"The whole thing sounds like it was carved out of caramel and boiled in a pot with gunpowder, sunshine and jazz – mad and lovely and addictive": Was The 3 Clubmen EP the best record you missed in 2023?

XTC's Andy Partridge and friends released an overlooked EP of luminous alt.pop in 2023. But it's not too late to join the club...

The 3 Clubmen EP cover
(Image: © The 3 Clubmen)

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We once proclaimed – in a fit of hype and mischief-making – that the future of rock’n’roll was… Swindon. Yeah, that’s right, Swindon.

Now, The 3 Clubmen are not all from Swindon and they’re not a bunch of cool young whippersnappers. In fact, they’re not even a proper band, they’re “an improvisational project”: ex-XTC legend Andy Partridge experimenting with Stu Rowe (The Amorphous Androgynous, Future Sound of London etc) and an American singer, Jen Olive.

And, alright, it is almost 10 years since we predicted big things for Swindon. But, fuck it, it still counts. WE WERE RIGHT, that’s the main thing.

The 3 Clubman EP might well be the best record you missed in 2023, a record that's hard to categorise, but dazzles with invention and hooks and good old-fashioned songcraft.  There are flutes, steel drums, saxophones, fantastical lyrics – every song is a melodic, rhythmical and lyrical delight, constructed and honed in fits and starts over 13 years.

Green Green Grasshopper could be a classic Disney song, rescued from the cutting room floor of Pinocchio. Look At Those Stars is just waiting for some US teen movie to snap it up for its climax. Racecar sounds like three bands playing at once – one of them playing the Beatles' Getting Better – while Aviatrix is the music of Damon Albarn’s dreams: it sounds like Talking Heads and the Bhundu Boys battling a giant octopus sent to kill them by evil genius Bjork.

The whole thing sounds like it was carved out of caramel and boiled in a pot with gunpowder, sunshine and jazz: mad and lovely and addictive as fuck.

(Apparently, Andy Partridge was recently asked to write some songs for Liam Gallagher, a man who, gawd knows, could do with both some songs and a soupçon of strangeness in his predictable old pallet. Liam’s verdict, according to Partridge? “They’re all shiiiite, mate.” What a diddy.)

Scott Rowley
Content Director, Music

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, responsible for the editorial strategy of online and print brands like Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar etc. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock magazine for 10 years and Editor of Total Guitar for 4 years and has contributed to The Big Issue, Esquire and more. Scott wrote chapters for two of legendary sleeve designer Storm Thorgerson's books (For The Love Of Vinyl, 2009, and Gathering Storm, 2015). He regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie