XTC is pop that is somehow beyond the limits of pop. There is pop and art, and there is rock and art, and yet the terms Pop art or art-rock don’t quite fit. In the seventies, bands such as Yes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer; Genesis; Jethro Tull; and so on were known—with their long solos, long tracks, and grandiose concepts—as art-rock. Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper preceded them, and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool followed. In the middle was punk, which ripped apart the pretensions of the art-rockers and put Andy Partridge in an awkward position. He couldn’t show his soft side, and he couldn’t do anything that stretched the attention span. But from his earliest records, what was unmistakable was chromatic harmony, a concept that sprang from nineteenth-century Germany, starting with Wagner’s Tristan chord. To put it less technically, Partridge’s chords are often weird—stacked, suspended, and eerily cast—and they sound like no one else’s.
Here's one way to get to the Tristan chord:
And there you have it. I realize there are other variations, but this one sounded pretty good to me.
The idea that XTC is high brow entertainment is a bit of an inside joke. It's accessible pop music! It's difficult, complicated prog rock! It's dance music for white people! It's pastoral punk! It's everything you can imagine and more. Oh, and the songs are wonderful.