Apple Venus, Volume One
First Appeared at The Music Box, January 2000, Volume 7, #1
Written by John Metzger
XTC seemingly hit their creative peak in the ’80s — a time during which they produced a number of notable albums including Oranges and Lemons, Skylarking, and English Settlement. For the past decade, the band has unfortunately been locked in a bitter dispute with their record company, thereby bringing both their recorded output and career to a screeching halt. For a band that doesn’t tour, this should have been XTC’s death knell. Yet, here they are — back with a new label and a new album, titled Apple Venus, Volume One.
XTC’s return has not been entirely without cost. The tenuous internal relationship that has existed within the band for years has further eroded, resulting in the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory. No matter — the songwriting duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding remains in place, albeit with the over-controlling Partridge steering the band into some new directions.
Underneath it all, the song styles of Partridge and Moulding haven’t really changed that dramatically. XTC’s clever turn-of-phrase wit and brilliant Beatles-meet-Beach Boys pop-fueled melodies have managed to survive the turmoil, and songs like I’d Like That and Your Dictionary contain folky, acoustic-tinged arrangements, not unlike some of the sounds that the band explored in the early ’80s.
On many of the remaining tracks, however, XTC has drifted even further away from the traditional guitar-drum-bass arrangements of their earlier albums. Instead, they have fused their infectious strains with a pretty hefty blend of string and synthesizer orchestrations. Of these, the track that works best is the opening River of Orchids. The sound of a drop of water hitting a puddle gives way to a downpour of strings and horns that perfectly captures the aura of a rainstorm.
XTC has a knack for creating compelling pop music that will seep further into your consciousness with every listen. Better still, they always seem to fill their albums to the brim with expressive and meaningful lyrics. Apple Venus, Volume One continues this trend, and although this may not be their best album when all is said and done, it certainly comes close.
Of Further Interest...
Apple Venus, Volume One is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box