Disheartened and economically diminished by leader Andy Partridge’s decision to quit touring and discouraged by a de-emphasis on rhythm, longtime XTC drummer Terry Chambers left early in the making of this pastoral and strikingly low-key 1983 disc: He appears only on the first two tracks and on the bonus cut “Toys,” and it’s obvious that this home-run-hitter was forced to punt.
Chambers’s exit isn’t the only reason Mummer is XTC’s least physical album. Recovering from a nervous breakdown and the sudden realization that the band had been robbed of a great deal of money made during the constant touring he hated, Partridge dials down most of the band’s most compelling elements — its unrelenting hooks, nearly telepathic instrumental interaction, and limitless enthusiasm that together made XTC’s art-pop exceptionally playful. Without Chambers, Colin Moulding seems lost; the bassist’s three contributions (“Wonderland,” “Deliver Us from the Elements,” “In Loving Memory of a Name”) lack his usual snappiness. Mummer is much more enjoyable if you accept it as a collection of bucolic B-sides from a band that had crafted album after album full of quirky but pleasure-packed A’s.