XTC - Black Sea
Funnily enough, there's a pattern emerging, those clanging chords… I heard 'Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)' in the charts around 1980, and I loved it, didn't hear it as particularly odd. It was only years later, hearing it again and hearing these Beefheart-y kind of chords and thinking, "This got in the charts?!"
I like everything they've done, the itchy post-punk thing right at the beginning, and the kind of pastoral, psychedelic thing they went into. But Black Sea was my way in, and has three of Andy Partidge's best songs on it - 'No Language In Our Lungs', 'Rocket From A Bottle' and 'Travels In Nihilon'. There's this bit in 'Rocket From A Bottle', this instrumental section, that almost opened up a portal in the clouds - it made me go weak at the knees and I had to sit down when I heard it. It's this lovely, ascending guitar melody in fifths that goes up and up while these chords modulate behind it. That 15 seconds of music has probably had more impact on the way I write songs and think about music than anything else. But the whole record's wonderful. For me, they're my Beatles. It's pop music, but it's clearly informed by Beefheart and Albert Ayler. Even when Partridge is writing pop, it has these little notes, this strangeness, that I love so much.