It’s been over 3 years since ex XTC singer/bass player Colin Moulding teamed up with ex-XTC drummer Terry Chambers under the moniker TC&I to record the brilliant EP ‘Great Aspirations’ and the follow up live album ‘Naked Flames: Live at Swindon Arts Centre’. I interviewed Colin back in 2018 about his return to music – you can read the interview here. Now Moulding is back and is releasing a three track CD entitled ‘The Hardest Battle’ on 2 July 2021.
The CD consists of two songs – ‘The Hardest Battle’, ‘Say It (original version)’, plus an exploratory demo of the title track, and represents Moulding‘s first-ever fully solo release.
The title track is typical Moulding: a baroque, sprightly effervescent pop wonder that bounces with an incandescent canter. Bucolic, pastoral and highly intelligent: words one always associated with XTC. Moulding says of the track:
“To be nobody but yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody
else – means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight”… I saw these lines in a book I picked
up in a secondhand bookshop and thought…maybe there’s a song there …I think it’s by the poet EE
And there it was. All I had to do was come up with some music to marry to this notion. I do think most
people aren’t themselves really, or become themselves eventually. And that struggle isn’t easy. I recorded
this pretty much in isolation as most people have been this past year or so. One crazy year for all of us.
Perhaps ‘The Hardest Battle’ we humans have faced externally, as well as the one we fight internally
Humanistic and personal themes that reflect Moulding’s history of exemplary songwriting.
Second track ‘Say It’ was originally written for XTC and is, unsurprisingly, another example of bouncy melodic pop with a pastoral tinge and a Beatles-esque jaunt. Moulding’s ear for the perfect pop melody is at the fore, enhanced by his erudite lyrics that are laced with a dash of whimsy. Moulding says of the track:
…I just felt this track deserved a better fate than it got really. I wrote it for the XTC album that never was . But it ended up on a promo disk amongst XTC’s ‘Last Days of Rome’ This version feels much more akin to my original song mindset compared to the expedient I agreed to at the time.
Final track is a demo version of the title track. Moulding says of the decision to include this:
I think demos are much more of a demonstration to ones self than for other people. You have to find out what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, you shoot from the hip and just fire it out, and see what sticks. Larkin always said that he didn’t know what his poems were about initially until he got some way into them ;- that’s what this is;- I’m just ‘Larkin’ around until it presents itself. Then the crossword puzzle can begin.
In Mouldings’s inimitable fashion, there are no digital downloads of the CD available, and therefore no examples of the music to listen to. But if you loved XTC, if you loved TC&I and you love a bit of British pastoral melodic pop packaged with a bit of lyrical whimsy, you know just what you are getting, don’t you?
Feature Photograph: Andrew Swainson