Upsy Daisy Assortment 
Artist: XTC 
Virgin & Geffen Records 
Time: 75:26, 19 tracks

In 1986, XTC released their break-through single, "Dear God," which is the most cogent and effectively disturbing atheistic declaration you'll ever hear in a three and half minute song:  

     Dear God, don't know if you've noticed but... 
     Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book 
     And us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look 
     And all the people that you made in your image 
     Still believing that junk is true 
     Well I know it ain't, and so do you, dear God 
     I can't believe in 
     I don't believe in...  
     I won't believe in heaven and hell 
     No saints, no sinners, no devil as well 
     No pearly gates, no thorny crown 
     You're always letting us humans down 
     The wars you bring, the babes you drown 
     Those lost at sea and never found 
     And it's the same the whole world round. 
     The hurt I see helps to compound 
     That Father, Son and Holy Ghost 
     Is just somebody's unholy hoax 
     And if you're up there you'd perceive 
     That my heart's here upon my sleeve 
     If there's one thing I don't believe in 
     It's you 
     Dear God.
Well, at least we know where they stand.  The song that supports these lyrics is one of the catchiest, most memorable songs to come out of the Eighties new music movement.  Once you've heard it a few times, it's difficult not to sing along, despite whatever you might feel about the orthodoxy of its content. Perhaps most distressingly, this dangerous song's crafty musical accessibility makes it more than just a mere infectious tune, but rather a disconcerting anthem in rebellion to our Creator.  They earn one point for being honest about their beliefs, and lose two for being misguided. Regardless, this trio of Brits have certainly employed their God-given musical talents to create a collection of fetching, quirky pop songs, which, gratefully, don't all contain sentiments of a seemingly blasphemous nature. Even from their start in the late Seventies, they've penned idiosyncratic pop songs that can be compared only to the likes of Talking Heads and Daniel Amos -- earning them the description of a whacked out Beatles for the Eighties. 

Upsy Daisy Assortment is a career-spanning retrospective of their "sweetest hits," beginning with "Life Begins at the Hop" from their first album Drums and Wires, travelling right on up to "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" (their oddly messianic pop song from 1992's Nonsuch) and visiting everything in between.  Their earlier hits are much more synthesized-sounding than the more straight-forward rock and roll sound of later albums, and Upsy Daisy Assortment is an excellent way of watching their progression, since these bizarre songs are included in chronological order.  Only nine of their twelve albums are represented, in all circumstances by two to three songs.  The album bogs down a bit in the middle with songs from Mummer and The Big Express, proving that they started and finished their illustrious career stronger than their less-inspired middle period.  Nonetheless, it's a delightful collection of smart pop with catchy choruses and indelible hooks galore. 

Naturally, there are plenty of songs that were not included, most of which (like "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)" and "Are You Receiving Me?")  can be found on an earlier 1982 compilation called Waxworks, a nice companion piece to this collection.  More recent songs such as "The Garden of Earthly Delights" and their pair of politically-charged odes to pacifism, "Melt the Guns" and "War Dance," are regrettable omissions (you can insert your own here).  Perhaps a two-disc boxed set would've been more representative.  A careful listener, however, will conclude that XTC writes zippy songs from a thinking-person's perspective, with a great deal of passion for what they believe, be it deluded as in the case of "Dear God" or admirable such as "Earn Enough for Us."  The latter is a wonderfully upbeat song originating from the same album, Skylarking, which ultimately celebrates marriage despite financial woes:   

     I've been praying all the week through 
     At home, at work and on the bus 
     I've been praying I can keep you 
     And to earn enough for us... 
     Just because we're on the bottom of the ladder 
     We shouldn't be sadder 
     Than others like us 
     Who have goals for the betterment of life 
     Glad that you want to be my wife, but honest.. 
     I can take humiliation 
     And hurtful comments from the boss 
     I'm just praying by the weekend 
     I can earn enough for us.
Other highlights include their early hits "Making Plans for Nigel," "Generals and Majors," and "Senses Working Overtime," as well as their slight returns to fame on "The Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day," from arguably their best album, Oranges and Lemons.  "The Mayor of Simpleton" is noteworthy for its underlying message--that you don't have to be brilliant to be a good, loving person:   
     And I can't unravel riddle problems and puns, 
     Now the home computer has me on the run, 
     And I may be the Mayor of Simpleton, 
     But I know one thing, and that's I love you. 
With XTC you gotta take the good with the bad.  They are more than merely suspicious of organized religion and Christianity in particular, they are openly hostile -- embracing atheism, naturalism, humanism, and postmodernism instead of the truth.  On the other hand, they've also expanded the creative frontiers of music honorably, writing unique songs that can bring a smile to your face while espousing positive, upbeat messages of love and respect in the face of common day adversity.       

By Steven Stuart Baldwin 
 
for quality, not content