Home Read Albums Of The Week: The 3 Clubmen | The 3 Clubmen

Albums Of The Week: The 3 Clubmen | The 3 Clubmen

XTC frontman Andy Partridge offers experimental pop trio with Jen Olive & Stu Rowe.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:The 3 ClubmenXTC’s Andy Partridge, Jen Olive and Stu Rowe — is the culmination of a decade of antics from these longtime collaborators. While the members have worked with one another in various permutations since 2008, The 3 Clubmen marks the first time that they have combined forces as a trio, a partnership once described as “a three-headed Frankenstein’s monster dancing at a neurodivergent singles club.”

Recalling XTC’s later pastoral period, a touch of Olive’s math-pop angularity and the eclectic sound that runs through Rowe’s back catalog, the EP is an avant-pop delight offering a strange, seductive blend of experimental pop, jazz and sci-fi cinema excellence.

Partridge explains, “Like an ‘action painter’ throws colour at a canvas, we tend to throw musical and sound things, knowing that we’ll cut through this seemingly insane mess later, to hopefully find some beautiful garden, hiding there. I throw paint, Jen throws paint, Stu throws paint… and we walk away. If, when we return, something in there calls to us, we’ll move heaven and earth to get it out and let it breath. Using whatever it takes, be it contrary musical ideas, parts in clashing keys incongruous sounds, contradictory words/phrases. It’s all clay to us.”

Says Rowe: “The Clubmen project is something I’ve been messing about with for years — it’s the one thing that everyone who hears it says I should finish. It was great fun to make and I think we’ve managed to create something really quite interesting between all three of our musical sensibilities.” Olive adds, “The joy is it… so much humor… the lyrics reflect the spirit of the conversations… the call and response. There’s an ecstatic quality to it. it’s thrilling to have people share in that.”

The Clubmen saga begins in 2006, when Andy and Stu first worked on Monstrance. Riding on a mutual fascination with experimental music production, a bi-weekly ritual soon emerged, starting at Stu’s Lighterthief Bunker and ending at the local pub, which resulted in sonic explorations and improvised recordings. A series of musical sketches gradually formed, setting the stage for Jen’s later involvement.

In 2010, the threesome were finally able to work together in person. The chemistry was instant, the room was buzzing and the ideas flowed. Over pints at The Roaring Donkey pub, they dubbed their project The 3 Clubmen after the local defence volunteer groups formed during the English Civil War. Clubmen protected themselves from both armies by fighting on their own side — the name seemed to fit.

Interest reignited during the pandemic after being put on hold and largely forgotten, the trio decided to finish what they’d started all those years ago, resulting in their debut four-song effort.

Best known as co-founder of XTC, Partridge is known as the “godfather of Britpop.” His most recent solo releases include My Failed Songwriting Career, Volumes 1 & 2, various XTC re-releases, the Planet England EP with Robyn Hitchcock, the Powers collection of sound pieces, and the Gonwards album with Peter Blegvad. He has recently written songs for The Monkees, Miles Kane and others.

Albuquerque-based L.A. singer-songwriter Olive has a series of albums to her name, in addition to contributing music to various American Film Institute projects. Her latest solo release was 2022’s Rowe-produced single Two Futures. A key player on Swindon’s music scene, Rowe has supported many artists as a guitarist, bassist and producer. Apart from Patridge and Olive, these include Shriekback (Barry Andrews), Paul Weller, Colin Moulding, Future Sound of London and TC&I.”