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Reviews CD Reviews Alternative, Indie Rock XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear- Psonic Psunspot


ARTIST: XTC as The Dukes of Stratosphear

ALBUM: Psonic Psunspot

LABEL: Ape House

REVIEWER: Matthew J.

DATE: 3-20-09

The first and only full-length for XTC's psychedelic pop alter egos, this album lacks the zany power of the EP that preceded it, but it still makes for a good XTC album. It's not that it's less buoyant, and tracks like the sunny "Vanishing Girl" and jangling "Little Lighthouse" have a lovely pop sweetness to them, but overall this album feels more serious, more thought out, less a distinct project of its own and more of an XTC offshoot. After all, XTC under their own names are certainly no slouches at jangling pop harmonies, and songs like "You're a Good Man Albert Brown (Curse You Red Barrel)" and "The Affiliated" exemplify their ability to juxtapose almost achingly sweet hooks and melodies with biting illustrations of the human condition. There's a little less of a jazz undercurrent and a little more fuzz on the guitar strums, but the songwriting style that made XTC a cult act is still very much in evidence. More unique is "Brainiac's Daughter," with its playful narrative and mixture of warbling piano pop and tweeting calliope, and "You're My Drug" with its overdriven guitar flourishes. For XTC collectors, the extra demo tracks and bonus video clip make this worth picking up, and though it's not as novel as the first Dukes of Stratosphear release, it's an admirable album nonetheless. It represents a compromise between the '60s psychedelia that inspired them and the subversive pop of their main project, and there was only so far they could've taken their Beatles and Syd Barrett pastiches in the first place.

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


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