Produced by Barry Andews and John Strudwick
NOTE: I don’t normally review singles (or most EPs, live albums, etc) but I’m going to use smaller releases to take up time when I feel like it.
I found this single when I was out hunting around on Record Store Day last year, and grabbed it only because Barry Andrews was originally keyboard player for XTC.
I’ve found that 7″s in general have their own kind of community (45cat is a database exclusively of 45rpm 7″ releases, primarily going only through the 1980s or 1990s in terms of what it contains) and tend to have cult followings–especially for artists who lack full album releases, and Mr. Andrews didn’t release an album with exclusively his name on it for another 23 years after this single came out. There are some cool songs out there that never got released in any other fashion (I do have one of my dad’s copies of Chris Hodge’s “We’re on Our Way” b/w “Supersoul” that was released on the Beatles’ Apple Records), so it always makes this kind of thing a bit fun.
Anyway, Barry left XTC after the release of Go 2, their second full length, and possessor of one of my favourite album covers ever, unsurprisingly designed by Hipgnosis, who designed many a classic album cover. The album was a bit peculiar in that it marks the only occasion that the band ever released an album with songs explicitly written by someone other than frontman Andy Partridge or co-conspirator, bassist Colin Moulding. Those songs–“Super Tuff” and “My Weapon” were written by Barry Andrews, who was trying to find his voice as a songwriter, but was somewhat wrestled out of the band by the paranoid Partridge (who feared he might lose control). They were odd songs, not sounding like most of the band’s output even to that point, and not the greatest by any stretch. I grabbed this single because I thought Barry might turn out differently without the strictures or expectations of an XTC record to constrain his songwriting.
It turns out I was right. “Rossmore Road” and “Win a Night Out with a Well-Known Paranoiac” are both interesting songs, with a sound a bit like a slightly over-“hip” band in a club, with a walking bassline in the A-side behind woodwinds–but also strange electronic noises. Barry describes Rossmore Road (apparently in Marylebone, London) in a sing-song fashion, joined in chorus by others when he sings the name of the road, until the song builds and explodes into a heavily punctuated and more full sounding chorus, which repeats “All humming now” to describe the amenities located in and around the road itself.
“Win a Night Out” apparently got actual radio play, and is a much stranger song, though it sounds much like another band in a small club in the way I envision (perhaps inaccurately, but based primarily on television and movies in the 1980s and 1990s, usually in semi-period settings from earlier decades, like 1990’s Dick Tracy), but is dominated by Barry Andrews speaking out his notion of nights out with the theoretical winner, each of which goes off in strange and dark, awful directions. They’re all punctuated by a group of voices singing “Win a night out!” which Barry finishes for them, adding a bit more singing for those moments, but continuing primarily to operate his voice by rhythm.
This isn’t a release you’re going to stumble into, so give it a listen here: