Todd Bernhardt & Andy Partridge: Complicated Game: The Songs Of XTC

XTC mainstay dissected.

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Drummer, journalist and fan Bernhardt has been interviewing XTC’s sole remaining member Andy Partridge about his songs for most of the 21st century, so it’s not surprising that this book – a collection of interviews about 30 of Partridge’s best songs – is extremely thorough.

As a guide to XTC’s history and Partridge’s personal life, it’s as detailed as a conversation with a frank interviewee can be, as Bernhardt and Partridge discuss everything from key changes, drum sounds, lyrics, line-up changes and Partridge’s marriage break-up.

It’s informative, exhaustive, thorough and engaging. If it has one fault, it’s that it’s way too sprawling. Leaving aside the spatter of footnotes – some of which are repeated (and some of which are inconsistent; we’re told what The Young Ones TV show was, but not who GK Chesterton was, for example) – the repetitition of facts and occasional textual contradictions, a better editing job would have made this book much more readable, as would some kind of overview.

Bernhardt records everything and comments on nothing. Which in a book where the author glibly talks of “your wife’s infidelity” and accepts Partridge’s take on the band’s slow, inexorable loss of members isn’t good. An interview isn’t a transcription, especially in book form.

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David Quantick

David Quantick is an English novelist, comedy writer and critic, who has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. A former staff writer for the music magazine NME, his writing credits have included On the HourBlue JamTV Burp and Veep; for the latter of these he won an Emmy in 2015.