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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Xymox May 19, 2018

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As some will have figured out my musical taste has always been one with an interest in bands who corrupt their sound in some respect. A good example of that might be the Psychedelic Furs on 1986’s Midnight to Midnight where they embraced mid 1980s mainstream pop production in order to break big commercially, or rather to continue breaking big commercially after the success of Pretty in Pink. It’s hated by many fans and the band themselves seem none too fond of it. And yet, despite one or two tracks on it which are absolutely abysmal I have to be honest I kind of like it. Similarly with Simple Minds Once Upon A Time. Where did the previous new wave/post-punk/synth pop excursions go? Who knows?

Clan of Xymox are another example, albeit a more obscure one. Some of you, if you’ve heard of them at all, will remember them for a fine early single… Muscoviet Musquito released on the fairly legendary 4AD sampler Lonely is An Eyesore and a couple of interesting but somewhat derivative subsequent albums on that label. As time went on they shifted fairly sharply into the Goth camp, lost the ‘Clan of’, departed from 4AD to pastures new.

But then came their 1991 release Phoenix. This was a genuinely odd work, a sort of baggy goth cross-over, infuriating the latter contingent of their fan base and getting absolutely no exposure to fans of the former. They never produced anything quite like it again and soon enough reverted to mainstream goth.

I think that was a pity, for while I am fond of the none-more Goth “Twist of Shadows” released in 1989 which managed to smooth their sound to a position a couple of notches away from a goth inflected New Order and sees co-founder Anka Wolbert on lead vocals on one charting song, Phoenix was… well… more fun.

Sure the video to single Phoenix of My Heart is near risible given their earlier image. Gone were the gothicisms, and in came short hair cuts, beats and dance. Now one can see that as an outrageous sell-out or as an highly entertaining genre exercise. Or both!

Funny thing though is that even if most baggy fans weren’t interested, the album did reasonably well in the US. Moreover, and this is a particular reason I love this album, Wolbert came out a bit further from …er the shadows to take more lead vocals too on tracks. And what songs. Looped basslines and beats, sunny inflections, a certain melancholy – yes, but something (to my ears) fascinating was going on.

One has to love their suddenly broadened colour palette… and in fairness there’s still a hint of corruption in their sound. Not least in a fantastic cover of Patti’s Smith on Dancing Barefoot. They never topped this – returning their sound to one closer to traditional goth and reappropriating the ‘Clan of’ name again, and with Wolbert and Pieter Nooten leaving. She went on to produce a solo album, but this is the one I listen to time and again.

I’ve thrown in some of their earlier work as a compare and contrast.

At the End of the Day

Written in the Stars

The Shore Down Under

Smile Like Heaven

Phoenix of My Heart

Dancing Barefoot


A Day

Muscoviet Musquito


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