My favorite 100 albums of all time: #1 ("Skylarking")

"Skylarking" album coverI'm not saying that Skylarking is the best album in the history of the universe, but I'm not not saying it either. Certainly it's the finest album XTC have produced.

I know precisely when my love affair with XTC began, it was May 3rd, 1987 when MTV played the world premiere of "Dear God" on 120 Minutes. While not on the original pressings of Skylarking, Geffen slapped it on the US version and omitted "Mermaid Smiled" to make room.

Once I finally got my hands on a copy of the cassette, I played it as much as possible – it's a miracle that the cassette lasted until I made the switch to CDs and was able to retire the poor thing.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #31 ("Waxworks / Beeswax")

XTC collection "Waxworks / Beeswax" album coversWaxworks and Beeswax are a double dose of angular, jumpy, frenetic pop from Swindon's XTC. This pairing captures the very best of XTC's early period, before they evolved into a more "pastoral" (and Beatlesque) sound on later albums.

Officially Waxworks: Some Singles 1977–1982 and Beeswax: Some B-Sides 1977–1982 are separate albums. However, I'm lumping them together because that's how I first found them, as a long-play cassette from Virgin released in 1982. At 25 songs, it was one hell of a score when I still chose new music based on how much I could scrape together from part-time jobs. "This album has 12 songs, but this one is the same price and it's 25 songs! Score!" I've never really thought of side two as b-sides, probably because XTC's b-sides were usually just as good as their singles – and certainly better than a lot of bands' singles.

You'll note that 1977-1982 corresponds with XTC's touring years, before the band stopped touring and being constrained by playing songs live.

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #41 ("Psonic Psunspot")

Album Cover "Psonic Psunspot"Psonic Psunspot is the best collection of 60s psychedelia ever recorded in the mid-80s. The members of XTC, working under the pseudonym Dukes of Stratosphear basically channeled some of their musical influences from the 60s and delivered 10 outstanding replicas that easily stand alongside XTC's best work.

Psunspot is actually XTC's second venture back in time under the Dukes name, the first release was an EP called 25 O'Clock. I prefer Psunspot not just for length, but also because the lyrics are a little sharper and it has a few truly outstanding tracks.

"Vanishing Girl" is a shiny, shimmering little number that has excellent harmonies and tasty guitar. It'd be right at home on a playlist from 1965 or 1966. "Have You Seen Jackie" is a particularly trippy piece with a protagonist that "couldn't decide if he was a girl, or if she was a boy." This is not an album that takes itself particularly seriously,

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My favorite 100 albums of all time: #82 ("The Big Express")

XTC album cover for "The Big Express" XTC's The Big Express pulls into the top 100 station at number 82. Roughly in the middle of the band's discography, The Big Express successfully melds the awkward New Wave-y XTC nicely with the more lush, Beatlesque XTC to come.

Picking my favorite XTC album or albums is sort of like trying to choose my favorite limbs or organs. Yes, when absolutely necessary, I could choose. That's not to say that I'd be happy losing any of them.

Likewise, I had to impose some rules on my top 100 to keep it being absolutely overrun with a few bands. Specifically, no more than three albums by any band or artist, and if I pick more than one, try to encompass as much of the band's career as possible. Or at least as much of their career as I actually enjoy.

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