Music: Skylarking

Skylarking is a 1986 Concept Album (sorta) by Swindon-based New Wavers turned neo-psychedelic band XTC, their eighth studio album and usually considered by fans and critics as their Magnum Opus.

The album was recorded in a bit of a Troubled Production in 1986 in Woodstock, New York, with Todd Rundgren serving as producer, while Prairie Prince's drums were recorded separately at a studio in San Francisco (XTC had not had a permanent drummer since 1982, but worked with different drummers in the studio). Andy Partridge's original idea for the cover was to depict a woman's pubic hair with flowers involved. Virgin said no, but somehow were convinced to use a cover that depicted a naked man and woman playing flutes. Partridge's original idea was used for the 2010 vinyl reissue. Its somewhat Baroque Pop-meets-Psychedelic Rock sound, heavily drawing from The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Kinks, gained praise from critics but barely crawled into the charts in both the USA and the band's native UK at first. However, this situation was reversed when the controversial "Dear God" was issued as a single, reviving the album's sales somewhat.


Tracklist

Side One
  1. "Summer's Cauldron" (3:19)
  2. "Grass" (3:05)
  3. "The Meeting Place" (3:14)
  4. "That's Really Super, Supergirl" (3:21)
  5. "Ballet For A Rainy Day" (2:50)
  6. "1000 Umbrellas" (3:44)
  7. "Season Cycle" (3:21)

Side Two
  1. "Earn Enough For Us" (2:54)
  2. "Big Day" (3:32)
  3. "Another Satellite" (4:15)
  4. "Mermaid Smiled" (2:26)
  5. "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" (3:24)
  6. "Dear God" (3:34)
  7. "Dying" (2:31)
  8. "Sacrifical Bonfire" (3:49)


Dear God, I do believe in these tropes:

  • Belief Makes You Stupid: "Dear God"
    Dear God, I don't know if you noticed, but...
    Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book, and us crazy humans wrote it
    you should take a look, and all the people that you made in your image still believing that junk is true.
  • Blasphemous Boast:
    Dear God, I don't believe in you.
  • Breakup Song: "That's Really Super, Supergirl" and "1000 Umbrellas" are both about breakups.
  • Concept Album: Rundgren convinced the band that the songs they had demoed would work as a "life-in-a-day" type of concept album.
  • Fading into the Next Song: This is a gapless album.
  • Genre Roulette: This album includes:
    • Indian-influenced psychedelic pop ("Grass")
    • Synth-heavy pop rock ("That's Really Super, Supergirl")
    • Violin-driven Baroque Pop ("1000 Umbrellas")
    • Soulful Sunshine Pop that sounds like a Pet Sounds out-take ("Season Cycle")
    • Power Pop ("Earn Enough For Us")
    • Droney synth-driven something ("Another Satellite")
    • Jazz-rock ("Mermaid Smiled")
    • Jazz-rock with what the liner notes call "ersatz Bond guitar" ("The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul")
    • The Animals-influenced Folk Rock ("Dear God")
    • Depressing folk balladry ("Dying")
    • Something that almost sounds like an RPG soundtrack ("Sacrificial Bonfire")
  • Grief Song: "Dying".
    And I'm getting older, too
    But I don't want to die like you
    Don't want to die like you
  • Guest Star Party Member: The drummer for this album was Prairie Prince from The Tubes.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The name of the album comes from Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem "Ode to a Skylark".
  • Money Song: Or in "Earn Enough For Us"'s case, lack of money song.
    I can take humiliation
    And hurtful comments from the Boss
    I'm just praying by the weekend
    I can earn enough for us
    I can earn enough for us
  • One-Word Title: "Grass", "Dying" and the album's title.
  • Record Producer: Todd Rundgren.
  • Religion Rant Song/God Is Evil: "Dear God".
    (..) but all the people that you made in your image, see them starving on their feet
    'cause they don't get enough to eat from God, I can't believe in you
    Dear God, sorry to disturb you, but...
    I feel that I should be heard loud and clear.
    We all need a big reduction in amount of tears
    and all the people that you made in your image, see them fighting in the street
    'cause they can't make opinions meet about God,
    I can't believe in you
    Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
    Did you make mankind after we made you? And the devil too!
  • Remaster: The 2010 vinyl release, notably averting the Loudness War.
  • Shout-Out: "That's really super, Supergirl" refers to Supergirl and namedrops kryptonite, the only thing Superman can't fight against.
    Hurt like kryptonite.
  • Updated Re-release: A non-video game example of this.
    • The album was first issued in 1986 with "Mermaid Smiled" on its tracklist, but the success of "Dear God" led Virgin to re-press the album for the USA, shunting "Mermaid" and replacing it with "Dear God"
    • A 2001 reissue included "Mermaid Smiled" and "Dear God", the latter as a "bonus track" after "Sacrificial Bonfire".
    • A 2010 remaster by John Dent was released to vinyl by Andy Partridge's APE House company. This attracted attention because Dent announced he had discovered that a mistake during the original's mastering had reversed the sound polarity and made it sound more thin and bass-less, but had managed to restore the original sound quality. This one includes both "Mermaid Smiled" and "Dear God", but changes the order slightly, placing "Dear God" right before "Dying".
  • Your Cheating Heart: "Another Satellite" is about Partridge's collapsing marriage to his wife Marianne and his relationship with Erica Wexler.