"SKYLARKING." XTC. Geffen. The English band explored the vocabulary of psychedelia on the bracingly weird "25 O'Clock" album in 1985, and it finishes the job here. A suffocatingly lush excursion into the sunny side of psychedelia, "Skylarking" is a stoned soul picnic that invites the listener to drowse in the scented clover of Strawberry Fields forever. It's almost too rich for the blood, but it's so beautiful it's hard to resist. Produced by that baroque prince of pop Todd Rundgren, the album is marzipaned with ornate embellishments and liberally sprinkled with quotes from the post-acid Beatles.
Like Squeeze and the Kinks, XTC has a tendency to indulge in the sort of twee wordplay that afflicts much British rock, and the magical flights of fancy on "Skylarking" are marbled with vignettes of shabby suburban couples struggling to make the rent. These two disparate threads come together to form an intricately jeweled tapestry of mood, theme and sound. Structured like an operetta, "Skylarking" is a highly poetic and brilliantly thought-out record. There's nothing particularly commercial about it, though, and the chances of its receiving the attention it deserves are slim.