitting, while "Bike Ride to the Moon" is softer and more tripped out, combining the whimsy of Syd Barrett with the different but rather compatible whimsy of XTC themselves. Likewise, "What in the World??..." and "The Mole from the Ministry" are like XTC filtered through the lens of The Beatles in their own alter egos, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, with pop guitar and bass layered like a Napoleon pastry with sitar, piano, flute, cheerful horns, and even bits of conversation and field recordings. Reissued on CD by XTC's own Ape House label, this edition features extra demo versions, including a wah-wah-centered version of "What in the World??..." and an early rendition of "Bike Ride to the Moon" that replaces the pianos with clean strummed guitars. There are also several bonus tracks, like the acoustic "Nicely Nicely Jane," the fuzzy electric guitar ballad "Susan Revolving," the theatrical and somewhat campy "Black Jewelled Serpent of Sound," and two songs that sound more like XTC proper, "Open a Can of Human Beans" and the bouncy strings-laced "Tin Toy Clockwork Train." Add a video for "The Mole from the Ministry," and you've got a great package for XTC fanatics that's worth picking up even if you're lucky enough to have gotten your hands on the original vinyl edition two decades ago.

Check out Ape House's website at apehouse.prevuz.com for more information.


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