Spin (4/99, pp.162-164) - 8 (out of 10) - "...XTC sound fresh and unwired....They know that backtracking usually sounds dubious."
Entertainment Weekly (3/5/99, pp.66-67) - "...The gorgeous yet vaguely unsettling arrangements are well suited to the exquisitely flawed humanism of Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's composititions, lending an appropriately uneasy edge to [these] bittersweet tunes..." - Rating: A-
Q (4/99, p.107) - 4 Stars (out of 5) - "...full of queer and enjoyable songs....splendid; the band continuing their Beatles-esque mission to imbue pop with intelligence..."
CMJ (2/15/99, p.5) - "...an album of refined ambition, employing detailed and decorous arrangements....Partridge's toothy wit has not been filed down..."
Mojo (Publisher) (1/00, p.31) - Ranked #7 in Mojo Magazine's "Best of 1999."
Mojo (Publisher) (3/99, p.86) - "...how effortlessly pleasurable the work is as a whole....the two of them seems to be united here as never before..."
XTC: Andy Partidge (vocals, guitar); Colin Moulding (vocals, bass).
Additional personnel: Dave Gregory (guitar, piano, keyboards, background vocals); Guy Barker (trumpet, flugelhorn); Steve Sidwell (trumpet); Nick Davis, Haydn Bendall (keyboards); Prairie Prince (drums); London Session Orchestra.
XTC: Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding.
After an incredible seven-year absence from recording, XTC returned with an orchestra in tow. The intervening years found the band embroiled in legal problems and when they finally emerged to embark on this new work, they were reduced to a duo. Guitarist Dave Gregory departed, leaving just founders and songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. The orchestral settings which became the identity of this first volume create vast and often theatrical settings for the songs, which don't stray far from what one would expect from XTC (that is, when they choose not to rock).
"River of Orchids" opens the album and announces their intentions as the arrangement slowly comes into view. Setting aside most worldly concerns for affairs of the heart, the album has a thematic unity that gives the whole thing the feel of a song cycle. Contributing only two songs to Partridge's nine, Moudling's "Frivolous Tonight" is a real gem, possessing a powerful beauty wrapped in hypnotic melancholia.