XTC spent the first half of the '80s dropping out of the new wave rat race in favor of cultivating an eccentric English garden. It was a move that mirrored the Kinks ignoring psychedelia for songs about subdivisions and afternoon tea, but when XTC decided to cut loose, they did so by adopting alter egos to create a riotous tribute to the very psychedelia the Kinks shunned. They turned into the Dukes of Stratosphear and cut the EP 25 O'Clock, a brilliant, clever distillation of the sounds of 1967, filled with knowing allusions and outright thievery from psychedelic classics both popular and well-known. For those well-versed in '60s rock, it's irresistible to draw parallels to the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Move, and Pink Floyd, but 25 O'Clock practically begs listeners to connect the dots through its swirling kaleidoscope of phased tapes, fuzz guitars, murmured voices, and burbling Mellotrons -- and that's not even taking into account lyrical allusions, like how "Bike Ride to the Moon" twists around Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle." All this makes 25 O'Clock something closer to pop art than mere homage, but what makes it enduring -- even strangely timeless -- pop music is how XTC's reinvigorated creativity extends far beyond the mere form to the songs themselves. The six songs on the EP are XTC at their very best, their braininess tempered by the discipline of writing six songs that could have been legitimately seen as forgotten gems from the late '60s (which indeed this EP was initially presented as upon its April Fools Day release in 1985). Although there is certainly considerable pleasure in peeling back the layers of the production to puzzle out the references or simply revel in its sound, what is striking about 25 O'Clock is how joyous and immediate it feels, a trait it shares with the very best pop music -- which it certainly is.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine