Quirk Your Enthusiasm (8)

By: Gordon Dahlquist
August 8, 2016

xtc.rs.front

One of 25 installments in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite New Wave songs from c. 1977–1982. Josh Glenn’s series introduction is here, and you can listen to the QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM playlist here. Enjoy!

“RESPECTABLE STREET” | XTC | 1980

XTC’s 4th record, Black Sea, is where the band finds itself, where for all the quasi-Beatle-boundary-trundling that would fill the records to come they nail a 2-guitar/bass/drum outfit – muscular, witty, indulgent, curious — the foundation of their sound. The opening track, “Respectable Street,” begins with the hiss of a needle set onto a groove (Peter Gabriel’s 3rd solo album, as it happens), followed by a few wan piano notes and a lazy olde-tyme vocal, which fades to silence (after a sniff, from sheer ennui) before a beautiful, tactile guitar cuts in like a looping, exuberant machete machine. Then the whole band is there, confident and gleeful, boinking and chopping through this very English anthem of Ah, Go Fuck Yourself.

The lyrics are mild as rebellion goes, basic finger-pointing exasperation about basic hypocrisy. Since this is XTC and not The Clash or PiL, the target is only as big as Swindon, exemplar of England’s undistinguished out-burbs: thoughtless consumerism, sexual double-standards, class condescension. Even then, you can find the toned-down-lyrics version cut in the (totally vain!) hope the BBC might play it, where “contraception” becomes “child prevention” and “abortion” becomes “absorption.” The self-abnegation is almost touching in its underlying hope: how Virgin insisted, how the band complied. XTC is the band that could never win – lawsuits, poverty, fights with producers, tour disasters, medical crises – but this is the record where they’re still filled with hope, psyched that the playing and writing has gelled, brimming with ideas and determined to use them all. The songs on Black Sea (a tight, coherent XTC record – ha!) disappear down so many different rabbit holes that it’s all but impossible to guess which might be a listener’s favorite, but “Respectable Street” is the one that kicks in the door. The solo isn’t anything, but who cares – I expect they were already thinking of something else.

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QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Mark Kingwell on Soft Cell’s TAINTED LOVE | Joanne McNeil on Gary Numan’s METAL | Devin McKinney on Suicide’s FRANKIE TEARDROP | Douglas Wolk on Family Fodder’s SAVOIR FAIRE | Elina Shatkin on Marianne Faithfull’s BROKEN ENGLISH | Steph Burt on Altered Images’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY | Greg Rowland on Jilted John’s JILTED JOHN | Gordon Dahlquist on XTC’s RESPECTABLE STREET | Adrienne Crew on D-Day’s TOO YOUNG TO DATE | Jonathan Lethem on The Blue Nile’s I LOVE THIS LIFE | Josh Glenn on Tim Curry’s I DO THE ROCK | Molly Wright Steenson on Missing Persons’ WORDS | Anthony Miller on The Nails’ 88 LINES ABOUT 44 WOMEN | Luc Sante on The Normal’s WARM LEATHERETTE | Mimi Lipson on Dolly Mixture’s HOW COME YOU’RE SUCH A HIT WITH THE BOYS, JANE? | Tim Carmody on Talking Heads’ LIFE DURING WARTIME | Ingrid Schorr on Ian Dury’s CLEVOR TREVER | Adam McGovern on Lene Lovich’s LUCKY NUMBER | Deb Chachra on Rough Trade’s HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL | Tor Aarestad on Oingo Boingo’s LITTLE GIRLS | David Smay on The B-52’s’ DANCE THIS MESS AROUND | Jessamyn West on Blondie’s HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE | Drew Daniel on The Human League’s MARIANNE | Erik Davis on Tuxedomoon’s TIME TO LOSE | Dan Fox on Thomas Dolby’s EUROPA & THE PIRATE TWINS.

NEW WAVE HILO HEROES: Debbie Harry | Marianne Faithfull | Grace Jones | Ian Dury | Mark Mothersbaugh | Plastic Bertrand | Tim Curry | Kate Pierson | Green Gartside | David Byrne.

MORE ENTHUSIASM SERIES at HILOBROW

WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.

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Categories

Enthusiasms, Music, Pop Music

What do you think?

  1. Very interesting, Mr. Dahlquist. I’d note that the old-timey opening also has Andy singing some of the lyrics repeated in the rest of the song. And in the “weird things that outrage some people” category, I was pretty angry with them when I bought “The Upsy Daisy Assortment” to find that they’d changes the lines you noted. I assumed it was because they didn’t want the lyric to be interpreted as anti-abortion, so they changed it. And even though it’s sad that they felt they had to change it due to pressure from their record company, I prefer that reason to a purely ideological one.

    This song is also a good companion to “No Thugs In Our House”, and “Making Plans For Nigel.” I always think of these three songs as involving the same family.

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