Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Playboy Music

Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have shared a passion for arty popcraft since forming their first band in 1973--a band that surfaced as XTC in punk 1977 and retired to the studio as soon as seemed decent. Often their structures and polyrhythms have been too fussy, but Skylarking (Geffen) is what arty solitude is for. With Todd Rundgren adding his jeweler's touch to some very melodic songs, the album soars like a bird or good Shelley, especially when it celebrates young love? most enticingly on a song called "Grass," about something good to do there, though at least half a dozen others come close.

In the tradition of England's depressed industrial north, the Housemartins are more soulful still, and they've made a splash in their nation's troubled waters with their cardigans and baggy pants. These unpretentious lads are so perky, you think they're about to break into a cereal commercial; but, in fact, they have a different product in mind: socialist revolution, with equal credit to Marx and Jesus. And if you give the at first annoyingly cheerful music on London 0 Hull 4 (Elektra) a chance to rouse you, you, too, will be humming, "Don't shoot someone tomorrow/That you can shoot today."

Playboy, June 1987

May 1987 July 1987