XTC’s sixth album, Mummer was another turning point for the band as it marked their first release as a studio only band. Evolving from the brash, post-punk/pop of their first two albums White Music and Go2 into one of the most highly regarded of British bands of the era via a trio of essential albums – Drums And Wires, Black Sea, English Settlement – which showcased the increasing versatility of both band and the twin songwriters, Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding.
But even the comparatively quieter/more considered English Settlement was very much an album of songs written with one ear for the studio and another for how they would work live. Mummer was different.
Freed from the constraints of ‘the road’ this was XTC in widescreen – experimenting with songs, arrangements and the expanded sonic palette that studios can provide when there is no afterthought as to how to reproduce the material in a variety of theatres, university halls and other venues few, if any, of which were built with rock groups in mind. And, just as the Mummers’ plays involve people travelling from place to place in a village enacting tales of the cycle of life (albeit in disguise), XTC travelled the best of the UK’s studios recording, mixing and re-mixing their songs cycle to exacting standards.
Released as the follow-up to their most successful UK album to date and with a new record label in America, band and record company hopes were high – three of the album’s first four songs were issued as singles – but were to remain unfulfilled. Fans loved it, the press was positive but radio was changing, especially in the UK, and with no touring it failed, as sometimes happens with bands adopting a new approach, to cross over to that wider audience.
As also happens with such records, its reputation (and sales) have, over the years, grown far greater than its initial reception indicated and it can now be seen, in retrospect, to have been an important first step towards the sort of expansive approach to writing and recording that would yield much greater commercial results later in the same decade with Skylarking and the albums that followed.
Unavailable for decades on LP and with its original, but never used, sleeve art restored, Mummer becomes the eleventh XTC studio album to be reissued on high grade audiophile vinyl.
Beating Of Hearts
Love On A Farmboy’s Wages
Deliver Us From The Elements
In Loving Memory Of A Name
Me And the Wind
Funk Pop A Roll