Countdown to XTC

  • Submitted on time! May 10, 2020

I’m usually weirded out by sweet sounding things, especially when I was a lad. They’re oddly ominous, and vaguely upsetting. Lullabies used to terrify me when I was a youngster. They did not help me sleep. My parents would always put on lullaby cassettes of Elvis, Judy Garland, Xmas music, fairy tales, and other very nonthreatening things but it was no “Lull”; all “uh, BYE!”

(Eventually my parents switched out normal lullabies for a crazy cassette tape of Rudyard Kipling Just So Stories narrated by Jack Nicholson with music by Bobby McFerrin. Technically wayyy creepier than the lullabies, but somehow I loved them and slept like a champ.)

The XTC song Scarecrow People (1989) is the converse of the scary soothing lullaby: Depressing and creepy imagery, set to upbeat 80’s pop, and now set to a Lullaby, that somehow uplifted me. This song was bumping in my house from 1989 on. Great track.

I used the lyrics from the XTC song in the lullaby.

“And if you don’t start living well,

You’re all gonna wind up scarecrow people too.”

Looking for feedback on

chords, production, sounds, singing, playing, writing, composing, editing, content, style, mixing, and more.


juliapiker May 12, 2020 1:45pm

damn . Ben you’re a good mixer. I LOVE THIS. This is a bright, full frontal mix. I am really into it.

My notes are actually that I would involve the instrumental in some of the effects. skipping, filtering. It feels like thats only going on for your voice- But also how does one comment on creative choices? I feel like I can’t comment on stuff that is a choice you made when writing. I would like to hear the full of this!

Ben July 21, 2020 11:14am

Thank you! I often get carried away with messing with my voice. And then I forget – or don’t know the right way – to match it with the rest.

nick May 11, 2020 3:18pm

Yup, love the guitar and especially that slide—tons of character. And this whole thing is just a wild ride, and having the tiny bit of lyrics at the end is funky in a great way. This song is so strange that I would roll back some of the effect on the vocals. I almost feel like offering a juxtaposition of clearer vocals amidst a wayward landscape could be creepier than the vocals at their current wackiness level.

Ben July 21, 2020 11:15am

Yep. REALLY WORKING ON THIS in general! vox fx need to be rolled back. It’s definitely a crutch. tough to do.

Sam Pearce May 10, 2020 10:49pm

Hey Ben, you covered so much ground in a minute. It’s an exciting listen. I think my favorite section is the middle with the darker-sounding chords and the chopped-up vocals. That part kind of reminded me of “Everything In Its Right Place”. I guess, as far actionable feedback goes, now that you’re free to make it longer, I think I would enjoy it even more if you were able to spend more time in each of the harmonic and rhythmic “places” you pass through in this one minute. If that doesn’t immediately sound appealing to you, then ignore it. This fast pace is really engaging in a different way. Just a thought!

Ben July 21, 2020 11:17am

Funny – you’re not the first person who suggested this be lengthened to full song, or expressed interest in hearing it fully fleshed out. I feel like this one is a jingle that wants to be a song, which I guess is preferable to a song that should be a jingle.

Ryan May 10, 2020 6:57pm

Ayyyyy tell you what my man, I like that slide playing! Smiled right when it came in. Only thing that sticks out to me mix-wise is a bit of boom could be cut out of the acoustic geets and some of the squeaky high end could be taken out of the slide and the acoustics (mostly just on the actual string slides from moving chord positions). Also sounds a touch like the slide guitar peaks just before the more minimal section at the ending? Love the atmospheres you’ve been creating lately, though. This is just a warm and, frankly, interesting place to spend time. Cheers.

Ben July 21, 2020 11:18am

Thanks. That’s very helpful and actionable. I actually have no idea how to mix acoustic guitar and I feel like somehow I’m always BOTH too boomy and too shiny, which is a weird combo.