As the driving force behind XTC, Andy Partridge established himself as one of the most melodically gifted songwriters of the '80s. He was one of the most acerbic, too, as anyone who remembers his anti-guy-in-the-sky college radio fave, "Dear God," can attest. Seeing as how Partridge does so well with melody and words, the news that he was cooking up an all-instrumental album of improvisational music didn't exactly set my heart afire. I judged too soon: "Chaingang," recorded under the Monstrance moniker, might not have you humming along, but there's something weirdly addictive about it. A guitar bounces around, a keyboard spits out some funny sounds, the drums shuffle along in the background and when it's over, you want to hear it again. It's an experience not unlike listening to XTC.
-- David Marchese