Talk about a marriage made in heaven. Wing Beat Fantastic finds former Zappa guitarist/ keyboardist Mike Keneally in fruitful songwriting collaboration with XTC lynchpin Andy Partridge. While this may not be a marriage in the biblical sense – one shouldn’t imagine they’ll be choosing curtains together any time soon – the heavenly part of the deal is more than taken care of.
Inevitably, what ensues is highly-evolved contemporary music with a melodic and lyrical sophistication that’s entire galaxies beyond the capabilities of the workaday herd. The darkly attractive internal workings of Miracle Woman And Man, for example, or Inglow – a swaying seduction of snowflake subtlety – are essentially unrelatable to any pop-rock archetype or sub-species, and are all the better for it. Crucially, however, Wing Beat Fantastic still remains hugely accessible. Keneally’s titanic musicianship and guileless tenor voice are discreetly and song-servingly deployed throughout, particularly on I’m Raining Here, Inside – so gracefully, preternaturally perfect as to make Steely Dan and Jason Falkner crumble to dust. Acolytes of the latter-day XTC, meanwhile, will find much to rhapsodise about in the stricken candour of the luminous Your House, the luscious metaphor maze of the title track and the tumbling astringency of You Kill Me.