Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tunesday: "Mayor of Simpleton," XTC

Wrong or not, I lump XTC in the category of "nerd rock." Other bands/artists that fall in the category include They Might Be Giants, Weezer, The Flaming Lips and "Weird Al" Yankovic, to name a few. The common thread is that they don't necessarily look like they rock.  But, boy, do they ever. And I love their music, unique style and mold-breaking approach to rocking and/or rolling.

XTC is a fine example of a band of technically skilled musicians and songwriters whose success was most likely negatively affected by the power of MTV. When Music Television played music videos, style trumped substance, especially in its first decade. More than ever, talented artists needed to look the part. If they didn't, the song either needed to be truly outstanding and/or its video needed to be technically groundbreaking, feature scantily clad models and/or be a thinly-veiled advertisement (looking directly at you, Dire Straits, and you, The Cars).

I never owned any of XTC's albums, but their tracks slipped into my life's soundtrack over the years ("The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" and "Making Plans for Nigel"). The first song I heard by XTC was the excellent but controversial tune "Dear God,"  but "Simpleton" remains one of my favorite songs by any band. Why? No question about it: That's a sick bass line, y'all. Colin Moulding is all over that fretboard, just rolling throughout the whole song. It's a complicated line, but it doesn't overwhelm the rest of the tune; instead, it complements the melody and propels the track. It's just genius.

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