XTC

Oranges & Lemons

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AllMusic Review by

Skylarking was an ambitious yet concise record, one that recalled such graceful concept albums as Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper, so it wasn't entirely a surprise that XTC embraced psychedelia on its double-album follow-up, Oranges & Lemons, especially if their celebrated Dukes of Stratosphear side project was taken into consideration as well. Oranges & Lemons lacks the singular focus of Skylarking, but at its best, it's just as impressive as its predecessor. Instead of revelling in the form of psychedelic pop, as they did with the Dukes, XTC bring the genre's sensibility to the mature pop of Skylarking, spiking it with a wry, occasionally absurd sense of humor missing from its predecessor. The result is a record exploding with details, not the least of which are backward guitars, sound effects, and head-spinningly eclectic arrangements. It's sonically rich and filled with immaculately crafted songs, but Oranges & Lemons falls just short of being a tour de force, since each song feels like an island -- they work well as individual tracks, but they don't form a cohesive statement. However, that's a minor complaint, because Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge in particular are in peak form, contributing some of their very finest songs in "Garden of Earthly Delights," "The Loving," "One of the Millions," "Merely a Man," "Pink Thing," and the elegiac "Chalkhills and Children." Such songs make the relative weaknesses of the album well worth enduring.

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