Wednesday, July 13, 2022

"Mayor of Simpleton" by XTC

Song#:  3876
Date:  04/29/1989
Debut:  92
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  This English band had been releasing albums since the late 70s. While they were successful at home, especially with their 1982 #5 album English Settlement and its #10 single "Senses Working Overtime," XTC more or less remained a cult artist in the US. By this point in time their best effort had been the 1980 #41 Black Sea, which featured the #28 Rock entry "Generals and Majors." Their 1987 Todd Rundgren-produced album Skylarking (#70) brought attention to the band thanks to the somewhat controversial single "Dear God" (#37 Rock). It set them up for further success and the band responded with their ninth studio album Oranges & Lemons. The double-LP effort would get kicked off with this first single. It would be their first entry on the Modern Rock chart where it made its way to the #1 spot. The song would then get to #15 at Rock becoming their biggest hit there. That attention helped the song reach the Pop chart where it would spend a few weeks near the bottom. It would be the band's first and only song to make the Pop chart. The album would get to #44. A second single, "King for a Day," would reach #11 Modern Rock and #38 Rock.

ReduxReview:  By this point I had already become a fan of XTC thanks mainly to Skylarking, which quickly became one of my favorite albums. So I was looking forward to Oranges & Lemons. Although it wasn't quite as good, I still wasn't disappointed in the album. It has some terrific tracks and this single was certainly a highlight. The jangle pop tune ranked among their most catchiest and radio friendly. I was really hoping it would take off in a much larger way at Pop. It really should have at least scratched the Top 40. However, it at least topped the Modern Rock chart. I liked their next LP Nonesuch, but then 1999's Apple Venus, Volume 1 kind of blew me away. It was loaded with baroque pop gems that were impeccably written, arranged, and recorded. I played the crap out of that CD. I still play it and Skylarking quite a bit. They are bright summertime favorites. XTC has a great catalog of songs and albums that should be explored by any art pop fan.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  While the band's next album, 1992's Nonesuch, wouldn't do much to expand their US audience (#97), it did featured their second #1 at Modern Rock (#46 Rock) "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead." The LP also earned the band their first and only Grammy nomination. It would be for Best Alternative Music Album. Around the time of Nonesuch, the band had been having issues with their label Virgin Records. They had been with Virgin since their 1978 debut album White Music, but the sudden withdrawal of the third single from Nonesuch left the band upset. Then it seems that the band's concept for their next album was rejected by the label after they heard demos. The band wanted out of their contract or to renegotiate the terms, but Virgin declined on both. So the band did what a few other artists had tried - they went on strike. They refused to record anything for the label. It would take a few years, but they would finally get out of their contract with Virgin. They would later sign on with UK indie label Cooking Vinyl and in 1999 released the first of a two-part project Apple Venus, Volume 1. It was an orchestral pop effort that was a critical success. In 2000, the second part, Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Volume2) was released. It was a more rock oriented effort that received a more mixed reaction. It would be the band's final album. Although there was no official breakup announcement, the band began to go their own ways after Wasp Star and have never regrouped.


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