The Dukes of Stratosphear

Psonic Psunspot

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Anybody who heard the Dukes of Stratosphear's 1985 EP 25 O'Clock was left wanting more, so the full-length Psonic Psunspot sequel was welcomed warmly upon its 1987 release. Like most sequels, Psonic Psunspot pales slightly when compared to its predecessor, and not simply because the LP lacks the surprise of the EP. 25 O'Clock may have only been six tracks, but they were densely packed, containing enough studio tricks and allusions for a triple album. Psonic Psunspot doesn't play quite the same way: the tracks aren't as ornate and the songs aren't all necessarily patterned after specific '60s singles or artists, the way they were on the EP. All this gives Psonic Psunspot the feel of a slightly psychedelicized XTC pop album, never quite getting as far out as 25 O'Clock, but this is all relative, because compared to the pop of 1987, even the echoes out of the paisley underground, this is plenty trippy -- and plenty poppy, for that matter. There are exceptions to the allusion rule -- "Pale and Precious" is an unapologetic Beach Boys patchwork; "Have You Seen Jackie" is another salute to Syd Barrett; and Colin Moulding's "Vanishing Girl," arguably the best song here, refers to the Hollies -- but the album feels less like an homage and more like XTC playing heavily to their pop side, tossing off little sparkling gems like "Little Lighthouse," "Collideascope," and "Brainiac's Daughter" (although the single and standout "You're a Good Man Albert Brown [Curse You Red Barrel]" is unmistakably a music hall romp that fits the '60s concept). And whenever XTC play to their pop side, the results tend to be pretty hard to resist and that's the case here -- maybe it's not quite as epochal as 25 O'Clock, but it's a fine companion all the same.

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