Black Sea (XTC album)

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Black Sea
XTC - Black Sea album cover.jpg
Studio album by XTC
Released 12 September 1980
Recorded June–July 1980
Studio The Town House, London, England
Genre New wave
Length 48:56
Label Virgin (UK, Europe, and Canada)
RSO (original US release)
Geffen (US reissue)
Producer Steve Lillywhite
XTC chronology
Drums and Wires
Black Sea
English Settlement
Singles from Black Sea
  1. "Generals and Majors"
    Released: August 1980
  2. "Towers of London"
    Released: October 1980
  3. "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)"
    Released: 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 on 12 September 1980. The album received positive reviews and spawned three UK hit singles.


Early copies of the album came with the sleeve enclosed in a lime-green paper bag. There was a Canadian version that came packaged in a black plastic bag with the XTC logo in silver printed on one side.

The band's name is hidden in the cover artwork. The seagull, ship's mast and moon spell out XTC.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[2]
Christgau's Record Guide B+[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[4]
Pitchfork 9.2/10[5]
Q 4/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[8]
Smash Hits 9/10[9]

Black Sea received positive reviews from critics. 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.[1] 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".[7] 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.[6] Robert Christgau was impressed by the album's pacing and eclecticism, despite delving into excessively "embellishing herkyjerk whozis" and over-intellect.[3]

In a Pitchfork review revisiting Black Sea, along with Go 2 and English Settlement following their remastered CD release in 2002, Chris Dalen 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.[5] Previous reissues placed the tracks in the middle of the album, interrupting the "flow".[1][5]

Track listing[edit]

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

UK LP: V 2173[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Respectable Street"   3:38
2. "Generals and Majors" Colin Moulding 4:05
3. "Living Through Another Cuba"   4:44
4. "Love at First Sight" Moulding 3:08
5. "Rocket from a Bottle"   3:30
6. "No Language in Our Lungs"   4:53
Side B
No. Title Length
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

2001 Remastered CD: CDVX 2173[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Respectable Street"   3:38
2. "Generals and Majors" Colin Moulding 4:05
3. "Living Through Another Cuba"   4:44
4. "Love at First Sight" Moulding 3:08
5. "Rocket from a Bottle"   3:30
6. "No Language in Our Lungs"   4:53
7. "Towers of London"   5:24
8. "Paper and Iron (Notes and Coins)"   4:17
9. "Burning with Optimism's Flames"   4:16
10. "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)"   3:57
11. "Travels in Nihilon"   7:04
12. "Smokeless Zone" Moulding 3:51
13. "Don't Lose Your Temper"   2:33
14. "The Somnambulist"   4:38



Chart performance[edit]

Black Sea spent 7 weeks on the UK album charts, reaching No. 16.[10] In the U.S., the album spent 24 weeks on the Billboard 200 album charts and reached its peak position of No. 41 in February 1981.[11] The album made No. 1 on the New Zealand album chart.


Year Chart Position Citation
1980 UK Official Charts 16 [10]
1981 US Billboard 200 41 [11]


The album spawned five singles—"Generals and Majors" (released 9 August 1980 and reached No. 32 on the UK singles chart and No. 104 on the Billboard Pop chart), "Towers of London" (released 10 October 1980 and reached No. 31 on the UK singles chart), "Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)" (released 5 December 1980 and reached No. 16 on the UK singles chart), "Love at First Sight" (released 23 January 1981 in Canada only) and a re-recording of "Respectable Street" (released 13 March 1981).

Virgin media mogul Richard Branson appeared in the "Generals and Majors" video.


  1. ^ a b c Woodstra, Chris. "Black Sea – XTC". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^ Kot, Greg (3 May 1992). "The XTC Legacy: An Appraisal". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  5. ^ a b c Dahlen, Chris. "XTC: Go 2 / Black Sea / English Settlement". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 4 June 2003. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  6. ^ a b "XTC: Black Sea". Q (178): 139. July 2001. 
  7. ^ a b Shewey, Don (5 February 1981). "XTC: Black Sea". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 12 April 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 890–92. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  9. ^ Cranna, Ian (18 September – 1 October 1980). "XTC: Black Sea". Smash Hits: 35. 
  10. ^ a b "UK Official Charts: Black Sea". Official Charts Company. 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  11. ^ a b "Billboard 200: XTC". Billboard. 2017. Retrieved 27 February 2017.