Generals and Majors * XTC * Black Sea * 1980
As it happens, I don’t have a ton to say about XTC the band. There is simply too much music in the world and it takes me a while to really dig into a band’s back catalog, even if what I do know I enjoy immensely. Such as this song, for instance. I don’t care what you’re up to at the moment, take three and a half minutes out of your day and listen. It will improve your mood, I promise.
“Generals and Majors” is probably the most upbeat, joyful song I’ve ever heard that uses the phrase “World War III.” This is an anti-war song, obviously, but it does two interesting things that most protest songs do not. The first is, instead of targeting the aftermath of war, it focuses on the cause. XTC blames the kind of man “who seems so unhappy unless they’ve got a war.” These people don’t care about the actual on-the-ground reality of warfare. They care about power and positioning. They care about the shiny uniform they get to wear as they hear distant reports about the carnage they have unleashed upon the world. These are the guys who will trigger an apocalyptic war because they are bored. The second thing about the song is the tone. Like I said, it’s incredibly peppy, which makes these kind of people seem ridiculous. Which they are. The above video only underscores this undermining effect. By removing the self-seriousness of the generals and majors, they rob them of their gravitas, and thus their reason for existing in the first place. Oh, and there’s a bouncy castle at the end for no discernible reason other than XTC are a bunch of goofballs.