Apple Venus Volume 1
By: Eric Greenwood
Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding return from a seven-year hiatus in fine form with Apple Venus Volume 1 (Volume 2 will be released later in the year and is expected to be pure pop music). After severing ties with its long time label, Virgin, XTC is now free to add another chapter to its thick book of clever, psychedelic pop, although it will have to contend with the loss of guitarist David Gregory, who split before the completion of this record. The band’s reluctance to tour is still an obstacle, however, due to Partridges severe stage-freight, but Apple Venus Volume 1 would be too difficult to reproduce live anyway. The album hinges on sweeping orchestral backdrops and multi-layered vocal arrangements. Partridge’s voice is infectious and his songwriting is clever enough to turn obvious influences (The Beatles) into original sounding stuff.
“River Of Orchids” is a lavish opener and a perfect example of Partridge’s lurking genius. Partridge tracks three concurrent vocal-lines over top an oscillating score. The verses are haunting yet there is a child-like rhythm to the melody that has an entreating allure. “I’d Like That” is just pure, sweet pop with a soaring melody reminiscent of The Beatles’ “She Said” off Revolver. Moulding’s two songs add a sarcastic smirk to Partridge’s sublime smile, especially in “Frivolous Tonight”, but the shining standout of the record is Partridge’s bitter “Your Dictionary”, a scathing, bile-infested attack on a presumed former lover:”S-H-I-T is that how you spell me in your dictionary/four-eyed fool you lay around all day.”
XTC has always carried itself with an air of pomposity, which seemed to get out of hand on the band’s last album, Nonesuch, what with the overly obvious, predictable single, “Peter Pumpkinhead”, but Apple Venus Volume 1 slims back down into a pre-bloated Elvis size. Perhaps, a seven-year hiatus and a sour contractual dispute would kick any band back into shape.