XTC are one of those turn-of-the-’80s new wave guitar-pop bands that in theory I should like but in practice leave me unmoved. Their best-known songs, ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ and ‘Senses Working Overtime’, sound like a band that values smartness over sentiment, but perhaps this is something of its time — I find a lot of Elvis Costello’s hits from the same era to be similarly all head and no heart.
Happily, latter-day XTC songs I’ve heard are warmer and more interesting. ‘The Disappointed’ got some radio play in late 1992 and early 1993, thanks to its Beatlesy melody and middle section. That radio-friendliness, wrapped in the same pristine production you’d expect from a Mike and the Mechanics album, sounded slightly gauche at the time, and XTC never got the Britpop-era re-veneration accorded to The Jam, Wire and The Kinks.
Still, it’s a fine song. The playful lyrical conceit — hordes of heartbroken people seeking out the singer as their spiritual leader — is shot through with veins of darkness and sadness. In particular, the middle section (“Seems / your ring upon my finger / Signifies that I’ve become the spokesman of / The disappointed”) beguilingly suggests an unhappy relationship rather than a broken one. And damn it, it’s catchy.
The official video, where the band and various low-paid actors dress up in medieval gear and wander around pensively, is fairly awful, so here’s the tune itself: