Black Sea (XTC album)

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Black Sea
XTC - Black Sea album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released12 September 1980
RecordedJune – July 1980
StudioTownhouse Studios, London
ProducerSteve Lillywhite
XTC chronology
Drums and Wires
Black Sea
English Settlement
Singles from Black Sea
  1. "Generals and Majors"
    Released: 9 August 1980
  2. "Towers of London"
    Released: 10 October 1980
  3. "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)"
    Released: 5 December 1980
  4. "Respectable Street"
    Released: March 1981
Alternative cover
US outer cover
US outer cover

Black Sea is the fourth studio album by the English band XTC, released 12 September 1980 on Virgin Records. The album received positive reviews and spawned three UK top 40 singles: "Generals and Majors", "Towers of London", and "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)". The album itself remains XTC's second-highest charting British album, placing at number 16,[2] and the most successful US album of their career, peaking at number 41 on the Billboard 200.[3]


Black Sea spent 7 weeks on the UK album charts, reaching No. 16.[2] In the US, the album spent 24 weeks on the Billboard 200 album charts and reached its peak position of No. 41 in February 1981.[4] A fourth single, "Love at First Sight", was released exclusively to Canada. And a fifth single, "Respectable Street", was banned from BBC radio due to its references to abortion and a "Sony Entertainment Centre".[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[6]
Chicago Tribune4/4 stars[7]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[9]
Q4/5 stars[11]
Record Collector5/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[14]
Smash Hits9/10[15]

The album received positive reviews from critics.[16] In an AllMusic review, Chris Woodstra called it XTC's most consistent album yet, both in terms of its full arrangements and unsubtle political commentary.[6] Writing for Rolling Stone, Don Shewey also found the album to be consistent over all—with the exception of "Travels in Nihilon", which he says "strays from the intersection of punk and pop where XTC are most at home".[13] Similarly, David Sinclair, in an overview of XTC's early albums for Q, determined that the arrangements of Black Sea, while complex, were much cleaner than earlier arrangements, such as those found on their debut, White Music.[11] Robert Christgau was impressed by the album's pacing and eclecticism, despite delving into excessively "embellishing herkyjerk whozis" and over-intellect.[8]

In a Pitchfork review revisiting Black Sea, along with Go 2 and English Settlement following their remastered CD release in 2002, Chris Dahlen discusses the strengths of Black Sea. In particular, Dalen emphasizes "Sgt. Rock", "Rocket From a Bottle", and "Travels in Nihilon". Dalen also appreciated the placement of the bonus tracks on the CD, following the original track listing of the album.[10] Previous reissues placed the tracks in the middle of the album, interrupting the "flow".[6][10]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Andy Partridge, except where noted.

Side one
1."Respectable Street" 3:38
2."Generals and Majors"Colin Moulding4:05
3."Living Through Another Cuba" 4:44
4."Love at First Sight"Moulding3:08
5."Rocket from a Bottle" 3:30
6."No Language in Our Lungs" 4:53
Side two
1."Towers of London"5:24
2."Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)"4:17
3."Burning with Optimism's Flames"4:16
4."Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)"3:57
5."Travels in Nihilon"7:04





Year Chart Position Citation
1980 UK Official Charts 16 [2]
1981 US Billboard 200 41 [4]


  1. ^ Schabe, Patrick (27 October 2006). "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul". PopMatters. 1980's Black Sea sold well on the album charts on the strength of its solid post-punk tracks, including "Respectable Street", "Towers of London", and "Generals and Majors".
  2. ^ a b c "XTC". Official Charts. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Billboard 200: XTC". Billboard. 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.
  5. ^ Bernhardt, Todd (26 February 2007). "Andy discusses 'Respectable Street'". Chalkhills.
  6. ^ a b c Woodstra, Chris. "Black Sea – XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  7. ^ Kot, Greg (3 May 1992). "The XTC Legacy: An Appraisal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1990). "XTC: Black Sea". Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-679-73015-X. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  10. ^ a b c Dahlen, Chris (9 July 2002). "XTC: Go 2 / Black Sea / English Settlement". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 4 June 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  11. ^ a b "XTC: Black Sea". Q (178): 139. July 2001.
  12. ^ Rathbone, Oregano (December 2017). "XTC – Black Sea". Record Collector (474). Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  13. ^ a b Shewey, Don (5 February 1981). "XTC: Black Sea". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  14. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha (2004). "XTC". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 890–92. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  15. ^ Cranna, Ian (18 September – 1 October 1980). "XTC: Black Sea". Smash Hits: 35.
  16. ^ Ingham, Chris (March 1999). "XTC - 'Til Death Do Us Part". Mojo.