Growing up with awesome parents who loved awesome music proved quite impressionable on this young mans mind. One of these loves was born out of a single song entitled "Dear God." This is surprising enough is that my mother, who loved this track, is curious as she is a person who believes very much in her Catholic religion. Such an exuberant and opinionated song is not one to be written off because of what it says. This shows that sometimes art and opinion can be blended into something that anyone can understand. The album that "Dear God" is found on was discovered later in life for me. XTC's Skylarking became the soundtrack for my first year in college, as did many other XTC records. This one stood out and still does as a beacon of amazing pop music goodness and brilliant song craft.
My freshman year at La Salle University was a very strange one at that. I was torn on whether I enjoyed it or no. I commuted and felt very adrift in the ways of friendship and connection to my new school. It was a strange and polarizing feeling as college was far more intriguing and fit to my sensibilities than high school could ever want to be. Somehow, Skylarking was the perfect musical replication of this life changing stage that many of us go through. The manic-depressive structure of the record kind of paralleled the thoughts and feelings that engulfed my weekly activities. Going through campus soaking in the sights yet having to drive back home to a dead end job and to total isolation living at home. Getting involved in activities that connected me to the world of college yet being robbed of the social pipeline that living on campus can afford a young adult.
These themes aren't present on the album, but the music and the song styles change and flow just like this. The hopeful dreamscapes of "Summer's Cauldron" to "Grass" show the mythical grandiosity of college. The dream before it all starts. A carefree environment surrounded by romantic visions of some sort of adult life. As much as the pop music of "That's Really Super, Super Girl" sounds all fluffy and light, the lyrics have a tongue in cheek cynicism that could identify with the false visions of situations that one comes across in life. It may be one of the best songs that sound like something it isn't. Right up there with Elton John's "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself" or The Who's "However Much I Booze." The real cynic comes out in the oppressively beautiful "1000 Umbrellas." It's the "Eleanor Rigby" of the 80's with a very stark and poetic view of misery. "Season Cycle" also shows the cynical views of religion and institutions in general, yet with more hopeful view of life when stating when it comes to getting to heaven, "I'm already there."
Beyond the musical themes present to show the ups and downs that were paralleled in my life at that time, it also was an albm that really sprawled a whole hell of a lot of genres. The mystical "Mermaid Smiled" and the jazzy "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul" showed a band that could jump around from genre to genre yet make a coherent record. I find it interesting that this album is more notable in musical circles. I find XTC to be a band that is forgotten in general and for no justification in my personal opinion. One of the more interesting 80's bands that went through many stylistic changes throughout their recording career with Skylarking being the career highlight. It's music I can identify with and lyrics that just explode with poetic greatness.
It was kind of an addiction that I went through. I think every year I discover a band that I just can't get enough of and for the year 2002-03, it was XTC. I remember imposing my love of this band on many new friends I was making and I even incorporated a song into one of my Public Speaking speeches. It makes so much sense that this record would make the list then. Beyond many plays on The Lost Tracks and many more plays while passing out to sleep at night and having dreams and nightmares of my insecure life at the time, Skylarking was the perfect soundtrack for a moment in time.
Oh and this video is kind of dumb, like most of these, but I couldn't not put the song "Mermaid Smiled" as the sampling for this record. It's just so sumptuous.
1. The Who - Tommy
2. Beck - Odelay
3. Television - Marquee Moon
4. Weezer - Pinkerton
5. Brian Eno - Before & After Science
6. Wilco - A Ghost is Born
7. The Beatles - Rubber Soul
8. Grand Funk Railroad - Closer to Home
9. Foo Fighters - The Colour & The Shape
10. Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection
11. Interpol - Turn On the Bright Lights
12. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
13. Jeff Buckley - Grace
14. Warren Zevon
15. Black Mountain - In The Future
16. XTC - Skylarking
Up Next: Pavement's Crooked Rain Crooked Rain