By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
Spins and Reviews | 1.16.18
TC&I | Great Aspirations (2017)
On this delightful, ruminative and playfully earnest four-song EP, Colin Moulding, clever, melodic bassist, singer and warmhearted songwriter, ex of XTC, continues his earthy exploration of human exploits and foibles, joined by equally ex-XTC drummer and brother-in-arms Terry Chambers.
Moulding’s observant treatises, examining life’s travails amidst lovely melodies powered by his tender singing and playing and Chambers’ meaty percussive bottom end, ring true as they offer topics for discussion and hints of next, explorative and mindful steps on the road to sorting things out. Slotting comfortably into Moulding’s body of work as essayed joyfully during his XTC years, these songs beg sisters, brothers and cousins more on future EPs and albums.
“Scatter Me” plays its pure melodic pop card at the start with percussive piano and Moulding’s familiar, yearning vocal, quickly topped by his pumping bass and Chambers’ assured drums. The narrator’s plea for his ashes being scattered into the open air celebrates life (“Then live on/Bang a gong/Sing a song/For the land of the living”) and posits the possibility of sticking around in some ethereal fashion to underline the notion of some measure of afterlife in and around this mortal plain (“And if one day it cuts up rough/I’m at your window/Be careful where you tread/It might be me swept in”).
The playful “Greatness” begins with a heavenly-sounding statement of purpose (“Greatness/It’s where I wanna be”) at the start of a journey toward achievement, ostensibly in the arts. Name checking such high artistic watermarked figures as Hitchcock, Spielberg, Gershwin and McCartney, the narrator expresses hope that his parents will be able to experience his cultural ascent (“When I’m sold a lemon/I’ll just make lemonade/Show my daddy I’m no dope/As he waves me down the road”). Aspiring to greatness, however, is hardly assured, although commitment and confidence are collectively half the battle (“Just you wait”).
The deterioration of the playgrounds and lands of neighborhoods as so-called progress marches on is explored in the upbeat pop-rocker “Kenny.” And in the spoken-word-over-faintly-military-backing closer “Comrades of Pop,” harsh realities are conveyed to musicians aspiring to ascend to the top of the pop charts. “Comrades of pop turn away/In love and war all is fair,” Moulding notes. But the title of this number is hopeful–comrades, after all, being brothers-in-arms in sync with each other, always join together with their eyes on some sort of prize.
Great Aspirations comes at a time of increased visibility and group hugs for XTC’s legacy, what with the documentary celebration This is Pop and Mark Fisher’s lovingly-assembled, exhaustive book The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls currently finding love and affection among fans. Moreover, this EP sits as proof positive that melodic pop music is alive and well in the hands of a couple of pros by the names of Colin Moulding and Terry Chambers.
Where to Get It: Burning Shed
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