Song of the Week – Senses Working Overtime, XTC


Today’s SotW is from the “Restored” dresser drawer. It is “Senses Working Overtime” by XTC from the English Settlement album. “Senses…” reached the Top 10 in the UK but only managed #38 on the Rock Album Tracks chart in the US. It was released in two formats, the 4:34 single version and the 4:53 album version. Why Virgin records thought they needed to cut out a few lines to make the song 19 seconds shorter is incomprehensible to me.

“Senses…” is an impressive composition. The musicianship is amongst the best in the vast XTC catalog. The first of three sections opens with a folky “medieval” sounding acoustic guitar playing some variation on an E flat chord. Shortly it’s joined by a cool bass line. Colin Moulding plays his fretless bass with creativity and panache. I especially dig the legato slides.

The middle section makes effective use of diminished chords and acts as the bridge to the rousing count-up chorus.

The drumming is ear catching. The fills in the choruses (after the count of “5”) insist that listeners play “air” drums along with the record.

The lyrics are cryptic. Is it a peculiar love song? Is it about an insane person? It doesn’t really matter. To me it’s a lot like The Beatles (John Lennon’s) word salad, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” The expressive lyrical imagery is way more important than the “meaning.” Thematically, the lyrics are much closer to The Beatles (George Harrison’s) “All Too Much” from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

Beyond the words are the way they sound. It was a creative mind game to write “1-2-3-4-5, senses working overtime.” After the count, you expect to hear 6-7 (seven) and get the word “senses” that’s a bit of a trick.

Sadly for us XTC fans, there were few opportunities to see the band live. In April 1982, just a few months after “Senses….” was released, the band played their last concert in San Diego. Andy Partridge experienced a nervous breakdown of sorts and was unable to perform in front of audiences. He retreated, Beatle like, to the studio and crafted several more outstanding albums – including Skylarking, Oranges & Lemons, and Nonsuch.

Enjoy… until next week.

BTW – Did anyone notice that everyone in the video is playing left handed — including the drummer. Still messing with our senses?