Tag Archives: biography

Andy Partridge & Todd Bernhardt • Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC [Book]

Complicated Game - Andy Partridge & Todd BernhardtReleased early this year, I was finally able to get a copy of Complicated Game: Inside the Songs of XTC and naturally devoured it immediately. Being a huge fan of XTC and its two songwriters, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, this book has been on my radar since before it was announced. I’ve been an XTC devotee since I first discovered their 1980 album Black Sea, and haven’t deviated from that devotion since. XTC is a band that has really matured over the decades and their songwriting is at the forefront of that growth. I fully expected this book to illuminate Partridge’s songwriting and it completely lived up to its subtitle.

Born of a blog Todd Bernhardt helmed in the mid 2000s, the book is made up of interviews between Bernhardt and Partridge and separated into chapters devoted to a single song [not just songs that were singles, btw–ed.]. The chapters/interviews are arranged chronologically by when the song was first released on record, starting with “This Is Pop” and winding through “Roads Girdle the Globe,” “Senses Working Overtime,” “Dear God,” “Mayor of Simpleton,” and on to “River of Orchids” and “Stupidly Happy.” In each dissection the interview covers everything from the initial spark of an idea for a song, to how it was arranged and recorded. If you’re an XTC fan you will really enjoy this book. Bernhardt is clearly a big fan of XTC, but he’s also a friend of Partridge’s and is able to stay focused (most of the time) on the substance of the song and not get sidetracked on little bits of trainspotter info. Both interviewer and interviewee are born humorists so the interviews veer between serious and humorous in a good balance.

complicatedgame_spine_450pxIf there’s anything that could be improved, it would be the release of a second volume. Partridge has written so many great songs that this one volume (nearly 400 pages) misses many of his best songs. The only other nitpick I have–and this is primarily because of the book’s subtitle–is that it does not include Partridge’s partner in XTC songwriting, Colin Moulding. He may not have written as many of the band’s songs, but Moulding has written some of the band’s best. Witness “Making Plans for Nigel,” “Ball and Chain,” and “King for a Day.” That being said, there’s a way to remedy that. They could come out with a second volume that includes more of Partridge’s songs and some of Moulding’s. Done and done.

4.5/5 (Jawbone Books)

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Chrissie Hynde • Reckless: My Life As a Pretender (Book)

Chrissie Hynde has a way with words. I really liked her lyrics early on, especially on Pretenders, Pretenders II and Learning to Crawl. She could be biting but then she could also be quite tender, which is a real talent – some of us try pretty hard and are neither. So when I heard about her memoir/autobiography, I was hoping that talent would carry over into the book. And some of it does show up in Reckless.

hynde-recklessHynde takes us in a pretty linear fashion through her life, growing up in Ohio, heading off to Mexico, England, France, back home to the States and then back to Europe. She spends over half of the book (which is 312 pages) before the Pretenders even show up, and that made getting that far a bit of a chore. Granted, some of the anecdotes about her growing up were pretty amusing or sad (the one biker gang story especially), but when you consider that the book ends just after (spoiler alert if you don’t already know this) half of the original Pretenders lineup dies, it makes you wonder whether: a) She doesn’t consider anything that’s happened to her since to be important; or b) There’s a second volume coming. My problem is, whenever I start a biography like this I devour it quicker than I can read a “Stop” sign, so I’m almost always wanting more.

Still there are some great stories here and a wealth of photos to look at – and the book, indeed, is aptly titled. Maybe she’ll do a second volume that overlaps with this one so we get even more stories of her and the Pretenders in their heyday.

3/5 (Doubleday)

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