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Nonsuch lyrics
Nonsuch (1992)

Patently incapable of making substandard records and equally hopeless at actually selling them, XTC's 10th studio album, Nonsuch (produced by Gus Dudgeon and benefiting from the crisp drum work of former Fairport Convention sticksman Dave Mattacks), was yet another sublime, literate and unpredictable Anglo-pop masterpiece, brimming with tuneful deviousness, intelligent arrangements and interesting subject matter but nevertheless avoided by the public as if it were an approaching tramp with a personal hygiene problem. That quirky Canadians Crash Test Dummies actually had a hit with an exact replica of "Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" can only be attributed to their choice of deodorant. A similar injustice befell single "The Disappointed" (Andy Partridge's anthem for the amorously disenfranchised and surely one of their best ever recordings), which narrowly failed to win an Ivor Novello Award. Still, typically for a band who've never enjoyed the full rub of the green, some of the finest moments on Nonsuch deal with either underachievement (as on Colin Moulding's "Smartest Monkeys", which questions how mankind can get to the moon but can't solve problems of hunger and homelessness); such anti-showbiz mundanity as walking the dog ("Humble Daisy"); or aspiring to a retirement home by the sea (another forlorn Moulding number fusing Noel Coward with the Beach Boys' pocket symphonies). Other than "The Disappointed", the real must-hear is the anti-censorship "Books are Burning", inspired by the Salman Rushdie affair and by German poet Heinrich Heine's famous quote, and musically pitched halfway between "Hey Jude" and Leo Sayer's "When I Need You", ascending to a climactic duel between the frying guitars of Partridge and Gregory. --Kevin Maidment

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