Former XTC man Andy Partridge has teamed up with Jen Olive and Stu Rowe to present one of this year’s freshest takes on pop.
Not bad for a man who so regularly topped the charts more than four decades ago during XTC’s late 1970s and 1980s heyday.
His long-term project with US based Olive and Partridge’s fellow Swindon based musician Rowe, The 3 Clubmen has produced a remarkable eponymous EP this summer. Blending pop, jazz and sci-fi it is full of the sort of angular, pastoral rock XTC fans have been accustomed to.
Across the four tracks all use repetition of riffs and lyrics to great effect. This is especially the case on opener and single Aviatrix, as the guitar weaves in and out of the vocals and flute in this decades defying track.
Angular guitar takes centre stage on Racecar, while Green Green Grasshopper sounds like a forgotten track from XTC’s 1986 album Skylarking.
But it is its final track and another single from the EP Look At Those Stars that shines brightest.
It’s a wonderful chorus full of wonder for the world. The use of the word ‘those’ rather than ‘the’ makes the stars even more personal. This is arguably one of the singles of the year for us and reminiscent of XTC’s biggest hit Senses Working Overtime in its pop awe with the world, and indeed other worlds.
The video too for Look At Those Stars is a work of wonder using AI tech to create a sweeping animation.
The trio have been working together in some form for more than a decade and this is the first time they have combined to release material.
Previous work has included Rowe and Partridge collaborating on Monstrance in 2006. Regular sessions then took place between the pair at Rowe’s Lighterthief Bunker studio and Olive later became involved.
After being put on hold, interest in working together emerged during the pandemic resulting in this debut EP.
“To me, this EP is a bizarre 70s sitcom for the ears, which lies on the borders between random and structured, weird and straight, and old and new. It’s somehow come up from the strange dream-like world that exists between all three of us,” says Rowe.
While with his customary English self-deprecating wit, Partridge adds: “The 3 Clubmen are doing everything wrong…and it’s just right.”
This is very much still pop.
By Joe Lepper