Saturday, 15 August 2009

the Dukes of Statosphear - Chips From the Chocolate Fireball Anthology (1985-87)

A snappy little two-album anthology of the ultimate psychedelic nostalgia here, as performed by Sir John Johns and his merry band of toytown travellers - better known as New Wave songwriting geniuses XTC.

The neo-psychedelia tag is a misnomer really, seeing as the Dukes of Stratosphear's output was that of a loving tribute to the anni mirabiles of 1967 and 1968; no doubt the fruits of swollen record collections and weed-fuelled in-joking. Partridge & co's moment of indulgence is in fact so complete that were it not for the slight giveaway of John Leckie at the boards, one could be fooled in to believing the Dukes were a great obscure band of the psychedelic era, and no doubt this was their intention.
Fans of that fertile period of ambitious songwriters will absolutely lap up this little experiment; it comes out as a seamless amalgam of all your favourite 60's drug music, at times sounding exactly like a lost Beatles album from between 'Sgt. Pepper's' and 'Magical Mystery Tour', at

others recalling the frenetic paranoia of the Pretty Things, or staples like Tomorrow and Art. The 1985 mini-album '25 O'Clock' is perfection and the '87 full-length 'Psonic Sunspot' literally has nothing wrong with it either - the only downside I can see is if you aren't all that fond of 60's psych, but then why the hell are you even breathing?
Andy Partridge demonstrates a great ability throughout to mimic the clich├ęd effects and studio trickery of the era, whilst utilising his characteristic songwriting ability to keep things awesome. He has plenty of fun with the lyrics of course, the late 60's being one of the most ripe-for-parody in the history of pop. Special mention must go to 'Bike Ride to the Moon', which is like a tongue-in-cheek version of 'My White Bicycle':
Why not bring a pot of tea / On a bike ride to the moon? /
Angel cake for you and me / On a bike ride to the moon
What's not to like?

Within this multi-coloured tea chest lie nestled some of the best songs XTC recorded in the studio-only part of their career, in my redundant opinion. In short, I be your witch doctor and 'Chips From the Chocolate Fireball' is what I prescribes.

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