English Settlement is a double album released by XTC in 1982.
As we reach the 30th Anniversary of this stunning achievement, let me say a few things. This album is not only a must have, it's a how have you lived this long without it?
Recorded with painstaking precision and loving care, English Settlement runs the gamut from love, loss, whimsy, amusement, pain, and there and back again, each song rising and falling with expert treatment. This is the sound of a band at the height of their powers, a machine nearly broken by years of incessant touring and recording however. XTC would release English Settlement and then, literally, fall apart. One member would have a breakdown, the other would leave soon thereafter. How did the other two continue?
For me, the centerpiece of this album would be Senses Working Overtime. It captures, with stomping glee, the sounds of church bells and earthly pleasures, counting down all of the five senses, with something about the difference between the lemons and the limes thrown in to keep you from guessing. It's a mature, confident single. It stands up very well.
XTC threw everything into this album, trying to redefine pop music as no mere exercise in commercial throwaways and filler tracks for singles-laden records. Deliberately antique looking, right down to the linen texture on the cover (the vinyl version of this had a slip-cover, if I recall) and loaded with fan-friendly features, this one has never left my collection.
Since I don't post MP3s, and the reason for that is obvious (why get taken down by the thought police?), I do think that the artwork is well worth commentary. The cover is, as many already know, a reproduction of the chalk horse of Uffington, which is estimated to be 3,000 years old:
The text inside of the CD booklet is a further indictment of trying to shrink album art down for the Compact Disc. It just doesn't work. What was a gorgeously lettered festival of text becomes an illegible blur, readable with a magnifying glass.