XTC – “Beating Of Hearts” (from the album Mummer)
XTC’s early 80s albums are thick, soupy affairs, full of knotty post-punk songwriting and an obsessive concern for England past and present. 1983’s Mummer was their first record without drummer Terry Chambers, whose departure allowed Andy Partridge to open up his band’s sound some, bringing folk influences and traditional instrumentation into the tricksy mix. At the same time, though, Partridge upped the thematic ante, and Mummer is a sometimes impenetrable journey into a ruralist, rough-hewn English vision. It sold apallingly and signalled the end of the band’s chances of becoming commercial heavy-hitters, but it’s one of my favourite XTC records. “Beating Of Hearts” is its manifesto, sung out over a drum tattoo in Partridge’s broad Wiltshire accent, a dream of a country run aground, but redeemed through – XTC’s other favourite subject – the power of love. Partridge’s curious diction, the archaic instrumentation, and the deep, soily chanting which runs through the song all contribute to the sense that this eccentric pop band somehow tapped into something ancient, huge and formidable. English romanticism never sounded this profound.