Note the question mark in the title. This is XTC telling it like it was in early 1978 – everybody confused about the new wild sound that was tumbling out of the punk eruptions and eviscerations of the previous year. But what was it? New Wave, claimed the marketing types, but that didn’t mean anything. That was just a way of selling stuff that wasn’t disco or metal or prog or just boring old rock. What it was, was pop, bullshit free, for the moment and all time.
XTC was never a band that was afraid to pursue a little open experimentation in the name of pop. Smokeless Zone was a b-side that came our way via 1982’s Beeswax, which was all b-sides, all worth troubling your ears with.
XTC were never quite punk; they were too pop savvy for that. Though they were there from the beginning, tearing up fragile facades with the best of them. So maybe just call them a damned good band who, by 1982’s double-vinyl English Settlement, were taking off in a pile of different directions uniquely their own, with Ball and Chain reminding us that they still had the pop.