A. Partridge and the Black Sea: Roland Orzabal reviews XTC’s latest reissue

SDE special guest contributor Roland Orzabal of Tears For Fears on the making of XTC’s classic album, its influence on his own work and his verdict on the reissue…

‘Andy Partridge is a genius!’

Those words were delivered emphatically by a charming, besuited young man who had a deep, resonant voice, a ripe Russian accent, and worked for the Italian record company back in the nineties.

‘And you are a genius!’

OK, rewind. I took the compliment with a pinch of salt, it was part of a constant apology for the disorganisation of the Italian promo trip we were on at the time, but I was impressed that he felt so strongly about one of our national treasures; ‘Andy Partridge is a genius!’ I wish you could hear those words spilling out of Michele’s mouth.

Three little-known facts: I have never met any members of XTC despite the familial connections; Hugh Padgham, who engineered Black Sea, also engineered the recording of Phil Collins’ drums on Woman In Chains; and Steve Lillywhite, who produced Black Sea, is an ace at ping pong.

Anyway… the problem with listening to this album for the first time in years is that I now have (track one) Respectable Street stuck in my head. And it just won’t go away. Then, when the track plays out in my mind, it immediately segues into (track two) General and Majors. It’s a brilliant segue and one that we musicians dream of both live and in the programming of our own records. Listening to those two tracks alone, I am immediately reminded why I list Black Sea among my favourite albums of all time.

But just for the record, my favourite song from the album is, and always has been, No Language In Our Lungs. When I was 19, that song struck a chord with me, and I took it very much to heart.

There is no language in our lungs,
To tell the world just how we feel…

Cue The Hurting.

I bought Black Sea on vinyl when it came out in 1980. It became part of a growing record collection, which included Bowie’s Scary Monsters, Peter Gabriel 3 and Talking HeadsFear Of Music (and Remain in Light). XTC had been having a busy year, the singles, Generals and Majors, Towers of London and Sgt Rock (Is Gonna Help Me) gave them serious exposure on Radio and TV. Track by glorious track, they were building on the success that had kicked off with Making Plans For Nigel from the previous album, Drums And Wires: eerie, unsettling, and a nifty piece of social commentary, it made us wannabees sit up and pay attention, wondering who the hell XTC was and keen to know what was coming next. But there was a false start to their next album, which seems in hindsight like serendipity – having to wait for the right studio and engineer.

Following a heavy bout of touring and verging on nervous exhaustion, XTC had become ‘a well-oiled gleaming Moloch of two chopping guitars, bass and drums’, to quote Andy. It was a line-up popularised by many of their influences, including the obvious one, The Beatles. In fact, if I remember rightly, I believe that Partridge and Colin Moulding (bass and vocals, writer of MPFN among others) were referred to as the Lennon and McCartney of Swindon (a small town in the West Country of England not far from where I lived, in Bath.) But there is another band whose influence dominates the sound of Black Sea, another well-oiled four-piece of guitar (mainly), bass and drums, and that is Talking Heads. It’s especially dominant on Living Through Another Cuba with its ‘herky-jerk’ Byrnesque vocal stylings, the jump and quirk of Love At First Sight and the scratchy rhythm guitar on Travels In Nihilon.

So, somewhere between More Songs About Buildings and Food and Sergeant Pepper’s lies the Black Sea? Okay, maybe not that simple, because I really cannot pinpoint all the influences behind this incredibly diverse record. Luckily for us, it’s open, big and sparse without a thousand overdubs to come in and confuse the picture; the guitars are razor sharp, the vocals are in your face, the bass weaves subterranean McCartney magic, and the drums are proud and powerful.

Plus, it’s superbly produced by Steve Lillywhite, who also produced Drums and Wires. In-demand Lillywhite had worked with Siouxsie and the Banshees and produced U2’s Boy and, more importantly, was king of the ping-pong table when I was in the same studios. But the sound of Black Sea is hugely reliant on both the engineer, Hugh Padgham, and the drum room. I’m assuming the drums were recorded a stone’s throw from the stone room at the Townhouse Studios, London, this being the birthplace of the famous Phil Collins drum sound, born during the recording of Peter Gabriel 3. Listen to the drumming on Travels In Nihilon and, again, it’s really Gabriel from that period. There was surely a lot of cross-pollination going on because of Steve and Hugh being involved with Peter’s masterpiece of a third album. (Lillywhite and Padgham received a test pressing of the Gabriel album while working on Black Sea, and vinyl scratches from the pressing can be heard at the start of Respectable Street.)

So, we have another re-release to consider. Why buy it? Well, it’s the first 5.1 mix to be had from this album, and, unsurprisingly (cos I’ve worked with him), the mixing by Steven Wilson is superlative. Sit in the centre of the speakers like you’re supposed to or sit with the main mix on the right and the sub-mix on the left and it’s quite amazing. It’s like being in the perfect rehearsal room with the band; the acoustic guitar overdub on Generals and Majors popping out of the back-left speaker is a revelation, the metallic percussion on Paper and Iron too – it’s a new, for me, way of listening to a very familiar record, it plays with your ears and spatial awareness while making you, despite the odd ping-pong-related injury, want to dance like a drunken teenager.

So far, so good. Reading the sleeve notes is fascinating and a perfect reminder of Partridge’s wit and sensibilities. The stories about the artwork and last-minute change of album title are new ones to me. (I won’t share – go buy this record.) Are there any undiscovered gems? Well, maybe not exactly gems, but one of Andy’s demos, Mind The Gap gives a fascinating insight into how Travels In Nihilon was written, another, Spy In Space, provides the bass riff for Living Through Another Cuba. Unfortunately, the pre-Padgham recordings are just not on the same level as Black Sea, the additional tracks are merely, in my opinion, additional tracks, but the surround-sound remixing of Smokeless Zone and Don’t Lose Your Temper brings those songs a lot closer to the quality of the main album.

There is a gulf between this audio experience and what you hear on streaming services. Maybe they will catch up one day? Until then, stay cheerful!

Roland Orzabal

Thanks to Roland for his review. The CD+Blu-ray reissue of XTC’s Black Sea is out now. Tears For FearsRule The World is released as a 2LP vinyl set on Friday.

The Black Sea reissue can be purchased direct from Burning Shed or using links below.

Compare prices and pre-order


Black Sea - CD+Blu-ray deluxe edition


Compare prices and pre-order

Tears For Fears

Rule The World: The Greatest Hits [VINYL]


Black Sea CD+Blu-ray content summary

• CD: Features a 2017 stereo album mix by Steven Wilson with bonus tracks (many featuring Steven Wilson mixes).

• Blu-Ray: a 5.1 Surround mix in 24bit/96khz mixed from the original multi-track tapes available in LPCM and DTS HD MA.

• Additional Blu-Ray features include:
– The 2017 stereo album mix in 24bit/96khz LPCM audio.
– Additional songs from the album sessions in stereo and 5.1 (several featuring 2017 Steven Wilson mixes)
– The original stereo album mix in hi-res stereo + bonus tracks.
– Instrumental versions (mixed by Steven Wilson), and several bonus mixes in 24bit/96khz LPCM audio.
– Many album tracks in demo form as recorded (mostly live) at Phonogram Studios prior to the main album sessions.
– Three Andy Partridge demos from Phonogram studios.
– Three Andy Partridge demos from Swindon Town Hall.
– Promo films for Towers Of London, Generals & Majors & Respectable Street.

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Justin (UK)

Fantastic review from Roland- I had no idea he loved this album. I’m a huge fan of TFF and XTC and it’s so nice to see this connection. No Language is alos my favourite track on this album (o:

[…] for Fears’ Roland Orzabal likes this album so much he agreed to review it for SDE when the CD+blu-ray reissue was released in […]

[…] Read more about XTC’s Black Sea. […]

Mick Blowe

…Colin Moulding ISN’T a genius? I’m used to this line of thought from critics, but musicians too? Wow… tired of it.

Tom M Hans

I myself am totally unfamiliar with XTC. I was never into Talking Heads but Seeds of Love is magical. I also love PG3. Where should I start my XTC experience? Thanks.

Chris Brown

When the question of an XTC starter comes up, I usually suggest Black Sea or Skylarking. Based on my limited knowledge of TFF I recall Seeds Of Love as quite a shimmery, Sixties-sounding record, in which case I’d lean towards the latter.

I’m sure other people will have their own ideas though.

Tom M Hans

Thank you. Duly noted.
Will get those two.

Larry Davis

Where to begin with XTC?? Get the KILLER 2CD compilation/anthology “Fossil Fuel: XTC Singles 1977-1992″…that covers all the bases, all the eras, the semi/lost hits in 1 handy compact package…then delve into the albums, like the 5 reissues with Steven Wilson remastering…


As I said and teach to my son, when you don’t know a singer, group or any artist in music, begin with the first or second opus, or maybe at least the third one, then you will know if you like the music and continue to go further (think Beatles: With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and so on, Stones: No.2, Out of Our Heads and so on, Elton john: Elton John, Tumbleweed Connection and so on, Kate Bush: Lionheart, Never for Ever and so on, XTC: Go 2, Drums and Wires and so on… ). Compilation is great for artists who have only made singles…


You do need to start from the top and go through the evolution of the band but wait til u get to Skylarking!

Richard Higgins

‘Black Sea’…5 Star reissue of the month in the new edition of ‘Record Collector” (page 91 issue 474)

Mark S

I’m proud to say as an American who discovered XTC in college 1980-84 , one of the coolest , smartest , best bands period. Anyone self respecting US Beatle fan that does not know them should listen to them immediately, do not pass go, do not collect 200 US dollars.


Great article. What a brilliant band XTC were, The Beatles of New Wave that’s how I call them. I reckon they are still so ridiculously underrated, even in UK, 2 years ago there was a poll in mojo – 200 best British albums ever – not a single XTC LP among. What a travesty of a poll that was !

Larry Davis

Many people call Squeeze the Beatles of 80s new wave, but I’d much rather give that honour to XTC…just as tuneful and inventive, but a bit more interesting, eccentric, and English…nothing against Mssrs Difford & Tilbrook, great band, but they don’t leave me as excited and fanatic as Mssrs Patridge/Moulding/Gregory…thank u very much…

Richard Higgins

Hi Larry Davis
This is the latest from Colin and Terry Chambers …jolly good too and hopefully more to come-



Can anyone having both the respective Japanese mini-LP CDs and the SW mixes comment on the quality differences please? Having the original CDs, the re-released CDs and the Japanese mini’s, I am really thinking hard about shelling out for these when I listen to my CDs in the vehicle, at work on the computer or travelling with my still working Discman and good Sony headphones (nothing BR 5.1 capable). I think the mini CDs sound the best to my ears.
Thanks in advance.

Nass Khan

Great review from Roland.

Larry Davis

Wow, really cool article/review by our Roland…cool taste he has, and how, now, TFF can be linked to XTC, Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel!! I used to have the US 90s era XTC reissues on Geffen, but they didn’t sound all that awesome, a drop flat. Always been a fan though, and I have the 3D-packaged 2CD “Fossil Fuel” collection, which I would never ever part with. Also used to have that 4CD “Cupboards” boxset, which was a pretty cool set of demos. I do recall loving “Black Sea” as an album, but haven’t owned/heard it in years…I think that might be my 1st SW/5.1 deluxe reissue of theirs…great value I agree…it’s the 4th one?? What are the other 3?? “Skylarking”, “Nonsuch” and “Drums & Wires”, right?? Will all the others get done as well?? Even the Dukes?? Interesting that Steven Wilson did 5.1 remixes/reissues of XTC, as I wouldn’t normally associate them with such a prog master…but like TFF, Wilson seems to tackle artful bands/records, prog, pop or not…and many prog bands/records have an artpop element to them, which are palatable to pop-oriented ears like mine…can Steven Wilson’s records can be looked at this way, artpopprog?? Solo and Porcupine Tree??

Still waiting on the “Seeds Of Love” box….hmmm…and I REALLY wish the prices on the “Songs From The Big Chair” box didn’t jump up, like $100!!! I’ve been waiting for prices to drop, dammitt!!!

Larry Davis

Another thing I forgot to add…I have one-up on Mr Orzabal in that I actually HAVE met Andy and Colin once when XTC did an instore at lower NYC’s lamented Tower Records, 4th & Broadway, for “Apple Venus Vol 1”, which I look back as a rare opportunity I fortunately was able to take part in…they were quite the affable, charming chaps…I look forward to the day they decide to collaborate again, if it ever happens…there doesn’t seem to be any bad blood between them these days, and what are they doing musically these days anyway?? Besides giving the overview of reissues…ummm, nothing?? Maybe they are quietly making new music to store away and Andy will release another 10CD boxset of “lost” & unissued gems?? Same with Colin??

Darren Lewis

It’s the fifth XTC CD/Blu-Ray Larry….Oranges & Lemons was the other one – All superb of course!


Great review of a brilliant album by one of the best bands ever. Thanks, Roland and Paul.


Great piece of writing. I went straight to Deezer to listen to the album and had a blast. Music so fresh it could’ve been made today. I only had Senses Working Overtime in my favourites (until this morning). Wish Orzabal would do this kinda thing (reviewing albums, writing texts, writing books, writing music, writing, writing, writing… and publishing!) more often. Thank you, SuperDeluxeEdition. Thank you, Roland.

Mick Shergold

Great, nice review. XTC are up there with The Beatles for me, they really are. The Hurting and Songs From The Big Chair are masterpieces too!! I can see the influence of Peter Gabriel on the first album. I found The Hurting very intense and integral, but the next one quite the opposite – massive sound. Awaiting Acting My Age by Graduate on boxset after The Seeds Of Love Deluxe arrives – LOL!!!


Waiting for Amazon.ca to deliver mine. A great album for sure that I still listen to on vinyl every once in a while, it’s a nice bridge between early XTC and their studio years. I always regret getting rid of the black bag many years ago that it came in.
This will be my first CD version of it that I’m really getting for the 5.1 version. XTC is doing a great job making definitive versions of their albums, like a mini box set for an affordable price. They made some great music! Nice to read some of the connections to TFF, Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins. Thanks for sharing Roland and we are looking forward to the Seed of Love box with 5.1.

roy phillips

Great album could do without these `re- mix` things though it sort of destroys the band little by little with every `new` release , Who is this Wilson bloke anyway ? its a shame its all about money in the end but hey ho that`s our sorry little planet for ya`s .. Original Xtc as it was released on its day forever..

SDE Hall of Fame

If there’s one thing these XTC reissues are not all about, it’s money! It’s been well-documented here and elsewhere that you get more content in these £16-17 reissues than in the average £80 Universal Music super deluxe edition!


@Roy Phillips – have you actually listened to any of the XTC SW mixes?

I would not call them ‘remixes’ in the normal use of the term. The differences are subtle (at times almost too subtle perhaps) the aim being to try to remove some of the more dated aspects of some of the original mixes (such as excessive use of reverb and gating) and end up with something that sounds more palatable to modern ears.

For those that consider this sacrilege the original album and mixes are still present and correct but added to that are 5.1 mixes (which I can’t listen too as I don’t have the right gear), the aforementioned SW mixes plus loads of bonus content (demos, alternative versions, videos and extra visual material).
Absolute bargain!


Another here who has not heard much XTC beyond the hits and the Fossil Fuel compilation. When I listened to Respectable Street linked above for the first time there are parts where it sounds like Roland is singing!

Alberto Fas

Thanks, Rolando, for your great review..no wonder your LPs are masterpieces, knowing what you listened to (you worked with Steven Wilson?? I’m guessing fort he SOL remix that has YEST to be released)…anyway, thanks for this, which will somehow “boost” the MCH mixes’ popularity…so, when are we having “Elemental”, RATKPOS and ELAHE in 5.1???? (I know there’s a very small market for it, but one of my pipe dreams is having your solo album in 5.1…it’s really something!)

SDE Hall of Fame

Steven Wilson also remixed Songs From The Big Chair in 5.1 surround. The only way to get that now is to buy the blu-ray audio.


I hope Roland knows that we are still waiting to hear “The Seeds of Love” in 5.1 surround

SDE Hall of Fame

He does know… I did ask him about that when I saw him!


Great review with very interesting anecdotes – it seems quite a bit of cross-pollination back then which is cool to hear about, that must have been a blast to be around. And I believe I have all the albums referenced above, though Fear of Music has been on my heavy rotation list for forever it seems (in addition to The Hurting and Black Sea). I just today received my copy of Black Sea, I haven’t had a chance to pop it in the player yet.

OK so I just have to share my own weird personal issue with this album. When I was in school I made a tape with Black Sea on one side of a 90 minute cassette, the other side was Big Express (I didn’t listen to LPs much because it just isn’t very portable, so they sat on my shelf mostly). Big Express fit just fine, but I lost the last couple minutes of Travels in Nihilon so it ended abruptly. I listened to that tape a zillion times and basically got used to how my tape cut off the last track to the point that it seemed to have been *meant* to end that way. When I later started getting stuff on CD I ditched my tapes (and stupidly sold my virtually pristine LPs!!), it actually sounded “wrong” hearing the song continue past where my tape had always stopped, as I had gotten used to my ‘version’. I’m sure even today when I will listen to this I will still have that unnerving feeling when the premature end of the album doesn’t happen.

Andy Hallbery

I have exactly the same. I listed to Black Sea on cassette in the car, every day. Travels in Nihilion ends and it was time to switch over…. I . I still have the vinyl, but no record player! I have ordered the 5.1 version. Now I need to get a Blu Ray player…..


* largely


Surprised yet excited to see that quite a few SDE readers are lately unfamiliar with the wonderful little world of XTC. Such treasures await you!

Everybody has their particular recommendations with this band, but potential entry points are often thought to be:

Apple Venus Vol 1 (or 2)
English Settlement
Black Sea
Oranges And Lemons

…. the list goes on (there’s also Mummer, Drums And Wires, The Big Express, White Music, Go 2 and their brilliant 60s-psychedelia alter-ego/side project The Dukes Of Stratosphear) with each having their own distinct character and their are many discoveries to be made & delights to be had. Point is, if you’re not so keen on one then perhaps give another a try, as they are little worlds unto themselves (or little storybook-villages, if you ask me). Lastly, following Andy Partridge’s thoughts in real life these days is a unique and compulsive joy. Ah, bless them. And enjoy your journey!


I only know XTC from: 1) Skylarking, 2) Mayor of Simpleton (got a lot of airplay on MTV in I think ’88), and 3) I think I know that ‘Nigel’ song. However, if one of my favorite artists, from one of my favorite bands, gives this album such a glowing review, and names it one of his all-time favorite albums, I just may have to check this out.
Thank you Paul for facilitating this entertaining review on SDE, and thanks Roland for writing it and sharing with the SDE crew!


It’s interesting to listen to the 5.1 of Black Sea, followed by Fear Of Music 5.1, then the Big Chair 5.1.


Wow, what a lovely litttle surprise. Thanks Paul for this early Christmas present! Respect and love to messrs Orzabal, Partridge and Sinclair!

Justin (UK)

That was a great read- i love the quote about “No Language In Our Lungs”- a brilliant song (o:

Mark Fisher

An excellent, insightful review, thank you. Great to hear a musician’s perspective – especially when expressed so articulately. Sounds like we enjoyed the new version of Black Sea equally – this is my review: http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/reviews/a-partridge-and-the-black-sea-roland-orzabal-reviews-xtcs-latest-reissue/

Mark Fisher

Thanks, Johnny! Nearly got caught in an endless loop there.

Adam Shaw

Nice to read a review by another artist instead of a music journalist (no offence Paul) .
He mentioned that he thought the drums were recorded at Townhouse studios , I think to my knowledge the whole album was recorded at Virgins Manor studio .

Chris Brown

According to Dave Gregory’s notes, the released Black Sea was recorded at Townhouse. There is of course the famous XTC At The Manor documentary which shows them “recording” Towers Of London but this was just staged for the cameras.

Anyway, I bought one even though I don’t have a Blu-Ray player or surround-sound setup. I’m listening to the CD bit now and I am pleased with it. I’d forgotten what a good song Take This Town was.

Wayne Klein

As I recall, there were two recordings of TOL-one for a proposed single (rejected) and the one for the album. It’s entirely possible that the footage was for one and not the other (I haven’t seen the doc yet as it was pulled from the internet before I had a chance to catch it).

regan judson

I was excited when I saw there was a review for this set on SDE but I was bowled over with glee when I saw that Roland was the one doing the honors!! A very detailed, personal review that was a joy to read. Well done Roland!! Paul, as always, your site never disappoints!

Daniel Lalla

Great (entertaining) review and idea for review. Huge fan of TFF and I have a few items from different routes that he was nice enough to sign. Nice to see them back.
It can simplified further by saying that almost anything chosen by Steven Wilson to remaster is usually
1. A great piece of work
2. Remastered to the highest standards
Wilson has a great ear and his approach to levels in the master is second to none. His album Insurgentes is a masterpiece and has become a desert-island disc for me. Not to say the others aren’t great but that one is. Masterpiece to me…


I uncritically adore most of the XTC catalog. Black Sea is a masterpiece, no doubt. It was lovely to read Roland’s thoughts on it. I had no idea it would have been the kind of thing influencing him back then but it does make perfect sense!

One question: all the Amazon links take me to product pages that say “Audio CD” with nary a mention anywhere of Bluray. Does anyone know for sure that these include the Bluray as well?

SDE Hall of Fame

Ignore ‘audio CD’ the listings are all for the CD+Blu-ray reissue!

Ade Swatridge

Buy from Burning Shed.

Marshall Gooch

Agreed. Always try Burning Shed first.


XTC never got the attention they deserved after they quit touring in 1982. Check out their albums, you won’t be disappointed.


Always had a high degree of respect for Roland’s songwriting and playing ability but if possible my respect has reached even greater heights. Anyone that has the following in their record collection:
– Bowie’s Scary Monsters,
– Peter Gabriel 3
– Talking Heads’ Fear Of Music (and Remain in Light)
as well as Black Sea
deserves some respect I think :-)

Great guest review. Thank you for arranging it Paul.
@Tim-meh: couldn’t have said it better myself!


Trash: I concur that Mr. Orzabals’s list of great influential albums, which happen to be some of my favourite records of all time, compels me to really respect his opinion. XTC has been, and remains pinnacle in my music collection. In addition to the Beatles, Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel, I can even hear elements of Captain Beefheart on songs like “Roads Girdle the Globe”. I love Andy Partridge’s body of work because he was able to make something avant garde sound commercially palatable. I just got my copy of the ‘Black Sea’ blu-ray deluxe edition today, and can’t wait to indulge myself with the Steven Wilson 5.1 mix. BTW, very impressive guest article, Paul!

David McIntyre

Great wee review of a classic album I didn’t actually hear until after the Big Express sometime in 1985 (a friends sister copied it onto a TDK casette for me without a tracklisting, swine) when I was first getting into music that wasn’t reliant on what my brother or sister were listening too.
Haven’t listened to it in a while, tonight I will. Thanks for such a great and getting greater site paul

Chris Squires

Twice the size but with only half the class…..

Excellent review, thank you Roland.

Only really checked out XTC briefly and it didn’t stick either time. Once when I was into anything Virgin to feed my young teen Oldfield obsession and secondly when Andy Partridge part produced “And Love for all” by The Lilac Time in 1990. I must try again, only harder.

Benjamin Adler

While I itch for (currently known as) “The Turning Point” and TSoL (Wilson 5.1 Embiggenned box) , I must say what this essay has done…

The guest reviewer/essayist introduces or re-introduces something of his favour to an audience who has not considered the product in a good light before.

At this objective, Mister Orzabal has succeeded. I want to learn all the nooks and the crannies within this book of sounds, an album I’ve never given any attention to previously. Kudos to him and to XTC et al!.

Roland – WRITE MORE!


Great review, great record, great band. ‘Nuff said.


Roland makes a great guest star reviewer, I hope there will be more from him or others in the future. It’s lovely to hear from someone who is a ‘star’ but also a real fan.

I already have Black Sea and Songs From The Big Chair in 5.1 but I am looking forward to Sowing The Seeds (hint hint).

(One minor point: Swindon isn’t that small – it’s more than twice the size of Bath :-) )


How interesting to read this from the point of view of a world class musician. I would never think about, nor know, where the drum sound comes from and how it was influenced. Super interesting to read. I don’t own this album but based on this review, I’m going to check it out.

Dave H

I have to agree with Roland regarding the 5.1 mix, it’s another enjoyable XTC 5.1 mix. It really does allow the listener to hear things that get buried in a stereo mix. Sgt. Rock, the track most people will be familiar with, really comes to life in 5.1.
Hopefully there’s more to come, I would like to hear ‘Wake Up’ from ‘The Big Express’ getting the 5.1 treatment.


For someone who only knows XTC’s massive hit (apologies if that is sacrilege) this review by Roland has piqued my interest in the band and I’ll probably look to purchase the Black Sea album as a result.

I have to add that this website just gets better and better and these little guest review surprises just add to the quality. Cheers Paul.

SDE Hall of Fame

Thank you.


What is XTC’s massive hit? Not being snarky: I’m a huge XTC fan, but I don’t think of them as *having* any massive hits.

David M

Making Plans for Nigel? No. 17 in UK, they actually had 6 Top 40 hits and Sgt Rock (16) and Senses Working Overtime (10) went higher in the charts.


In Australia it was “Sensors Working Overtime”. I don’t recall any of their releases making any near the same impact on the charts.


In the U.S., depending on what you use as your metric, it would have been either “Senses Working Overtime” or “Mayor of Simpleton”; but neither really made much of an impact on the populace at large. Which is a damn shame, as they remain for me one of the three most criminally underappreciated bands (Midnight Oil and Oingo Boingo being the other two).


My three favorite bands!! Plus Yes


Thank you Roland for taking the time and writing such a well considered review. My listening tonight is now settled:
The Black Sea
The Seeds Of Love
Peter Gabriel III, and
Fear Of Music

On vinyl, because that’s the way I roll!

don cooper

I do hope FOM is the embossed cover or you will not roll very far for me,Tim.

Danny G

This is great Paul – how did this come about? (And I’ve already got my copy of Black Sea!)


What a great review. I have never thought of a correlation between XTC and Talking Heads but it seems obvious now that he said that. Can’t wait to hear that 5.1 mix.

Mike B

Superb review Roland. It’s my second favourite XTC album after Skylarking. Btw – I used to see you writing at your window in England’s Lane where I also lived at the end of the 80s. Pity that ‘I love a sunflower graffiti has now gone.

Andrew B

Nice to read Mr Orzabal’s comments on this particular LP, kudos for him for taking time out to share his thoughts with us mortals.