I got taken to school today, and I fully deserved it. I had been offered the opportunity to write a blog posting about a new release from a chap named Colin Moulding, yes, the Colin Moulding from XTC. A quick look at the PR and a brief perusal of his latest release prompted my premature conclusion that I didn’t want to do a blog about three songs.
My decision had nothing to do with the quality of Colin Mouldings’ music. It’s just that I don’t particularly enjoy doing blogs for singles, and then after covering three singles from the artist, they release an EP with four songs. Whoopie, I could have just done the EP and saved paper.
I informed Shauna, the talent agent who feeds me new music, that I would like to wait till Colin Moulding released an album. And this is when the reeducation of Norman began to correct his miseducation in regards to XTC. A tip of the proverbial hat to Lauryn Hill, and a huge wave of gratitude to Shauna at Shameless Promotion PR for tuning me in to the fact that this release is in deed a big deal that I really should take another look at. Which I did.
The first baby step that I took was to listen to the back catalogue of XTC. I owned one slab of vinyl by them, Drums and Wires. The only reason I had that album is because I liked one song on the record, Making Plans For Nigel.
I started my education by listening with Apple Essentials, but I quickly moved on from that to a brief visit at White Music, XTC‘s debut album. It was closer to punk than the XTC that I knew from Drums and Wires but a good recording in that vein of music. Next up was English Settlement, a lovely transition album moving the band away from their post-punk/new wave era into a more refined but more complex musical direction. I found English Settlement very interesting, with intelligent lyrics and well-placed music to accompany those songs. I also found that as I sampled a few of their other albums, I continued to gravitate back towards the English Settlement. Perhaps a Freudian slip since I live in an English settlement.
Meanwhile, the exercise of trying to understand where Colin Moulding was coming from jarred a few musical memories loose in my thick skull. Senses Working Overtime, a great song that hasn’t lost any of its power and sensibility. The tune Dear God was almost a mantra in a previous life that I lived. It then became blasphemy and then became a song with a high place in my song hierarchy. Curious about how life is and the music that we attach to moments that we live through. I won’t bore you with more on this train of thought; there are great books about it if you want to learn more about earworms and the science of music memory.
Guitar Zero The New Musician and the Science of Learning by Gary Marcus was a fun and inspiring read.
The World in Six Songs by Daniel Levitin
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, also by Daniel Levitin, is an excellent book.
Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks is more academic but very informative.
Fast forward from Skylarking in 1986 to July 2, 2021, when XTC legend Colin Moulding releases ‘The Hardest Battle’ on CD via Burning Shed.
This release gives us a glimpse into the creative process of one of the UK’s finest songwriters. The Hardest Battle provides us with a bridge from the popular music of XTC to the music that Colin Moulding crafts for us on this EP. ‘The Hardest Battle‘ is the first new material from Colin Moulding in many years.
Colin Moulding tells us: “To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight”… I saw these lines in a book I picked up in a secondhand bookshop and thought…maybe there’s a song there …I think it’s by the poet EE Cummins,”
“And there it was. All I had to do was come up with some music to marry to this notion. I do think most people aren’t themselves really or become themselves eventually. And that struggle isn’t easy. I recorded this pretty much in isolation, as most people have been this past year or so. One crazy year for all of us. Perhaps ‘The Hardest Battle‘ we humans have faced externally, as well as the one we fight internally every day.”
“About ‘Say It,’ I just felt this track deserved a better fate than it got, really. I wrote it for the XTC album that never was. But it ended up on a promo disk amongst XTC’s ‘Last Days of Rome’ This version feels much more akin to my original song mindset compared to the expedient I agreed to at the time,” says Colin Moulding.
Regarding ‘The Hardest Battle (First Exploratory Demo),’ Colin Moulding adds, “I think demos are much more of a demonstration to one’s self than for other people. You have to find out what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, you shoot from the hip and just fire it out and see what sticks. Larkin always said that he didn’t know what his poems were about initially until he got some way into them;- that’s what this is;- I’m just ‘Larkin’ around until it presents itself. Then the crossword puzzle can begin.”
After learning my lesson on just how good XTC was as a band and how each member contributed, I also found out that I liked XTC for more than Making Plans For Nigel. Bottom line, a huge thank you to Shauna at Shameless Promotions PR for taking the time to give me a lesson on a band that I had overlooked. I probably passed hundreds of copies of XTC‘s albums through my hands when I worked at Record Collectors Paradise, and I never took the time to stop and listen. I have found that taking the time to listen can be a hard battle as well. I recommend taking the time to stop and listen to Colin Moulding and The Hardest Battle. I know that hitting repeat will not be the hardest battle, and buying the CD is not a hard battle either, so do your ears a favour and take the time to stop and listen to this great music.
Officially out on July 2, ‘The Hardest Battle’ can be ordered on CD single exclusively via Burning Shed at:
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Keep up with Shameless Promotion PR
In conclusion here is some eye candy.