Reviews: XTC: Apple Venus Volume 1


Brit purveyors of distinctive pop since the early '80s, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have created an ambitious album for a grown-up audience. XTC now sports more decorous instrumentation, but the band's poetic fortitude and toothy wit remain intact.
-- The Prague Tribune, April 3, 2001

A beautifully crafted, often Beatlesque pop outing that features lots of keyboard work - either by Dave Gregory, who has since left the band, or by co-producers/engineers Nick Davis and Haydn Bendall. Standouts in key work include the Mellotron flute in "Easter Theatre," the tack piano that appears throughout and brief Mellotron strings in "Frivolous Tonight," and the sampled-and-sequenced bassoon line that kicks off "Greenman". The strangely metered opener, "River Of Orchids" could haunt the soul, and begs the question: Is that real orchestra or is it sequenced? No matter, it's all brilliant.
-- Mark Vail, Keyboard Magazine, January 2000

Seven years on, free from Virgin, exit Dave Gregory, enter strings. A magnificent realization of of the orch-pop tendencies hinted at on 1992's Nonsuch and a gratifying indication that Andy Partridge's peculiar genius remained undiminished by business, marital and health difficulties. Volume 2, the noisy guitar album, is due in spring 2000.
-- Uncut, January 2000

Das Album ist der perfekte Soundtrack für den Frühlingsbeginn. Jeder Song ein komplex arrangiertes und orchestriertes Meisterwerk, ein schimmerndes Juwel der britischen Popkultur. Kunstvoll, und doch im besten Sinne populär. Gezeichnet in den Tönen einer heiteren "Yellow Submarine"-Welt, voll satter Farben und schillernder Gestalten. Wer nach dieser Platte immer noch eine Beatles-Reunion heraufbeschwören will - dem ist nicht mehr zu helfen. (Cooking Vinyl) thor
Wertung: hut hut hut hut hut (summa cum laude)
-- UNICUM, circa 1999

Ce nouveau disque est moins marqué par l'urgence des années quatre-vingts, il est terriblement anglais, riche. Il se rapproche du travail de Lennon-McCartney à l'époque de Penny Lane par exemple, en un mélange de pop et de chanson populaire anglaise.
-- LABEL Records, 1999

Nice and off the wall outing from veterans XTC... Fruit Nut, I'd Like That, Your Dictionary, Frivolous Tonight and bizarre River Of Orchids and I Can't Own Her prove gems in this bizarre collection making this a great album of '99. It's innovative brother album, 'Homespun' shows where the basic ideas for Apple Venus came from and is tres worthwhile.
— The Lazy Son, December 1999

Speaking of symphonic pop masterpieces: With just Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding remaining, this British pop collective returns, after an almost decade absence, with a gorgeous and orchestrated studio album. Its breathtaking opener, "River Of Orchids," has more thought put into it than most bands flex over entire careers.
-- Mark Guarino, Chicago Daily Herald, December 31, 1999

The surviving members of this legendary Brit group, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, throw vocals, beats, production values, rhythms, lyrics, harmonies and instruments into a blender then serve up a Beatle-esque pop symphony.
-- J. Mark Dudick, 8 Editor, Anchorage Daily News, December 31, 1999

Andy Partridge's long-awaited return finds him in lush, idyllic territory -- positively splendorous stuff.
-- Brian McCollum, Detroit Free Press, December 29, 1999

After a seven-year feud with its former label, this British duo works out its resentment with a remarkably sanguine album of lush, tuneful "orchoustic" songs about country life and new love.
-- Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, December 24, 1999

Tone patterns, orchestration and exotic grooves give XTC's first album in years a sensuality that startles, coming from these old Brit-pop stoics. This is new turf for the long-toiling duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, and they tend it well. Meddling with a crafty, erudite style that always stood up on its own reaps unexpected thrills.
-- Sean Piccoli, music writer, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), December 24, 1999

XTC whips up rich aural confections. . .
-- Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA), December 21, 1999

The venerable British group returned from a seven-year recording hiatus to deliver this masterpiece -- a beautiful, sophisticated orch-pop album on which the fortysomething duo of Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge act their age on bitter divorce diatribes, giddy love songs and an ode to puttering around in the garden. Splendourous.
-- David Veitch, The Calgary Sun, December 18, 1999

XTC was at an artistic and commercial peak in 1992 when the group stopped making records to protest its lousy royalty rates. Now signed with a new label, the group (down to the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding) picks up (artistically, anyway) where it left off with this acoustic and orchestral disc. From the sweeping and sweet "Green Man" to the scathing and wbitter "My Dictionary," XTC proves why it's one of rock's smartest acts.
-- Wayne Bledsoe, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, December 17, 1999

. . . it is XTC that win out for artistry. The one-time New Wavers went on strike after Richard Branson sold Virgin to EMI in 1992 because of differences over what the new regime expected of the group. That seven years in the wilderness, and a new deal with indie Cooking Vinyl, produced "Apple Venus Volume 1," with the second volume due in April. The return of XTC, reduced to singer-songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, was greeted with a deluge of critical accolades. Songs like "Easter Theatre," for one, are glorious, arguably art rock without the excesses that makes so much of the genre laughable. Sales, however, have been better outside than in the U.K. The reality is that the British market is in a particularly fluffy phase, driven by radio and music TV that is largely playing it safe with disposable, if clever, fare.
-- Erich Boehm, Variety, December 13, 1999

Andy Partridge and crew finally return with a lush, smart-as-hell pop rumble between rock's experimental underbelly and eternal melodies.
-- Tristram Lozaw, The Boston Herald, December 12, 1999

The veteran English pop trio, finally clear of record company hassles, unleashes a lush, string-based album.
-- Kyle Munson, The Des Moines Register, September 9, 1999

This is XTC's first album of new material in nearly seven years. The now-duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding seem to have been using their time off to smell the flowers, as their lyrics are ripe with fruit, nuts, dandelions, orchids, sunflowers, and harvest festivals. Billed as the "orchestral" album that precedes its "rock" bookend, "Apple Venus" is XTC's most obvious nod to the lush, intricate sounds of the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" and the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper."
-- Music: Pop, Skali, August 30, 1999

XTC--Apple Venus Volume 1: Oh, Andy, what a long dry summer it's been! Thank heaven XTC is back and as good as ever. May the executives at Virgin Records fry in hell for making us wait seven years for this album. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Studio Proteus, 5/30/99

Als rein orchestrales Pop-Epos angelegt, ist diese Kollektion aus elf Songs ein sinfonischer Ausflug in blumige Psychedelia und wunderbare Harmonien. 'Apple Venus' Vol. 1 ist Seelenbalsam, Streicheleinheit und Denkanstoß zugleich.
-- Musikexpress/Sounds, April 1999


After a seven year absence, XTC returns with a new recording APPLE VENUS VOLUME ONE. The project took a year to complete and the band lost guitarist DAVID GREGORY about half-way through but remaining members ANDY PARTRIDGE and COLIN MOULDING have seen it through to release an amazing album. Flutes, horns and strings add luscious colors to the mix offsetting bittersweet and mostly melancholy lyrical musings. XTC has always been an innovative ensemble lurking in the quasi-genre corner known as "art-rock." This new outing breaks new ground while retaining a familiar XTC sensibility and results in a homogenous collection of hauntingly beautiful songs. The band hasn't toured since 1982 and Partridge has no plans to appear live anytime soon-- however, the TRANSISTOR BLAST box set released last year does offer some live recordings between 1978-80. The band is currently hard at work on APPLE VENUS VOL.2 that will feature a more stripped down electric sound.

XTC's hauntingly bittersweet & orchestral sound APPLE VENUS VOL.1.
-- The Big Bang Newsletter, CDvault, Volume 3, Issue 12, April 9-15, 1999

It's been a long seven years since XTC's last release - this album was worth the wait. At first it might be a shock to your system with its heavy reliance on orchestration, but once you get used to that you realize just how good these songs are. Can't wait for Apple Venus, Vol. 2!
-- David Bash, Bash on Pop, April 5, 1999

Arrangements fouillis et fouillés pour ces anglais originaux. En dehors du temps, leur style bien à eux reste inchangé. Après une grande période de silence, XTC revient avec 11 chansons bien ficelées. Violons classiques, contemporains et rythmes orientaux se mêlent à des chansons plus traditionnellement britanniques. Le temps et l'espace se confondent.
-- Whrst ZKF, Thixotropic Camera, April 3, 1999

* * * 1/2
XTC's first recording following their 7-year hiatus, Apple Venus is a fine return to form. It is a logical extension of the sound explored on their previous album, Nonsuch - sparse, acoustic instrumentation merged with lush orchestral backdrops. Highlights include the whimsical "I'd Like That" and the carnival-esque, horn-driven "Greenman."
-- Adam, Adam's Album Reviews, 03/14/99

Brian Wilson har alltid influerat Andy Partridge men knappast lika mycket som på Apple venus Vol 1 (Vol 2 kommer senare i år), det första XTC-albumet på sju år. Det bästa XTC har gjort på mycket länge. Obskyra texter, smakfull produktion, stiliga orkesterarrangemang och ljuva popmelodier i en intelligent blandning.
-- PM JÖNSSON, Göteborgs-Posten, 12/3 -99

Betyg: * * * * *

Wow! All I can say is this cd is amazing. I agree with most of the reviews I've read in that it is a pleasant departure from the typical jangley guitar pop that one would expect from XTC. The songwriting still features biting lyrical storytelling, but the music is primarily acoustic guitar and lush orchestra sounds. I hate using the Beatles comparisons, but this really does sound very Beatlesque, or rather very McCartney-esque. If you wanna read better written reviews, check out TVT Records web site (there's also song samples on there too). I'm really digging this disc - my personal faves are tracks I'd Like That, Easter Theater, and I Can't Own Her.
-- Amy DeFalco, ElectricCat, February 1999

E-Pop: XTC, «Apple Venus Volume 1», Cooking Vinyl/RecRec
* * *
Sieben Jahre sind seit dem letzten Lebenszeichen von XTC vergangen, in denen die schlaue britische Band auf eine Freigabe von ihrer Plattenfirma gewartet hat. «Apple Venus Volume 1» klingt denn auch wie eine Zeitkapsel. Noch immer stützen sich XTC hörbar auf den Sound der späten Sechzigerjahre, verzichten dabei aber auf das konventionelle Rockinstrumentarium: Bläser und Streicher tarnen dieses Popalbum als E-Musik. Ein echtes Liebhaberstück.
-- Kultur: Gehört, SonntagsZeitung, 21.02.99

Rockbands mit hochgeschraubtem Kunstanspruch werden gemeinhin als "arty farty", als Kunstfurzer verlästert. XTC schlägt diese Missgunst seit über zwanzig Jahren ins Gesicht. Aber unverdrossen knüpft das englische Schrumpf-Duo auch auf der neuen Songsammlung das Band der Versöhnung zwischen akustischer Gitarre und Sinfonieorchester. Die einstigen Schöngeist-Punker versuchen, aus der Minimal Music des Pop-Maximum herauszudestillieren und schrecken dabei auch vor Beatles-Gesangsharmonien nicht zurück.
-- Tages-Anzeiger, 1999-02-17

XTC, the old guard of idiosyncracy, come back to us with Apple Venus Volume One (Idea/TVT), but they still feel gone.
-- Joshua Clover, Spin, March 1999

[Thanks to Dane Pereslete and Wes Hanks]

Angles & Reflections

An ambitious and ornate work characterised by acoustic and orchestral arrangements. Very few acts end their careers with such a strong piece of work (The Beatles’ Abbey Road is one that springs to mind).



Chart Performance: UK #42, US #106

Try to describe XTC and you’re likely to use terms such as ‘quintessentially English’, ‘psychedelic’, ‘retro’, ‘arty’, ‘wordy’ and ‘quirky’. Their late ‘70s early work was punky, spikey New Wave before settling into a more mature style of intelligent, tuneful, well produced pop.

Six singles and nine albums seems a rather mean Top 40 yield for such a well-respected band – especially considering that ‘Senses Working Overtime’ (#10) from the English Settlement album (#5) were the only times they ever reached UK Top 10. They never quite cracked the US Top 40 either - furthermore, brilliant singles like the scathingly atheist ‘Dear God’ and the dazzling pastorale of ‘Love On A Farmboy’s Wages’ barely grazed the charts. As their leader Andy Partridge wryly reflected on ‘Mayor Of Simpleton’, another fine single which duly puttered out at #46, he didn’t ‘know how to write a big hit song’.

Given that their work was usually well-received, one wondered why, in a recording career spanning over 20 years, there hadn’t been more hits. Clearly, Partridge’s nervous breakdown and increased stage-fright, which heralded the band’s withdrawal from touring in ’82, didn’t help, but my theory is that they tended to repeat themselves too often and would have benefited from pruning releases which were often effectively double-albums. Partridge’s voice was distinctive, but lacked range and tended to become rather monotonous when stretched out over too many songs similar in structure and tempo. In addition, like his contemporary, Elvis Costello, he sometimes crammed too many words into his lyrics, which led to a reduction in clarity and impact. The band’s cheerfully unashamed tendency to wear their ‘60s influences on their sleeves may also have put some listeners off.

This though, is to carp. XTC were quite simply one the great British bands of their time - two of the best actually, if we take into account their ‘60s-psych alter-egos The Dukes Of Stratosphear (see Underrated Albums #19). Most critics and fans seem to regard the Todd Rundgren-produced Skylarking (1986) and the sprawling, sporadic Oranges& Lemons (1989) as their best albums, although Nonsuch (1992), has deservedly gathered a reputation in recent years. The most melodic set they made on Virgin, it preceded a protracted dispute with the company and a seven years hiatus before Apple Venus appeared on their own Idea Records label.

Originally conceived as a double with what became Wasp Star (2000), AV was XTC’s 13th and penultimate album release. The electric guitar rock of WS (also known as AV Vol.2) is a more conventional XTC record, whereas AV is an ambitious and ornate work characterised by acoustic and orchestral arrangements. Very few acts end their careers with such a strong piece of work (The Beatles’ Abbey Road is one that springs to mind). And it is my contention that AV is XTC’s magnum opus.

The title of the album relates to the famous C15th century painting by Botticelli The Birth Of Venus, but was also lifted by Partridge from a song on Nonsuch called ‘Then She Appeared’, a janglingly pretty exercise in imagery which begins ‘Then she appeared, apple Venus on a half-open shell’. The phrase, highly suggestive of pastoral freshness and sensuality, beauty and betrayal, is clearly illustrative of themes which will follow on the record.

By no means their only album to centre around pastoral themes, AV rises above the rest of their catalogue as a coherent and cohesive whole. Unlike so much of their work, there is little or no slack cut on this record. The first track, ‘River Of Orchids’ opens with plucked strings and a bowed bass which take up the sound of dripping water before tootling brass accompanies Partridge outlining a fantasy of ‘a river of orchids where we had a motorway’ and walking into London on his hands ‘smelling like a Peckham Rose’. The song’s eco-message of the grass being greener ‘when it bursts up through concrete’ with Partridge dreaming of ‘the car becoming a fossil’ harks back nostalgically to an C18th Peckham noted for its market gardens and William Blake seeing a vision of an angel in a tree. It’s an unusual curtain-raiser and it marches along in its own Mardi Gras fashion for close on six minutes without losing its charm.

A jaunty acoustic guitar carries ‘I’d Like That’, a romantic ditty which name-checks Albert & Victoria’, Hector & Helen Of Troy and Nelson & Lady Hamilton, whilst Partridge aspires to cycle down the lane in the rain, lay in front of the fire and float away in bed with the object of his desire. With its backing harmonies, humming and general good vibes, it recalls one of The Kinks’ sunnier afternoons.

‘Easter Theatre’ enacts the burgeoning of renewed life in spring with fanfaring brass, throbbing bass, electric guitar, trumpet solos and vocal harmonies. Partridge’s rite of spring is a joyously erotic affair in which Easter makes her entrance ‘dressed in yellow yolk’ with a ‘rainbow mouth’ and, ahem, ‘chocolate nipple brown’ as ‘flowers climb erect’ in a landscape that is generally bustin’ out all over. ‘I’d Like That’ and ‘Easter Theatre’ were released as singles but despite their tuneful upbeat positivity, both disappeared without trace.

As punning titles go, ‘Knights In Shining Karma’ is likely to make one either smile or wince – it might almost as well have been called Nights In Shining Armour. The notions of karma and dharma – destiny and oneness - are at the heart of a lullaby which conjures a nocturnal refuge presided over by the guardian angel knights. Lyrically, it’s a vague piece of whimsy – the ‘jealous winter sun cold as vichysoisse’ had me running to the dictionary (well, clicking anyway) and returning doubtful that a cold cream of vegetable soup was the most effective image, but the charming tune, Beatlesque guitars and soothing vocal all work together in a pleasing whole.

Nevertheless, ‘Frivolous Tonight’ by Colin Moulding, follows as something of welcome return to solid earth, as is often the case with contributions by the band’s bass player and second singer-songwriter. Albeit responsible for hits like ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ and ‘Generals & Majors’, Moulding was very much the major to Partridge’s general in XTC, usually averaging about a couple of songs an album – as is the case here.

The mid-tempo tune, cheerfully plonked out on a double-tracked bar-room piano, opens with ‘Let us talk about some trivial things we like / A bit of this and that / Let’s chew the fat.’ Andy might be tucked up in his bucolic bye-byes, but Col is down the pub in his Raelbrook shirt, drinking stout, telling mother-in-law jokes (jumping to attention when she actually appears), kicking out the boring git who insists on talking shop and generally having a laugh with his mates and the girls. Moulding’s gentle Wiltshire burr, bathed in occasional harmonies and warm horns makes for a good night out and the song is reminiscent of some of McCartney’s lighter moments.

We can assume that these frivolities are taking place in a village pub and the next track takes us out to the green and back to the woods. ‘Greenman’ features Partridge’s most economical lyric of the record so far, along with the first conspicuous use of drums and a fuller orchestration with sweeping strings dancing us round the maypole in a glorious celebration of paganism. The spirit of the Green Man of ancient forest lore who, ‘for a million years…has been your lover / Down through your skin to the core’, is summoned up in fine style, ending with this image of heathen mischief: ‘See the Greenman blow his kiss from high church wall / And unknowing church will amplify his call’.

With ‘Your Dictionary’, the benign mood of the album takes a sudden twisted turn into what Partridge afterwards described as ‘a childish tantrum of song’. Well, given that this is one of rock’s great divorce songs, he can be excused the unambiguously bitter, self-pitying tone of most of the words and melody. To an acoustic guitar strummed hard, Partridge grinds out the words: ‘H-A-T-E – is that how you spell me in your dictionary?’ And so it goes on – ‘friend’ spelled ‘F-U-C-K’, ‘me’ spelled ‘S-H-I-T’ etc. alongside other observations such as ‘Now that I can see it’s the queen’s new clothes, / Now that I can hear all your poison prose.’

The verse and rhyme structure of this song is as coldly precise as some of the earlier ones are warm and woolly. Halfway through, the guitar is joined by piano and cellos in the bridge and the music, if not the lyric, starts to thaw, hinting at a wiser, less wrenching attitude waiting in the final verse.

‘Your Dictionary’ can be compared to two other fine break-up songs: Elvis Costello’s ‘I Want You’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’. Unlike the sustained and seething disgust for himself and his partner in the Costello song, Partridge manages, like Dylan, in the end to temper his sulking, suffering and spite. Whereas Dylan finally switches from the accusatory 2nd person ‘you’ to the 3rd person plural ‘we’ to finally admit mutual responsibility, Partridge moves from a minor to major key in a spirit of reconciliation and moving on:

‘Now your laughter has a hollow ring,
But the hollow ring has no finger in,
So let’s close the book and let the day begin
And our marriage be undone.’

Good humour is restored with Moulding’s other inclusion, ‘Fruit Nut’, his hymn to pottering about in his garden shed, keeping himself sane by growing fruit – although some see him as being ‘out of [his] tree’ and ‘a strawberry fool’. A whistle and concertina with an occasional wash of strings lead a Kinksy lollop, but it’s a slighter offering than ‘Frivolous Tonight’, albeit one which has Moulding’s amiable vocal providing sweet relief after the sourness of ‘Your Dictionary’. It’s the sort of tune your milkman might have whistled back in the day (which is not to denigrate it in the least).

‘I Can’t Own Her’ is next and it lifts us back up into the clouds on an orchestral breeze to where Partridge’s fool on the hill, adopting the persona of a rich man, reflects that money and status can’t buy him love. Another very finely wrought song as solidly built as its theme is airy, it features an exceptional vocal by Partridge - clear, controlled and engaged with its confident, crafted lyric:

‘I own this river, I own this town -
All of its climbers and its winos sliding down,
But I can’t own her and I never will,
No, I can’t own her and that’s a bitter pill.’

By now, Partridge is on a roll, and the penultimate track, ‘Harvest Festival’ may well be XTC’s finest moment. No matter what your educational background, almost everyone in Britain will remember the school harvest festival with fond waves of nostalgia and Partridge connects eloquently with that universality, recollecting the common scene with simple details of flowers round the altar, tinned fruit, hymn books and canvas chairs and ‘children with baskets…their hair cut like corn, neatly combed in their rows’.

If, however, the song was merely an evocative reminiscence, it would not be a masterpiece. What lifts it into that realm is the moving narrative flowing through childhood in the present tense into reflective adulthood with a brief change of key and tone before settling into positive hopes and wishes for the future.

Prefigured by the early image of the ‘chosen’ pair of children walking ‘hand in hand to the front of the hall’, we become aware of the narrator as a boy catching the eye of the girl sat in another row who was, perhaps, his first love. The ‘longing look’ she gave him was ‘best of all’ (cleverly rhymed with festival) and ‘more than enough to keep [him] fed all year’.

The song starts with piano and a clattering of chairs as the assembly is seated. Partridge’s voice, suffused with the bittersweet yearning of nostalgia, comes in to be joined by bass, cellos and drums thumping like young hearts, then plaintive recorders – and if it hasn’t grabbed you by this time, then you must be made of very stolid stuff indeed. We then learn from the downbeat transition that ‘the exams and crops all failed’ - although the Apple Venus of Andy’s eye passed - never, it seemed, to be seen again, thereby compounding the sting of the post-school reality-check.

But years later, after a fleeting return to the addled cynicism of ‘Your Dictionary’, the ‘screwed and cut and nailed’ narrator receives ‘out of nowhere [an] invitation in gold pen’. Cue more flowers round an altar and wishing the dream girl well - who still fondly remembers that boy in the harvest hall - on the occasion of her marriage. A beautiful song – and, frankly, if it seems too sentimental, you must have a heart of stone.

With ‘The Last Balloon’, AV floats away into the ether – as, indeed, did XTC (although Wasp Star, recorded at the same sessions, would be released the following year). It’s a low-key conclusion: a dream of escaping the nightmares of the real world at its worst. After loading up ‘the balloon from fear’ with men and women – exhorted in turn to leave behind their ‘bombs and knives’ and ‘gems and furs’ - the children, embodying hopes for the future, climb aboard.

The rise of the balloon and Partridge’s voice have been counterpointed between the verses by his dark commands to ‘Drop it all’ - and it becomes clear that we’re not dealing with ‘Up, Up & Away’ here. The adults realise they’re ‘weighed down by [their] evil past’ and that the balloon will never soar away with the children into a better future unless they, the guilty adults, are ‘dropped like so much sand’. Guy Barker’s flugelhorn, which has been hovering amidst the subtle strings and a guitar treated to sound like an unearthly harpsichord, comes into its own with an ambiguous jazz coda after echoing, muffled plunges evoke the jettisoning of dead weight. Ending thus with bangs and a whimpering, it’s a somewhat disconsolate and disturbing song to go out on.

Apple Venus thereby fades away into a vacuum leaving listeners uncertain as to whether they should feel uplifted or downcast at the end of an album that has ranged through various moods, offering observations about landscape and love and broaching serious questions about the world we live in and the ecological challenges it faces. Although it provides no easy answers, it is a record full of warmth and humanity, living up to the tagline on its cover: ‘Do what you will but harm none’. It features some of Andy Partridge’s best songs and singing and is also an object lesson in how to use an orchestra sensitively in rock and pop music. The arrangements, by the way, are all by Gavin Wright of The London Sessions Orchestra, although none other than Mike Batt worked on ‘Greenman’ and ‘I Can’t Own Her’.

A little sadly, XTC had been fragmenting for a long time, - with them using one session drummer after another and losing keyboardist Dave Gregory, who actually left during the AV sessions - and they finally called it a day a few years later. Apart from a lone solo album released in 1980, Partridge seems in no hurry to make another and contents himself with a cottage industry gathering XTC demo’s and rarities on his own Ape House label. Moulding has been seldom heard of in the C21st and there is a strong sense of the band having run its natural course. They left behind them a fine body of work, of which AV is the fulfilment and culmination of their best efforts.

(IGR 2015)

[Thanks to and with permission of Ian Roberts]
Groovy Music 2003

XTC - 'Apple Venus volume 1'

'Pet Sounds' and 'Sgt Pepper' benefited from treading where no other musical works had been before, but it's very difficult for an album made in modern times to get the same sort of kudos. Had Andy Partridge made 'Apple Venus volume 1' in the mid-60's, perhaps then he'd be regarded as a visionary just like Brian Wilson or Lennon and McCartney. This truly is a masterpiece, a real labour-of-love, a work of art.

This, the first album after the painful split from Virgin, was to have been a much larger collection, but the budget meant that only volume 1 could be completed at the time (volume 2, 'Wasp Star' followed over a year later). Volume 1 was described as "orchoustic", a word which perfectly describes the orchestral and acoustic flavour. Sadly, Colin Moulding's two songs should be ignored. They're rather poor and break up the beautiful flow of the Andy Partridge-penned tracks.

The album opens with 'River of Orchids' - a song which was the subject matter of part of a lecture by composer Harold Budd. The subject of song itself is a desire to remove cars from the roads - the complex string arrangements that bring the song slowly to life represent a slow build-up of traffic from a trickle to congestion. Now that's clever.

One of Andy Partridge's song-writing skills is his ability to paint pictures in your mind - try listening to 'Harvest Festival' without reliving school assembly. There's much more to enjoy - 'Green Man' with its faint Middle-Eastern tones is a grandiose production, and the swirling string arrangements on 'I Can't Own Her' are nothing short of spectacular. I mentioned Partridge's ability to paint pictures, and it's this that prompted me to put 'Apple Venus' back into the CD player... 'Easter Theatre' is perhaps a little over the top, but it's the embodiment of Spring on a compact disc. The man is a genius.

Babyblaue Prog-Reviews
April 28, 2002


Apple Venus Vol. 1


Allgemeine Angaben

Erscheinungsjahr: 1998
Besonderheiten/Stil: ArtPop; RetroProg
Durchschnittswertung: 11/15 (1 Rezension)


Von: Christian Rode @

Was hat dieses Album von XTC mit diversen Alben von Künstlern wie den Beatles oder 10 cc gemeinsam? Wer auf traumhaften, ach was, märchenhaften Harmoniegesang und anspruchvollste und zugleich lockere Melodiösität mit leicht psychedelischem Einschlag steht, wird hier vorzüglichst bedient. Dazu eine perfekte Produktion. Plus: kaum Drums und trotzdem voller herrlichster Rhythmik. Ein Album für's Herz, das nur Freude macht. "Do what you will but harm none." Schluchz...

Neben Gitarre (häufig akustisch) und Bass, begeistern vor allem phantasievolle Streicher- und Bläsereinlagen. Das ist poppig und progressiv bzw. psychedelisch. Was soll ich sagen? Überall klingen die 60-er/70-er im Gewand der späten 90-er durch. In einen beliebigen Song reinhören und entscheiden, ob man mit dieser harmonischen und doch immer wieder schön schrägen Pop-Mucke was anfangen kann.

Anspieltipp(s): I'd like that, Green Man, Fruit Nut
Vergleichbar mit: Beatles, Paul McCartney, 10 cc, Godley & Creme, Eric Woolfson, Dukes of Stratosphear, High Llamas
Geposted am: 28.4.2002
Letzte Änderung: 9.7.2002
Wertung: 11/15
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

September 2001



Apple Venus Volume One

* by Marco Sangiacomo

From a purely artistic point of view, XTC reached their peak in 1986 with "Skylarking". Having such a long career behind them - including the whole post-punk/new wave thing, which they had contributed to originate - it was unexpected of Andy Partridge and co. to come up with a masterpiece like that. "Skylarking" was a compendium of many different styles and moods of English pop (with a few American influences, like the Beach Boys on "Season Cycle"). It was no pastiche, though: every influence was hidden inside great pop songs and merged into a perfectly cohesive work, whose pastoral, summery, greenhouse-y feel was something many other bands had attempted but rarely managed to create. The arrangements were perfect and superbly matched the atmospheres described in the lyrics. Take songs like "Ballet For A Rainy Day" or "Mermaid Smile" - the way, on the latter, the xylophone and muted trumpets perfectly back the lyrics that tell of a longing for childhood, holidays at the seaside, the poetry of seahorses and "Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot".... Sadly, during the recording of "Skylarking" the band had fallen out with its producer and arranger, the "poisonous" (as Andy remembers him) Todd Rundgren - they never worked together again. So it all went downhill from there, it was unavoidable. "Oranges and Lemons" and "Nonsuch" were fine pop artifacts, but the magic was gone, especially in the production department. "Rook" may have been one monster of a simple piano song, but the other tracks on "Nonsuch" sounded too technological in a very unhip way, too 90's Genesis (the trio curse, you know). Finally Virgin decided to release XTC - in the sense that they let them go after keeping them for so many years under a detrimental contract. XTCsigned to a smaller but keener label and started recording "Apple Venus", of which we now have the first of two volumes. Some fans have already noted a certain similarity with the "Skylarking" production values - it is more acoustic, less studio-enhanced. There's a real orchestra playing on most tracks, lots of picnic guitars, and some of the finest songs Partridge has ever written. The immense "Easter Theatre", for example, which shows him at his life-celebrating best, all hailing trumpets and joyful choruses galloping along in the sunny English countryside in a "Draughtman's Contract" eurhythmic kind of way ...(deep breath)... "I Can't Own Her" has a show-stopping bit which reminds one of the panoramic "Crook" chorus. And it is great just to imagine Andy writing "Harvest Festival" - how can a man in his forties still have the immaculate soul to write and sing such uplifting words and music. The rest is the usual XTC job - notably a couple of paeans to the joys of middle age penned by Moulding (one of which, the cynic-defying "Frivolous Tonight", very good) and "Your Dictionary", an angry ballad inspired by Partridge's recent divorce ("1,000 Umbrellas" thirteen years after). Even "Green Man", the kind of exotic song Partridge has already written 100 times, is made worthwhile by a masterful slow crescendo arrangement. "This could be our finest hour", sings Moulding at one point, and he's probably right. "Skylarking" it isn't, but greenhouse pop lovers all over the world should definitely get this record.

circa 2000

XTC - Apple Venus (Vol 1) (Cooking Vinyl)

New Wave survivors turned cult legends, XTC's unique brand of middle-English pop whimsy has turned-on a small but devoted following for over two decades. Now, with Mojo Magazine-endorsed genius status fully bestowed upon them, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding emerge from the farm to bestow their first musical offerings in some seven years (a second volume is due later in the year). Having successfully avoided fitting into any musical bracket for a long time (Bastard Godfathers Of Britpop, perhaps?), "Apple Venus" offers eleven slices of beautifully crafted delicate chamber pieces ('rock' seems like too harsh a word to be throwing around such orchestra-nourished parts). There's the odd barbed Cathal Coughlan-esque poison love letter ("Your Dictionary" is a dead-ringer for the theme tune to top tots TV show Fireman Sam) and a tendency to sound like something between Talk Talk and late-period Paul McCartney. Moments are there to be had, but if you're not a fan already, this is definitely required-taste-stuff.

- Derek O'Connor

© 2001 rondomondo.

The Sour Belly Trio
February 2000

joel's reviews

XTC "Apple Venus Vol. 1"
(TVT Records / 1999)

Unashamedly a child of the 80's, XTC has been in my blood since I first bought "English Settlement" in 1981.

This is XTC's first album in seven years, and the time spent writing new material shows through in the brilliant orchestrations of frontman Andy Partridge. Described as their "orch-oustic" album, this is filled with lush arrangements, gripping rhythms and exotic sounds, as well as a few light hearted songs from Colin Moulding which seem a bit out of place.

This is not an album which you walk away from humming. As with XTC's last few releases, the music is challenging to the listener, and it really takes a few listenings to sink in. Far from being inaccessible, it simply gives you something to think about, rather than being bland mindless pop (which has it's place as well). Look for their self-described "stupid" pop album later in 1999 - "Apple Venus Vol. 2"

What does this have to do with hillbilly music? Nothing.

Listen to it anyway. Your ears will thank you!

The Citizen
February 22, 2000

XTC serves up haunting pop tunes in their new comeback effort Apple Venus V.1

by Michael Boyle

In the early 1980s, XTC stood poised to be one of the big power pop bands of the decade. Led by enigmatic frontman Andy Partridge, XTC had developed a distinctive following in the college rock scene and was often heralded as the next REM or U2.

But in 1982, Partridge suffered a nervous breakdown on stage and retreated from the public eye. It was subsequently announced that XTC would continue on only as a studio band and would never tour again. It seemed for a brief time that XTC would pass like so many other bands into obscurity.

Much to the delight of their fans, however, XTC retreated to the studio and adapted their sound to become less-rock oriented and more experimental. Like the Beatles after 1966, XTC became a studio band whose experimentation with different audio techniques, catchy melodies and complex arrangements became their trademark sound.

But after a string of critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful albums - including Skylarking and Nonesuch - XTC fell into dispute with its record company. In 1990, XTC began a seven-year standoff with Virgin records, hoping to break out of its contract simply by refusing to record no less release any new music. For a second time, it looked like XTC had disappeared.

But in the new year, XTC suddenly reappeared with "Apple Venus Volume 1." During their hiatus - which saw the departure of all remaining band members except Partridge (guitar, vocals) and Colin Moulding (guitar, vocals) - XTC continued to make home demos and write new music. Released from their contract with Virgin and signed to indie label TVT Records, XTC unleashed their creative energy on a series of albums titled "Apple Venus," the first of which was released this year.

The first "Apple Venus" is a haunting album that stays with you long after you've finished it. Reminiscent of "Revolver" by the Beatles, Partridge and Moulding layer their vocals to create a distinctly uneasy aura for the album and then contrast the lyrics and refrains with bouncy piano-based pop. For every peppy verse that Partridge offers, there is something darker and more menacing about the refrain or arrangement.

The first track, "River of Orchids" offers a jarring French horn to keep the beat instead of a guitar. Focusing on the need to escape dull life, Partridge pleads with the listener to follow him along the salvific "River of Orchids," but Moulding's deliberately off-key backing vocals are designed to remind the listener how dreamlike that promise is.

Vocal harmonies are also one of XTC's specialties and are in fine evidence on tracks like "Easter Theatre" and "Knights in Shining Karma." The latter sounds like a rewrite of "Sun King" by the Beatles with more complex lyrics and arrangement.

XTC is not beyond offering simple love songs as well. The peppy "I'd Like That" and the almost burlesque "Frivolous Tonight" are both simple songs that use almost, well, frivolous lyrics, to underscore the joy of finding the one you love. So caught up in that, Partridge even goes as far as to promise "I'll be your Albert/If you'll be my Victoria." But his darker side is never far away. He adds, "I'll smile so much my face would crack in two/And then you could fix it with your kissing glue?"

But by far the most arresting and bitter tracks on the album are "Your Dictionary" and "I Can't Own Her." On the first track, Partridge abruptly opens with "H-A-T-E\Is that how you spell me\in your dictionary?" The simple strumming of an acoustic guitar, combined with Partridge's angry to the point of tremoring voice, speaks volumes about the power of love unrequited. "I Can't Own Her" contrasts a crescendo of orchestral music with Partridge's own realization that obsession will always remain one step away from love. The sad refrain seems less like a warning to the listener than as a reminder for Partridge himself.

If there is any fault to Apple Venus Volume 1, it may be that they've overproduced some songs and lost a catchy melody under layers of vocals and instruments. But on the tracks for which this method of successful, XTC manages a feat that few since the Beatles have been able to do: to create witty, complex and ultimately heart-wrenching pop songs without being trapped by convention.

Underground Radio 3WK
February 8, 2000

Album: "Apple Venus, Volume 1"/TVT Records
3WK Track: River of Orchids
Time for a little toe-tapping and head highs with this latest album from 20 year music veterans Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, aka XTC. The first half of "Apple Venus" showcases their signature breezy Beatlesque British pop sound that has inspired so many fans for years. It's the second half that is a nice surprise - a classically inspired excursion into musical architecture. Backed by the London Session Orchestra, the listener is swept into a fairy world peopled by exquisite trumpets, dancing strings, and plucky percussion. Very XTC, but also different enough to appeal to a whole new audience. RECOMMENDED.

Copyright 3WK 1997-2000

Fast 'n' Bulbous
Reviews 'n' Rants 1999

a l b u m s

XTC, Apple Venus (Volume One) (TVT) 9-

After a seven year absence, XTC are pared down to the songwriting duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Rather than rebuild a band, they chose to hire an orchestra, resulting in lush, bucolic arrangements that recall the sound of Skylarking, if not its majestic melodies. The symphonic strings and warm horns are inviting, like a chamber music serenade in a post-wedding gondola ride. But soon they feel insecure that they may be revisiting old ground, so they ambush you with unsettling atonal notes and the boat tips over. Some of the songs grow over you like pale green moss over repeated listens, and others stay forever inaccessible. While Apple Venus can't completely escape the shadow of the past, it's a typically pleasant, whimsical ride, at least for hardcore XTC fans. Although if they were to retread anything, I would personally prefer the spastically caffeinated, prickly pop of White Music and Go 2.

January 6 - January 12, 2000
Rock Stars @

The Alibi's Top 25 Albums of 1999
by Stewart Mason

What does this year's readers poll, compiled from the dozens of Alibi devotees in New Mexico (and, via our handy Web site, beyond) who sent in their ballots, say about the state of music in 1999? Well, no single album ran away with all the glory. Only seven points separated the top four entries, and it wasn't until the final ballot was counted that XTC vaulted into the top spot over Fountains of Wayne and the Flaming Lips. It's also a surprisingly varied list, with mainstream rock 'n' roll, R&B, electronica, power pop and neo-psychedelia mixing it up with the usual critical faves and cultily-adored obscurities. And so, the winners ...

1. XTC Apple Venus Volume 1 (TVT)

Seven years after their last album and reduced to the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, XTC rose to the comeback occasion with their finest album since 1983's Mummer. Featuring acoustic guitars mingling with full orchestrations, Apple Venus Volume 1 is alternately serene, silly, angry and heartbreaking, and its fans were so excited that a couple of you also voted for Homespun, the album's companion volume of demos. The more rock-oriented Volume 2 is due in the spring.

2. Fountains of Wayne Utopia Parkway (Atlantic)
3. The Flaming Lips The Soft Bulletin (Warner Brothers)
4. The Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs (Merge)
5. Richard Thompson Mock Tudor (Capitol)
6. Jason Falkner Can You Still Feel? (Elektra)
7. The Negro Problem Joys and Concerns (Aerial Flipout)
8. Wilco Summer Teeth (Reprise)
9. Guided by Voices Do the Collapse (TVT)
10. Beck Midnite Vultures (DGC)

© 1996-00 Weekly Alibi

Disctronics Music
circa 2000

Apple Venus

Formados en Inglaterra en 1978, XTC es una de las bandas que mejor reputación tiene entre especialistas, pero no entre el público general. Tal vez porque desde sus inicios las formulas y claves que utilizan han sido demasiado elaboradas, poco abiertas a la comprensión de la gente común y corriente. Quizá, la culpa de esto la tenga su líder, Andy Partridge, un sujeto raro, enigmático, indescifrable, en otras palabras, un genio musical.

Después de un periodo largo de receso, los integrantes de XTC han vuelto con uno de sus mejores trabajos: Apple Venus, una bellísima e intensa colección de canciones en donde se deja ver todo lo que el grupo ha experimentado en este tiempo.

©Copyright, 1999-2002 Disctronics.

Jeff Partyka's Mega-Music Page
Jeff's Pocket Reviews

XTC: Apple Venus, Volume 1
(Idea/TVT, 1999)
Grade: A+

Seven years is a long time to wait for one of your favorite acts to come out with a new album. XTC's devoted fan base are rejoicing in a big way in 1999 (the recent departure of long-time guitarist Dave Gregory notwithstanding) with the release of the “orchustic” Apple Venus, Volume 1, the band's first studio album since 1992's Nonsuch. The long wait was not the result of anything remotely resembling writer's block (tapes and CDs full of bootlegged demos have been circulating among collectors, and Volume 2, a harder-edged rock album, is said to be in the pipeline for later in '99); rather, the band had to go on strike to get out of its appallingly unfair contract with Virgin Records. The happy news is that the first volume of Apple Venus drips with the same melodic, instrumental, and lyrical charm of most of its predecessors. Andy Partridge's songwriting is as ebullient and attractive as ever, with the poppy bounce of “I'd Like That” contrasting nicely with the stately grandeur of the likes of “Easter Theatre,” “I Can't Own Her,” and “Harvest Festival.” Colin Moulding contributes only two songs, but both are winners; long-time XTC fans will notice how much “Frivolous Tonight” and the delightfully eccentric “Fruit Nut” reflect a marked and welcome lightening of tone in Moulding's writing (compare them to the three downers he contributed to 1989's Oranges and Lemons). The song that stands out most, though, is Partridge's “Your Dictionary,” a bitter farewell to his failed marriage that perfectly illustrates the unfortunate maxim that suffering can produce the greatest art. Welcome back, guys.


After an incredible seven-year absence from recording, XTC returned with an orchestra in tow. The intervening years found the band embroiled in legal problems and when they finally emerged to embark on this new work, they were reduced to a duo. Guitarist Dave Gregory departed, leaving just founders and songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. The orchestral settings which became the identity of this first volume create vast and often theatrical settings for the songs, which don't stray far from what one would expect from XTC (that is, when they choose not to rock).

"River of Orchids" opens the album and announces their intentions as the arrangement slowly comes into view. Setting aside most worldly concerns for affairs of the heart, the album has a thematic unity that gives the whole thing the feel of a song cycle. Contributing only two songs to Partridge's nine, Moudling's "Frivolous Tonight" is a real gem, possessing a powerful beauty wrapped in hypnotic melancholia.

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

» Apple Venus Volume 1

Pop von XTC / Cooking Vinyl
Im Laden seit 19.3.1999
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Pop-Musik ist bei Harcore-Musik-Freaks jeglicher Couleur ja schon fast ein Schimpfwort. Aber auch der hartgesottenste Vinyljunkie braucht hin und wieder eine Dosis dieser alles und nichts sagenden Stilrichtung.
Die "Pop"-Legende XTC ist da eine der wenigen Bands, die - durch mangelnde Bühnenpräsenz, aber auch (und vor allem) durch ihre einzigartigen Plattenveröffetlichungen - hierfür in Frage kommt und die in den letzten 20 Jahren zum Kult avanciert, allen Irrungen und Wirrungen des Biz hartnäckig getrotzt hat. "Apple Venus. Volume 1" ist nach sieben Jahren Enthaltsamkeit das neueste Meisterwerk aus der Schmiede von Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding, und wenn der Begriff "Pop" zu irgendeiner Kategorisierung gut ist, dann für diese CD.

Weit und breit keine Elektronik, hier herrscht Songwriting in reinster Stilform. Harmonielehre par Excellence, einfallsreiche Ideenumsetzung und gekonnter Einsatz von orchestralen Arrangements. "Easter Theatre" zum Beispiel strotzt nur so vor Musikerfahrung, die einer nur erwerben kann, der heute in den Mittvierzigern ist und dessen Leben der Musik gehört. "Knights In Shining Karma" verströmt die unsagbare Leichtigkeit des Seins, daß es einem schwach werden kann. Mellotron-Töne und Fanfaren erinnern an die frühen Genesis ("Frivolous Tonight") und auf "Green Man" meint man die genialen Godley & Creme zu hören, die Anfang der 80er aus 10CC hervorgingen. Und auch "Your Dictionary" zwirbelt sich mit seiner Ohrwurm-Melodie tief ins Kleinhirn.
Es besteht kein Zweifel: "Appel Venus. Volume 1" ist ein Album, das einem Windjammer gleich aus dem Meer der Segeljollen hervorragt und - Sack und Asche - die Briten sind um die beiden XTC'ler wirklich zu beneiden.

Rezension von Klaus Halama

Salt For Slugs
Music Reviews by People Who Care

Apple Venus Vol. 1

The perennial flavor of XTC is back in town again although with a slightly more orchestral voice. Apple Venus Vol. 1 is XTC's first studio cd since 1992's Nonsuch. Although fans of the band have been treated to a compilation of B-Sides and a recently released BBC Sessions box set, this is the first time since Oranges and Lemons that XTC has nailed the rare emotion which only they can invoke. Listeners may be put off by the mostly orchestral and easy listening modes on the new CD, but that's what happens when musicians have kids - they make music as to not wake their spawn. XTC more than makes up for this lazy trade by spouting rich and creative wind, brass and string lines along with the occasional vocal ornamentation. XTC promised that Apple Venus Vol. 2 is on the way before the end of the year. They promise this to be more of a 'rock' collection. They had much to choose from in the 50 plus fully realized songs they had written for what was originally going to be a double album. It's OK to like this CD so stop denying it and start buying it. (Sockboy)

CDs Reviews

XTC "Apple Venus. Volume 1"

(Cooking Vinyl/Indigo)

Seinen vorläufigen Höhepunkt findet die Entwicklung dieser "Band" auf dem neuen Album "Apple Venus". Nach dem Ausstieg von Dave Gregory zum Duo geschrumpft scheinen Partridge und Moulding mal so eben die klassische tragikomische Operette ins Songformat zu transformieren. Trotz ausgefeilter Orchestrierung verströmt das Album die Beschwingtheit eines Schmetterlings auf einer blühenden Sommerwiese. Songs wie "River Of Orchids", "Easter Theatre", Knights In Shining Karma" oder "Fruit Nut" tragen einen in eine angenehm freundlich schimmernde Welt vollendeter Schönheit. XTC übersetzten Pop jenseits von postmoderner Popularität (sowohl im Sinne von eingängig, vergnüglich, frivol als auch - wie die Vergangenheit des Öfteren gezeigt hat - von Chartplatzierungen). Paradigmatisch heißt es hierzu: "There are no words for me in your dictionary."

XTC entziehen sich ohne großes Aufheben allen Diskursen und stellen sich einfach neben die Zeit. Ihre Haltung mag dabei zutiefst moralisch sein, doch trotz der sieben Jahre, die seit der Veröffentlichung ihres letzten Albums "Nonsuch" vergangen sind, hängt "Apple Venus" in keinem Moment der Ruch eines Comeback-Albums an. Schwer zu sagen, was die für Pilze in ihrem Garten züchten, sie lassen aber auf alle Fälle hinter den Spiegel ins Paradies blicken. Dort steht Eva, nackt und wunderschön, und beißt in den Apfel. Für harte Fakten und andere schändliche Wissenslücken sei die offizielle Bandbiogrfie "XTC: Song Stories" von Neville Farmer empfohlen (erschienen bei Helter Skelter) oder ein Klick nach, der umfangreichen XTC-Website. Die Veröffentlichung von "Apple Venus. Volume 2" ist übrigens noch für dieses Jahr vorgesehen. Laut Aussage von Partridge ist "cranked-up noise" vom Feinsten zu erwarten.

album reviews

XTC - Apple Venus Volume 1

Before I begin this review I'd like to say that I hadn't heard much of XTC's work up till this point. I remember a handful of radio hits like Making Plans for Nigel, Generals and Majors, and Senses Working Overtime but I hadn't actually listened to any of XTC's albums. In any case, after being enchanted by Greenman I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of this album. In the end it was several months before I got a copy, but I'm glad to say it was definitely well worth the wait!

The album opens with a single drip of water, a portend of the use of clever sound effects which extends through the entire work. The playful lyrics sounding from a distance spin and echo "push the car from the road" and "river of orchids" which provide a nice opening to the album: as if we are driving into the music. River of Orchids is about ecological destruction -- Andy Partridge hoping that one day "the car will be reduced to a fossil" -- it is a pity that this interesting theme is not repeated in the album, since most of the other songs soon or later return to the themes of emotional problems or celebrations.

The bright and chirpy I'd Like That comes next, followed by Easter Theater which uses some cheeky sexual imagery and very clever sound effects. The track was, correctly, picked as the first single. It excels with a combination of well written lyrics--about the fertility of spring and Easter--and a lovely "big" sound with a good solid drum beat.

The album then slows down with the average Knights In Shinning Karma but picks up again with Frivolous Tonight. This track, which, for a change, was written by Colin Moulding has some very catchy guitar and lyrics about--basically--getting drunk and having fun. The only complaint I have about this little gem is that it is too similar to Colin's second and even better Fruit Nut. The following song: Greenman, is one of the best on the album and has the feelings of an epic. The excellent orchestral arrangement combined with lyrics about the mythical Greenman work perfectly and form a beautiful fusion of nineties rock with fantasy themes. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the next track which, thematically, begins the second half of the album. The trouble with Your Dictionary is that the cleverness of its lyrics "S.H.I.T. is that how you spell me in your dictionary?" become throw away when heard too many times. Despite this it does not really drag the album down and is a good gateway to the slower tracks.

Colin's second and final song is Fruit Nut. It moves into the area of good old Englisy madness-er, eccentricity. Some weird instruments and the excellent contributions from the backing singer make the song a gem. The last three songs, I Can't Own Her, Harvest Festival and The Last Balloon, are all slow, slightly blue and show a good diverseness in music and lyrics. Of the three, Harvest Festival is diffidently the best and is one of the few songs that both the lyrics and music work together at the evocation of the same emotion. There is a distinct "Sunday morning at church" feel to the track and the bitter discovery of the wedding invitation is reflected in the altered music and passionate vocals. On a distinctly impassioned note Apple Venus Volume 1 ends... The echoes of The Last Balloon's plea that we drop all the things that drag us down before it is too late still beating around the listener's head.

All in all, the album is successful in proving that XTC, although smaller, is still a very strong band who have successfully evolved from the eighties and is still keen to explore new ideas and sound techniques. The second Apple Venus, which is due out before long, will apparently focus on a more electrical sound. I am very much looking forward to it.

obsidiana > ratos libres > sonidos

Apple Venus Volume 1
TVT Records/ Idea, 1999

Durante 24 años, este grupo británico ha dado pruebas de que la música pop puede ser inteligente y memorable. De sus lejanos días en que eran catalogados como punks (compartiendo con los entonces bebés rabiosos sólo la energía) a la creación una obra maestra como Skylarking, que podría ser calificado como el disco que The Beatles no alcanzaron a grabar, XTC ha enfrentado, sin embargo, la incomprensión no tanto del público sino de las compañías discográficas y de la radio. Y fue precisamente un conflicto con su antiguo sello el que los llevó a declararse en "huelga" (por decirlo así) durante siete años. En ese periodo, un guitarrista dejó el grupo y Andy Partridge, el compositor principal, se divorció, pero en el estudio supo convertir tanta desazón en lirismo gracias a su talento, sumado al de Colin Moulding, bajista y segundo compositor, que funciona como contrapeso. Apple Venus en una obra acústica y pastoral que no desdeña, sin embargo, agrios reproches a la ex cónyuge y al destino. La vida adulta, lo demuestra XTC, puede crear música madura y bella para la gente real.

Nude as the News

Apple Venus Volume One
Rating: 8.0
Apple Venus
TVT, 1999
RiYL: Orchestral Blur, R.E.M.'s Up, The Beatles' Abbey Road, Burt Bacharach

Seven years since the band last musically spoke to the world, XTC finally won its battle of wills with ex-label Virgin and returned to releasing albums. Apple Venus Volume One is the first fruit of this new season, full of timeless orchestral music unlike anything else you have heard in 1999 (with the possible exception of the forthcoming Volume Two).

Volume One starts with the pride of unconventional pop genius Andy Partridge's new batch of gems. A sole plinking water drop resonates and slowly becomes surrounded by Colin Moulding's calculated bass plucking and the mimicking staccato riffs of the London Session Orchestra. When Andy finally speaks up, he comes out with a quirky but perfect melody line, delivering something like "Hey! I heard that dandelions roar in Piccadilly Circus!"

"River of Orchids" commences to weave a number of vocal hooks with equally obtuse messages around the enchanting, if not evolving, melodic base, prompting the listener to wonder how something so weird sounds so catchy.

But it's a natural bouquet for the English mainstays, labeled as eccentric throughout much of their 24-year career for numerous reasons. Early on, XTC established itself as a high-energy live act, only to change to the "never-will-we-tour-again" philosophy in 1984 due to Partridge's stage fright.

The band has defied the industry's incessant demands of hit pop singles by sticking to sometimes too-clever constructions and albums just enough off the beaten path to elicit critical praise and dismal sales. Over the non-touring years, it built up an increasingly bitter relationship with the record label that kept pushing for the hit single it knew Partridge and Moulding could write.

With 1992's Nonsuch, Virgin gave the band little-to-no promotional support and also refused to breach its binding contract. Partridge's chosen course of action after years of dissatisfaction was simply to stop recording music for the label. Multi-instrumentalist Dave Gregory was a casualty of the hiatus, but Partridge and Moulding held on and were eventually dropped by Virgin. Creatively free and on their own, the band's two original songwriters ended up on American indie label TVT, of all places.

It isn't so much that Apple Venus is a revolutionary album, it's actually completely removed from context. The album is timeless without necessarily qualifying as classic, and that's what makes it so interesting. Partridge and Moulding don't try to rejoin the modern pop world, or even reference their own past work. The result is fresh and immune to sterotype or preconception.

The songs themselves thrive within Partridge's complex arrangements. Most feature percussion of some kind, but rarely does one hear bona fide drums. The overall sound, not wholly unexpectedly, is like a troupe of Victorian minstrels from the English countryside channeling a `90s pop band. Songs like "Fruit Nut" and "Harvest Festival" paint portraits of pastoral villages where the biggest concerns are agriculture and love in spring.

"I'd Like That" has the most of the old XTC (that is to say, middle-period XTC) in it, bouncing along with an up-tempo acoustic guitar. But the chorus is a curious section, Partridge following an engaging vocal line until he falters and seems to grasp for a simile: "Each drop will make me grow up really high, really high, like a really high thing...say a sunflower." The last word drops the music dead in the first three run-throughs, then leads into a repeating motif of the sunflower, adorned with erratic handclap percussion.

Apple Venus Volume One is a triumphant return for these deserved princes of pop. Moulding and Partridge still defy classification, and in rebirth, XTC is making music as intriguing and rapturous as ever. Welcome back, lads.

- Troy Carpenter

Freaky Trigger


XTC - Apple Venus Vol.1

Appropriately for a band so interested in tradition, there are certain small rituals to be observed when writing about XTC. The band's reputation as pastichistes par excellence must be noted, Andy Partridge's lyrical eccentricities reviewed, the small but sterling contribution of Colin Moulding touched upon, and perhaps a wistful assessment of the new record's commercial possibilities appended to an, in general, politely glowing notice. So here goes (sort of):

XTC's last album, Nonsuch, was as near to wretchedness as anything they'd produced since their early days, and even that teething period had a bug-eyed spikiness to recommend it. Nonsuch was all craft, no play, from its arch period lettering through to the final sleek notes. Its best track was plainly a throwaway grab for hit status (The Disappointed), and even its handful of memorable tunes sounded somehow sickly. It wasn't that the ideas weren't there - Omnibus and Rook and Bungalow were crammed with them - it was that the execution was so dispiritingly lacking in conviction, as if the ideas alone were enough. (And it didn't help that Colin Moulding's contributions included the deeply risible The Smartest Monkeys.)

Seven years on, Apple Venus 1 kicks off with River Of Orchids, and it's gorgeous. This track and a couple of others are absolutely everything Nonsuch should have been - grandiose, imaginative, orch-pop which could have been made by nobody else but them. Pop legend has it that Andy Partridge is, in essence, a crank, and here he sounds it - "Ihadadreamwhere Thecarisreducedtoa fossILLLL", while behind him horns and strings mesh, lock, part and dance in strict Nymanesque time, and all around him his own voice burrs, hums and echoes in an orgiastic multitrack call to arms. Chamber music crossing with folksy war-chanting - only Andy Partridge, only XTC.

Modern life is rubbish? You betcha. XTC have been railing against the industrialised world since Partridge kicked out lad-boffin keyboard gonk Barry Andrews back in 1978, and since their retirement from the production-line album-tour-album-tour thing their agrarian vision has deepened and taken root as the very heart of the band's appeal. XTC at their best are perhaps the purest vision of Albion pop music has to offer, the sonic equivalent of Pressburger and Powell's films, with all their charm, perception, compassion and pride. XTC are Peasant Pop, promoting a version of England based around seasons, festivals, grass and trees, pageantry and hard work, mummery and stability. With seven years more or less away from the business under their belts, this aspect of XTC is stronger and more convincing than ever. Partridge sounds like an angry rustic prophet on the first track, but elsewhere - on the stunningly rich Green Man and the joyous Easter Theatre - he seems himself mystified, almost awed by the land and customs he's singing about.

(It's worth noting for worried liberal readers that Albion is just one of the myriad imaginary homelands in British pop music: perhaps to subconsciously combat XTC's monocultural music, Partridge generally loads his albums with angry and sensible pleas for tolerance, racial tolerance especially.)

The first half of Apple Venus 1 alternates between these rapturous pastorals and Partridge's sly, tender love songs. He's probably more addicted to wordplay and extented metaphor than any lovesongwriter since Smokey Robinson, and while he rarely transfixes like Smokey, his love ditties are never less than pretty, and the detailed, playful production they get here certainly doesn't hurt. The real hidden gem, though, is Moulding's contribution, Frivolous Tonight.

After his lacklustre contributions to the last two XTC albums, Moulding has hit upon an earthy combination of commonsense and whimsy that grounds Partridge's flights of fancy better than anyone might have hoped. Moulding, let us remember, is a fortysomething married man, still living in Wiltshire and earning (one might surmise) enough to enjoy himself but not any more than the next bloke. And so when he sings about his life - about growing fruit or enjoying a chatty evening with his mates - it's not only charming, it's convincing too. The only comparison I can think of in terms of subject matter is Paul McCartney, but singing about needing a temp or working in the garden always seemed a bit tiresome when you knew full well that said garden included half of the Scottish Highlands. Frivolous Tonight is among the most winning songs I've heard in years, and I could happily sit through a whole album of similar stuff.

Sad to say, the second half of Apple Venus 1 doesn't match up. Partridge messes his copybook with the angst-rockin' Your Dictionary, and then we get a trio of long, lazy ballads that range from pleasant (Harvest Festival) to wearying (The Last Balloon). Ignore those and keep playing the first six tracks again and again - it's warm, it's Spring, and there's still enough green left in England to make the country's most idiosyncratic band sound not only entertaining but truthful, too.

Copyright Tom Ewing, 1999

Terra Soundtralis Incognita
issue 8: Reviews

TVT Records

The success of High Llamas HAWAII, the Beach Boys
PET SOUNDS reissue, Verve's "Bittersweet
Symphony," etc. proclaims that vivacity and
universal appeal of art-rock with strings, or
"orch-pop." Opening their album delicately with a
subtle crescendo in pizzicato, the duo of
vocalists Colin Moulding (bass) and Andy Partridge
(guitar) that is XTC announce their emergence from
a seven-year absence from music in general into
chamber pop. While they missed the chance to ride
the crest of this wave, XTC's APPLE VENUS is, with
its dulcet harmonies based on pop music's perhaps
most recognizable and mellifluous falsetto,
destined to be one of the most enduring landmarks
in chamber pop. Says Partridge that "the
orchestral thing was something I really wanted to
do, but I think I've gotten it largely out of my
system now." So, expect VOLUME 2 to be markedly
different and this meeting of pop rock and strings
featuring water droplets, clapping rhythms and
symphonic horn solos to be a unique and
luminescent start in of music's brightest
discographies. The emotion inducing arrangements
here are mated with highly personal lyrics. "I
Can't Own Her" is insightful commentary on the
ephemeral nature of relationships and "I'd Like
That" is an accurate translation of pure, s
pontaneous joy. APPLE VENUS is a conceptual
concerto of rosined heartstrings. (4)


XTC - Apple Venus Vol 1

Seven years is a long time in between albums (unless you are Pink Floyd).

After seven years, expectations for a new XTC album are indeed low. However, "Apples Venus Vol 1" comes close to being a masterpiece.

If this had been the new Beatles album, it would be easy to compare the lush and layered production work along with the diversity of sounds back to an Abbey Road, Sgt Pepper or White album.

"Apple Venus" might very well be XTC's "Sgt Pepper".

The album has depth but it isn't so serious that the occasional pop piece isn't thrown in for good measure.

The break from traditional instruments makes way for the best available sound for the job.

You'll hear this immediately with the string section of River Of Orchids but track two, I'd Like That goes directly into a three and a half singalong pop song. The "She's Leaving Home" like backing vocals won't go unnoticed by Beatles connoisseurs either.

Easter Theatre is back to orchestration. This is the XTC wannabe rock opera.

Andy Partridge is a clever lyricist but you have to listen closely for the wit. John Lennon would be proud of Knights In Shining Karma but the song would also probably take Paul McCartney back to the musical style of his first solo album. Could Partridge be the first English musicians to successfully combine the best attributes of Lennon - MCartney?

Frivolous Tonight jumps the Atlantic for a moment and revisits the sounds of the Beach Boys.

One of the albums finest moments is Greenman. Now this one is a self contained rock opera, with an orchestrated start that takes you back to the LSO version of Tommy.

Your Dictionary is one bitter song - "F U C K is that how you spell friend in your dictionary" Partridge sings with all the spite of a dumped girlfriend.

We then go from sheer malice into utter frivolity with Fruit Nut, the "apple" component of the album title.

The final three stanza's of this album delve into the sounds that make this album such an aural delight. I Can't Own Her deals maybe with the more positive side of the relationship can so bad in Your Dictionary. Harvest Festival is simplistic McCartney revisited and the six and a half minute The Last Balloon is one of those Sgt Pepper like images with XTC painting images with word play.

by Hector The Rock Dog

Copyright 1999 Radio Undercover

The Rocket
October 1999

Apple Venus Vol. 1's opening track, "River of Orchids," features dripping water, pizzicato strings, burping trumpets and Andy Partridge's vocals all swirling in a demanding musical round that defies your foot to tap and your reason to ask yourself, "When did Phillip Glass and Steve Reich join XTC?" Then tracks two and three, "I'd Like That" and the record's best song, "Easter Theatre," reassure you that 1999's XTC aren't much different from the XTC that released the now-classic Skylarking album in 1987.

Being hailed as the "orchustic" half of two records (Apple Venus Vol. 2 promises to be the electric second half coming this spring), XTC begin their new era as a duo on an independent label with elaborate orchestral arrangements of some of their weakest songs ever. Partridge and Colin Moulding (who only contributes two songs) recycle 10-year-old themes and ideas: The closing tune, "The Last Balloon," is a rewrite of Oranges and Lemons' closing song, "Chalkhills and Children," and Moulding's "Fruit Nut" is a self-deprecating poke at XTC's preoccupation with fruit. Usually ultra-literate with a deft use of the English language, Partridge now resorts to an easy pun title like "Knights in Shining Karma" with nowhere to take it and shock-value lyrics in "Your Dictionary," spelling out curse words with indemnity for his ex-wife. The absence of Dave Gregory, who left during this record's making, is negligible, maybe arguable, because the "orchestra" sounds more synthetic than real, and the arrangements are as good as XTC's previous forays into lush instrumentation.

Given what XTC went through since 1992 (record label problems, divorce, member quitting), we should be thankful that Apple Venus Vol. 1 even exists and that more is coming. Even a mediocre XTC record is better than the psychedelic music of all the other Beatlesque bands out there, if there are any current bands left to compare them to.

Jay Pulliam

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

The Belfry
October, 1999

Music is the Best: Volume 10

Next I'd like to talk about another British group, XTC, and their newest album, Apple Venus: Volume One. Although it's still early, this one has my vote for album of the year thus far. XTC began their career as a new wave pop group in the late seventies, and their releases were critically lauded throughout the eighties. On Apple Venus, their first album since 1992's Nonsuch, the group employs what singer/guitarist/songwriter Andy Partridge calls "orch-coustic" music, that is, a blend between orchestral and acoustic music. This description is more or less correct, as on this album Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding alternate between simple acoustic tracks and more elaborate, orchestrated ones. The songs are really quite an eclectic mix; Partridge is a master songwriter, and he explores many very different styles on this album. Although guitarist Dave Gregory left the group before the album was finished, his creative, distinctive guitar leads can be heard on several tracks. As a consistently inventive and skillful group, XTC never disappoint, and this album, along with 1987's Skylarking (my previous favorite), ranks among their best.

J. Eric Smith Music Review and Media Ephemera Archive

Apple Venus, Volume 1 (TVT)

Unhappy about their contract with Virgin Records, XTC went on strike after 1992's Nonsuch. Virgin's lawyers finally realized last year that the eccentric English pop geniuses were serious and freed the group to shop their wares elsewhere. XTC are now making up for lost time, offering the first new fruits of their post-strike era via the "orch-oustic" Apple Venus, Volume 1 and scheduling an allegedly rougher-edged Apple Venus, Volume 2 for release later this year.

Hopefully that's rougher-edged from a sonic standpoint, since the instrumentally-serene Volume 1 contains enough bile to make it XTC's most emotionally pointed disc, which is really saying something, given such past angst-fests as "Dear God," "Wake Up," "Smartest Monkeys," "Respectable Street," "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Generals and Majors."

Why the unhappiness? In part because XTC's core creative trio are now a duo, with sonic wallpaper-hanger Dave Gregory's band membership not surviving the Apple Venus sessions. (Hence the disc's aural minimalism, perhaps?) Then, too, lingering hatred of Virgin Records, producer Haydn Bendall's abandonment of the group and songwriter Andy Partridge's divorce-inspiration for the particularly vicious "Your Dictionary."

Partridge's well-documented emotional issues and proclivity for playing with tin soldiers make it hard to hear "My Dictionary" without wanting a retort from the ex-Mrs. Partridge. With stalwart bassist Colin Moulding's contributions to this disc standing as some of his slightest, Apple Venus, Volume 1 therefore ultimately feels more like a solo Partridge rant than a proper XTC project.

Here's hoping Volume 2 marks the true return to form.

Copyright 1995-1999: J. Eric Smith
[Thanks to and with permission of J. Eric Smith]


Apple Venus - Vol. 1


Making Plans for My Fair Lady
By Kyle Riordan

Seven years is a long time to wait for something. They say that all of the cells in your body are replaced in that span of time. That would mean that this is not the same XTC that created the album 'Nonesuch' all those years ago, and you would be right. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are still there, but Dave Gregory is gone (actually he's still there as a credited sideman). Virgin Records is gone with TVT Records in their place. The electric guitars of 'Oranges and Lemons' and 'The Dukes of Stratosphere' are gone, replaced by acoustic guitars and orchestral accompaniment and samplers. Are all of these changes a recipe for disaster? Not a chance!

'Apple Venus Vol. One' starts where 1986's 'Skylarking' leaves off, and if you've followed the XTC boys at all, you won't be surprised to hear that this new album is excellent as usual. Starting off with the challenging 'River of Orchids' and ending with the gorgeous yet disturbing 'The Last Balloon', this album is very McCartney-esque in spots, but always in that quirky XTC kind of way.

Highlights include 'Greenman', 'Easter Theatre', and 'Your Dictionary', where Andy Partridge teaches you the true spelling of the word love. This is a great album - get it, and keep your eyes peeled for the electric Volume 2 later this year.

© 1999 InSync Design & Publishing. All rights reserved.

St. Paul Pioneer Press
September 14, 1999, Tuesday
Reviews of new pop and jazz releases

XTC "Apple Venus, Vol. 1" TVT Records * * *

As this CD was released six months ago, it becomes increasingly apparent that there is no "Apple Venus, Vol. 2" - or, at least, if there's going to be one, we might have to wait another seven years for it. That's how long it's been since this English duo (Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding) released their last CD of original material.

Worth the wait? Most critics seem to think so - yet there is so little pop creativity to compete with XTC's exotic, experimental craftsmanship that any XTC disc is better than none.

The hook here is blending the duo's quirky little melodies and acerbic lyrical tidbits with big chunks of musical scenery provided by the London Session Orchestra. This does not mean that XTC is striving for oppressive significance a la the Moody Blues; if anything, the compositions here are less substantial than usual. The most memorable of the bunch is the almost folky "Your Dictionary," in which Partridge strums an acoustic guitar and croons, "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary." It's an example of what XTC has always done best - crafting songs so clever and familiar that you'd almost think they came from Tin Pan Alley or country radio - except that there's always a college-boy twist that puts them in the too-odd-or-blunt-to-be-a-hit category.

Perhaps half these songs lack enough Tin Pan Alley to offset their oddness, but a couple others come close to the group's best work: "I Can't Own Her," an ode of poetic yearning, and "Harvest Festival," in which a wedding is compared to the culmination of the growing season.

"Apple Venus" feels like the offbeat albums of the late-'60s Beach Boys or the Kinks - not their greatest work, but rewarding enough in spots to hang with it.

- Rick Shefchik

© 1999, Saint Paul Pioneer Press
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Further Entertainment
August 1999

Apple Venus Vol.1
Cooking Vinyl

Neues vom Kunstlied

Gelegentlich wird man doch zwischen all den vermeintlichen Schnittstellen von Postthis und Elektronicthat daran erinnert, daß es auch noch ganz anders gehen kann, das Musik machen. Die neue CD von XTC - die erste nach 7 Jahren - ist ein Musterexemplar zeitgenössischer Popmusik als art pour l'art; leicht, eingängig, dabei völlig unkommerziell, heiter und doch bemerkenswert in ihrer Tiefe. Nicht für das Tagesgeschäft gemacht, aber mit jedem neuen Hören winkt irgendwo eine Belohnung. Aber bevor der Franz Schöler in mir euch endgültig verzückt in das Klanguniversum von Apple Venus abschweift, an dieser Stelle lieber ein kurzer Abriß der jüngeren XTC-Geschichte, die mit Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding zu diskutieren ich unlängst das Vergnügen hatte.

1995 trennte sich die Band von Virgin, nachdem sie wegen unvereinbarer wirtschaftlicher Differenzen längere Zeit die Arbeit verweigert hatte. Die neue CD ist das erste Produkt des neugegründeten eigenen Labels IDEA Records, das in Europa exklusiv von Cooking Vinyl vertrieben wird. Die Songs entstanden bereits '92 bis '94, mußten sich jedoch angesichts der neuen wirtschaftlichen Situation der Band und den damit verbundenen Aufgaben ein wenig gedulden. “Apple Venus” erscheint in zwei Teilen, das vorliegende Vol.1 versammelt verspielte akustische Songs, Vol.2 (geplanter VÖ Dez.99) wird weitgehend lauten E-Gitarren vorbehalten sein und Material aus den Jahren 94-96 enthalten. Die Zweiteilung der Platte war der Anlaß für Leadgitarrist Dave Gregory, 1995 nach 20 Jahren das Handtuch zu werfen.

AP: Dave wollte keine akustische Orchesterplatte machen, er wollte die elektrischen Songs nicht `rausnehmen für ein zweites Album, er wollte zu dem Buch über uns, das grad `rausgekommen ist, nichts beitragen (XTC: Song Stories von Neville Farmer, ersch. Bei Helter Skelter), er wollte nicht bei TVT-Records in USA unterschrieben, er wollte dies nicht und jenes nicht, er war sehr negativ zuletzt, und es wurde immer unmöglicher, mit ihm zu arbeiten.

Seit einem Jahr verfügt die Band erstmals über ein eigenes Studio.
AP: Die Hälfte des Materials auf Vol.1 ist bei Colin daheim entstanden. Die Ergebnisse waren so gut, daß wir uns sofort nach einem geeigneten Ort für ein Studio umgesehen haben. Da hat Colin seine Garage angeboten und wir haben sie ausgebaut. Schon verrückt, für Studiozeit Geld zu verplempern - Du kannst wirklich nicht sagen, was von der neuen CD bei Colin auf dem Sofa und was im Abbey Road Studio entstanden ist.

Endlich brauchbare Arbeitsbedingungen also für zwei Leute, die immer noch besessen sind vom Plattenmachen; die Herausforderung darin sehen, immer bessere Musik zu schaffen. Für das eigene Frühwerk haben beide nicht viele gute Worte - charmant sicherlich, energisch, aber naiv. Moulding beteuerte, daß er in den letzten 10 Jahren überhaupt erst die skills entwickelt hat, um gute Platten zu machen.

Beider Interesse an zeitgenössischer Musik ist eher gering.
AP: Ich habe nicht das Bedürfnis, mir den Kram von anderen Leuten anzuhören. Die beste Musik entsteht durch gutes Essen, Trinken, emotionale Dinge, nicht notwendigerweise durch andere Musik, die man hört. Meine Erwartungen werden von anderer Leute Musik oft nicht erfüllt: Entzücken, Freude, Überraschungen, Erfindungsreichtum. Ich weiß, das klingt schrecklich pompös, aber ich habe heute auch einfach keine Geduld mehr, Leuten zuzuhören, die noch nach ihrer Stimme, ihrem Ausdruck suchen.
Wie beispielsweise Blur, die Partridge als Produzenten wollten, die fertigen Stücke dann aber doch nicht für die letzte CD benutzten, weil sie zu sehr wie XTC geklungen haben sollen...

Das eigene Label soll nicht nur XTC vorbehalten sein, es gibt Pläne, auch andere Acts unter Vertrag zu nehmen und die eigene Musik auch wieder unter anderem Namen herauszubringen, wie seinerzeit mit den Dukes of Stratosphear.
AP: Ursprünglich wollte ich die neue Platte “The History Of The Middle Ages” nennen, weil wir Männer mittleren Alters sind und die Songs unsere jüngste Geschichte behandeln. Aber niemand mochte das - zu destruktiv, nicht groovy genug. Ich las dann im Internet von einer Theorie, daß wir unsere Albumtitel aus Texten von der vorherigen Platte nehmen, was quatsch und rein zufällig so ist, ich schaute mir also die lyrics von “Nonesuch” an und entdeckte, daß “Apple Venus” eine perfekte Beschreibung ist für das schlüpfrige, behäbige, ziemlich schmierige, englische Gefühl, das die Musik auf der Platte ausstrahlt.

Ich mußte sofort an Blonde on Blonde denken, die ja auch in 2 Teilen erschienen ist...
Ich war nie ein Dylan-Fan. Ich ziehe Donovan vor... der hatte einen hübscheren Hut. Dylan langweilt mich zu Tode - warum zwei Worte finden, wenn tausend es auch tun? Ich interessiere mich viel mehr für Leute, die das was sie zu sagen haben, kapper und präziser formulieren.

Room Magazine
Windsor, Ontario
August 5, 1999

Apple Venus Vol. 1

tvt records

If you forgot about these guys it's because they've been fucking the dog, album-wise anyway, for the last seven years. Their customary experimentation with jagged art-rock and mystical, melodious pop is present on Apple Venus Vol. 1, but XTC have launched themselves in a new direction, embracing an orchestral approach. "River of Orchids" showcases plucked violins, looping bass, syncopated horns and harmonized vocals, while the radio-friendly "I'd Like That" offers that familiar English folk-influence music, reminiscent of early Beatles. The lyrics are intensely personal, but not too bitter, despite frontman Andy Partridge's painful divorce, or the quitting of longtime guitar- ist Dave Gregory halfway through recording. An eclectic, thoughtful album, musically diverse and mentally satisfying.

[Thanks to Michael Stone]

CD Consumer
The Best Albums of 1999

XTC: The Apple Venus vol. 1--Let me first say that I love XTC. I have always loved XTC, and nothing can change that. This is not a terrible album. It is, in fact, exactly what the reviewers are calling it: A beautiful and lush orchestral pop album. The problem is that the songwriting is not up to par for an XTC album. Sure there are all of the fun phallic images and hokey allusions to marriage ritual, but frankly it seems a little forced on this one. This is not to say that the album doesn't have its high points, it does. "Easter Theater" is a truly wonderful pop song, and "Fruit Nut" sounds like it could have been an outtake from Mummer. The Apple Venus, overall, is sort of Skylarking Lite. A little disappointing to hear this from what was once the loudest band in the UK, I hate it when they get old, but an old XTC is still better than 90% of what's out there. IYL: Todd Rundgren, Dukes of the Stratosphear, Robyn Hitchcock.

Copyright © 1999 Geoffrey A. Woolf

Winnipeg Sun

Friday, December 31, 1999

The Class of 1999

Winnipeg Sun

The Top 10 CDs

 1) Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
 Grow Fins: Rarities (1965-1982)

 2) Verbena
 Into The Pink
 EMI (U.S. only)

 3) Tom Waits
 Mule Variations

 4) The Clash
 From Here To Eternity: Live
 Epic / Sony

 5) XTC
 Apple Venus Vol. 1
 TVT / Universal

 A drop of water and a plucked violin flow into a River Of Orchids that carries you through an orch-pop wonderland of fruity horns, plum accents and sweet melodies -- except for the brilliantly bitter pill of Your Dictionary. Get the Homespun demos disc to complete the set.

 6) Iggy Pop
 Avenue B
 Virgin / EMI

 7) Beck
 Midnite Vultures
 Interscope / Universal

 8) Fountains Of Wayne
 Utopia Parkway
 Atlantic / Warner

 9) Fiona Apple
 When The Pawn ...
 Epic / Sony

 10) Nine Inch Nails
 The Fragile
 Nothing / Universal

Apple Venus Vol. 1

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.

vonstahl CD-Tipps
November 1999


Apple Venus Volume 1

Cooking Vinyl/Indigo

Pet-Sounds aus der Zeitmaschine

Andy Partridge war schon immer ein unverbesserlicher Dickkopf. 1982, als er mit seiner Band XTC soeben die Fundamente für das gelegt hat, was heute Epigonen von Blur bis Oasis als "Brit Pop" verkaufen wollen, verkündete er knapp, daß Konzerte für ihn fürderhin "psychisch und physisch unzumutbar" seien. Sprach's - und ward seitdem nur noch in Studios gesehen. Nach jahrelangen Rechtsstreit mit seiner Plattenfirma, in denen er sich ebenso konsequent zeigte, ist XTC zum Duo geschrumpft, hat aber endlich ein Label gefunden, das die sperrige Vorstellung von Partridge und seinem Partner Dave Gregory, wie zeitgemäße "Pop"-Musik zu klingen habe, teilt. Daß garantiert nicht jeder sich in dieser Vorstellungswelt wohl fühlen wird, gehört zum Plan. Partridge und Gregory transformieren das Operettenhafte ihrer Vorbilder ("Sgt. Peppers" bis "Pet Sounds") in zeitlos-erhabene Sphären, ohne dabei jedoch der postmodernen Hybridität oder der retrospektiven Verwirrung auf den Leim zu gehen. Auch die musikalischen Mittel, die sie hierfür einsetzen, stehen jenseits aller Moden: Klassisches Orchester, leise Gitarren und Klaviere, gekoppelt mit inbrünstig gesungenen, bitterzarten Melodien. Wie gesagt - kein Album für Menschen, die bei dem Wort "Pop" als erstes an "George Michael" oder "Elton John" denken.


John's Groovy Music Pages
November 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1 - XTC

It's been seven years since XTC's last album "Nonsuch" due to various disputes with Virgin Records, but now Swindon's finest are back with a stunning new album (Volume 2 should be out later this year hopefully).

Down to a duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding following the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory (who does still feature on the album incidentally) XTC have decided to record with an orchestra for their comeback. I was unsure what to expect, but for people familiar with the band's previous work, I can only compare it to 1986's "Skylarking" album. Even then, it's totally different! Andy Partridge has described it as Orchoustic music and that's a pretty fair description.

Generally acoustic, the album features orchestral parts on many tracks and the first track, "River Of Orchids", gives the listener a hint of what to expect. For me, this is one of the most inventive pieces of music that I've heard for many a year. Starting with the dripping of water, and introducing orchestra and trumpets to drive the song along with meticulously layered harmonies. Hints of the Beatles and the Beach Boys, this is one hell of a song. Not the sort of thing you're likely to hear in the charts, but hey, we're above that aren't we?

"I'd Like That" is very XTC, all folky with a catchy chorus, while "Easter Theatre" sees the return of the orchestra. "Knights In Shining Karma" (now wouldn't Crispian Mills of Kula Shaker have loved that title!) is all jangly guitar and wouldn't be out of place on any of the last few XTC albums. "Frivolous Tonight" is the first of two Colin Moulding songs, very McCartneyesque, while Andy Partridge's "Greenman" is probably the most commercial track on the album. "Your Dictionary" sees Partridge having a pop at his ex-wife, but it's a very emotional and lyrically clever song, one of the standout tracks for me.

All in all, a welcome return from one of my favourite bands. Good as it is though, I can't see it making much impact on the album charts, as it's not the sort of music that you hear regularly on the radio, well not on the stations that I listen to anyway. If you're a fan, you've probably got it already, but if you enjoy stuff like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, E.L.O., what I call "quality music" then give it a try. Who knows, you might even be tempted to investigate their back catalogue.


FTM Music

Singapore correspondent Kevin Mathews comments on the Music Scene from His Corner.. XTC - APPLES & VENUS VOL. I (IDEA/TVT)

For loyal (and long-suffering) XTC fans, this album has been a long time coming. Seven years in fact, from the last release, Nonsuch. To get a perspective of exactly how much water has gone under the bridge since then - Kurt Cobain was still alive, Oasis were an unknown band and Manchester United fans were still waiting for their favourite club's first championship since 1967!

Apple Venus Vol. 1 represents the British pop duo's (now consisting of Andy Partridge & Colin Moulding only) first recorded material since 1992. Since that time, they have been in limbo due to a self-imposed strike to free them from an inequitable recording contract with Virgin.

With all the legal problems finally behind, this new album (and the companion Vol. 2 to come later this year) is the culmination of seven years of repressed creativity and financial straits. Perhaps then, it is rather odd, though in character, for the band to release this highly uncommercial LP to introduce to the modern pop world the latest incarnation of XTC. Eschewing the traditional guitar/bass/drums format (apparently that is left for Vol. 2 to explore), the songs on Apple Venus Vol. 1 can be best described as acoustic orchestral pop.

With Colin Moulding contributing two limp (by his high standards) cod-music hall pieces - Frivolous Tonight & Fruit Nut - that recall McCartney at his excessive worst, the album comes across as a quirky Andy Partridge solo work.

For the first half of Apple Venus Vol. 1, Partridge can do no wrong. Witness the irresistible Arabic undertones of Green Man; the sing-a-long melodic charm of I'd Like That; the Lennonesque simplicity of Knights of Shining Karma (ouch!); the regal pomp of Easter Theatre and the ambitious complexity of Rivers of Orchids. These sublime songs (previously previewed by XTC fanatics - like yours truly - on several bootlegged demo recordings) confirm that Andy Partridge is one of the finest pop writers of his generation. Alas, the second half never quite measures up to that exhilarating first as Partridge's cynicism and bitterness (over his divorce) bubbles over and mars Your Own Dictionary and I Can't Own Her. Together with the dull and inaccessible Harvest Festival and The Last Balloon, it shows that whilst the concept may be inspired, the execution leaves much to be desired. Before he left XTC last year, Dave Gregory - the talented multi-instrumentalist - was upset that these offbeat songs were selected ahead of the more viable electric ones (Vol. 2 presumably). Perhaps his fears were indeed sound as Apple Venus Vol. 1 is certainly flawed and a mild disappointment. It remains to be seen how Vol. 2 will fare and whether or not, XTC should have taken the best of both albums and compiled them into one superlative album.



Kevin Mathews
Touched by the Power of Pop

Copyright © 1999 ftm Music Inc. All Rights Reserved

The Daily Star
Friday, July 2, 1999

Column by Eric Coker
An early look at the best music of 1999

The end of the decade.

The supposed end of the century.

It's a time when most music critics are trying to remember every great album of the past 10 years before boldly declaring that "Sgt. Pepper" and "Pet Sounds" are the best albums of the century.

Let me be the first to offer another not-so-original list: an early look at the best of 1999. When others are expounding at year's end about how memorable Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and Nirvana's "Nevermind" were, these are the CDs that will be sadly forgotten.

1. Fountains of Wayne — "Utopia Parkway"
2. Push Stars — "After the Party"
3. Ben Folds Five — "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner"
4. Randy Newman — "Bad Love"
5. Fred Eaglesmith — "Fifty-Odd Dollars"

6. XTC — "Apple Venus Vol. 1"

After seven years of inactivity, XTC doesn't try to catch up with the sounds of 1999; Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding prefer to bask in orchestration that resembles nothing in their 20-year musical pantheon. The gamble pays off. Don't expect to sing along to "King for a Day" or "Peter Pumpkinhead" soundalikes. "Apple 1" (A rockier "Apple 2" is due later this year) is simply a listeners' experience.

7. Lucy Kaplansky — "Ten Year Night"
8. Wilco — "Summer Teeth"
9. Bill Lloyd — "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"
10. Cheap Trick — "Music for Hangovers"

Eric Coker is night / entertainment editor at The Daily Star.

© 1999 The Daily Star.

Juillet 1999

Apple Venus (M10)
D'abord, on se méfie. Parce que ce groupe anglais a une presse si dithyrambique que ça en devient suspect. Une biographie vient même de leur être consacrée aux éditions Alternatives-Parallèles. Et puis, à l'écoute, force est de constater que leurs défenseurs ont raison. Car de cet album se dégage l'impression, trop rare, d'écouter le travail de musiciens à la fois cultivés et accessibles. Avec humour, ils recyclent Bach (Green Man). Avec un talent d'orfèvres, ils superposent des pizzicati de cordes jusqu'à en tisser une trame rythmique (River of Orchids). À la fois savant et séduisant, Apple Venus est un album sain, ouvert et sans complaisance. P.F.

[Thanks to Frédéric Solans]

The Gallery of Indispensible Pop Music
June 1999
New Reviews

XTC - Apple Venus Vol. 1

If I had to sum up AV1 in three words, they would be: "worth the wait." The first installment in XTC's giant millenium-straddling comeback project focuses on orchestral numbers, with a few acoustic bits thrown in for good measure. There are people out there - seriously, I've met them - who bemoan the absence of electric guitars (which we're promised plenty of on Vol. 2). It's a pity if anyone lets what this album is not distract them from what it is.

Colin Moulding checks in with two charmingly insubstantial paeans to minutiae; but mainly this is Andy Partridge's baby. Partridge has, rather publicly, been through a lot in the seven years since Nonsuch was released, and accordingly, his songs here range from the bitterest divorce song in our music collection (Your Dictionary) to one of the giddiest love songs in anyone's music collection (I'd Like That). But the bulk of the album is a celebration of nature and pagan mythology that's nowhere near as offputting as that description sounds. Easter Theatre, Greenman and Harvest Festival rank with the best work XTC has ever done, and that may be the highest praise we can give, musically speaking.
Strongly recommended.

[Thanks to Elizabeth S.]

The University of Toronto Varsity
June 1999
Arts & Culture -- Hot Wax

Apple Venus, Vol. 1

In the past seven years, XTC have lost their major-label contract (willingly) and their disgruntled guitarist Dave Gregory (unwillingly), but they haven't lost their ability to craft exquisite pop tunes and put them across with a rare panache.

Apple Venus, Vol. 1 is the planned as the (mostly) acoustic counterpart to Vol. 2, a rockier effort slated to be recorded soon. As such, Vol. 1 recalls the band's Skylarking days more than anything, although it's a more consistent and cohesive album than its predecessor, exploring pagan themes without the sophomoric anti-preaching of "Dear God."

Heavily-arranged orchestral songs are balanced with simpler pop material, and the whole has the unmistakable combination of intelligence and emotional honesty that ensures XTC won't be remembered simply as a clever, or eccentric, band. In all, Apple Venus is a fitting addition to one of rock music's most impressive bodies of work, and a testament to the power of dogged perseverance.

Mike Doherty

Copyright © 1998 Varsity Publications, Inc.

All Things Considered
June 9, 1999, Wednesday
Anchors: Noah Adams, Robert Siegel


NOAH ADAMS (host): After seven years, the British band XTC has a new CD. It's called "Apple Venus Vol. 1." Reviewer David Greenberger welcomes the group's return.

DAVID GREENBERGER: Seven years is enough time for bands to have formed, splintered, re-formed and retired. In the case of XTC, they simply went on strike for five of those seven years. Stuck in a lopsided contract that was keeping them in debt, though their records were earning real money for the company, they stopped recording until the label finally let them go. Now in the last year of the decade, there's finally a new XTC album.

(Soundbite of "I'd Like That" by XTC)

Unidentified Singer: (Singing) I'd like that if we could cycle down some lane. I'd like that if we could ride into the rain, no macs, getting wet. I'd be your Albert if you'd be Victoria, ha, ha. We'd laugh because each drop would make me grow up really high, really high, like a really high thing, say, a sunflower. I'd like that. Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.

GREENBERGER: XTC at this point is a duo of the band's two songwriters, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Guitarist Dave Gregory departed as "Apple Venus Vol. 1" was taking shape. A "Vol. 2" is to follow later in the year and will be a more traditional set of guitars, bass and drums. But for this album, the two writers decided that the orchestral inclinations which they'd occasionally explored in songs scattered over their past several albums would inform the entire work.

(Soundbite of "Harvest Festival" by XTC)

Singer: (Singing) That longing look you gave me, that longing look, more than enough to keep me fed all year. Harvest festival.

GREENBERGER: XTC's use of orchestration aligns them more with the tradition of musical theater and the emotional sweep of cinema than with pop embellishment and sweetening. These songs were written to be arranged in this manner, and the strings are a core element, not an afterthought.

(Soundbite of "Easter Theatre" by XTC)

Singer: (Singer) Gold sun rolls around, chocolate nipple brown, tumble from your arms, like the ground your breasts swell. Land away from sleep, hares will kick and leap, flowers climb erect, smiling from the moist kiss of her rainbow mouth. Stage left, enter Easter and she's dressed in yellow yolk. Stage right, now the son has died, the father can be born. Stand up. If we'd all...

GREENBERGER: XTC has produced an album devoted fully to the range of evocative emotions which spring forth from lush orchestrations, strummed guitars and masterful songs. This is a band aging like true and healthy human beings. The sassy exuberance of songs like "Meccanic Dancing" and "Life Begins at the Hop" from their earliest years in the '70s has given way to the weary heartbreak and still-hopeful dreams of middle-aged men.

(Soundbite of "The Last Balloon" by XTC)

Singer: (Singing) Drop us all, you should drop us all, drop us all like so much sand.

ADAMS: The CD is "Apple Venus Vol. 1" by XTC. Our reviewer, David Greenberger, lives in Greenwich, New York.

(Soundbite of song by XTC)


Copyright 1999 National Public Radio
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Absolute Sound
Issue 118 - June/July 1999

The Agony and the XTC

- Frank Doris

In the late Seventies I used to hang out at the New Wave club Legz (since razed, as was inevitable). I'll never forget the night I first heard XTC's "Life Begins at the Hop" - an electrifying up-tempo pop song fueled by jagged guitars and galvanic vocal harmonies. Since then, I've been hooked - XTC is truly one of rock's great bands, with brilliant song writing and lyrics courtesy of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, astonishing arrangements featuring some of the finest - and quirkiest - guitar playing on this planet, and a scope of subject matter ranging from the most mundane to the most universal, all filtered through a uniquely English sensibility not unlike that of Ray Davies and the Kinks.

However, for the last seven years of bad luck, XTC has not released an album, because the band went on strike - no fooling - against their former record company, Virgin. (Well, no one ever accused major-label record company executives of intelligence.) Thanks to the formation of their own label, Idea Records, XTC has returned with the release of APPLE VENUS, VOLUME 1 (the name comes from an obscure XTC reference, of which there are many).

And what a triumphant return it is. APPLE VENUS, VOLUME 1 is a towering masterpiece. It's the kind of completely realized, coherent album you don't hear anymore - an album, in the tradition of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON or SERGEANT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND or AQUALUNG, that works as a distinct work of art in itself, total in its conception and completeness. It's also a departure for XTC in that it features mostly orchestral and acoustic instrumentation. In place of the bold and bountiful electric guitars of Partridge and Dave Gregory (who left the band during the recording of this album), APPLE VENUS offers lush strings, delicate pianos, and sumptuous orchestrations.

Let's just say that unlike other mediocre-to-miserable attempts at merging rock music and orchestras, this works brilliantly. It helps that the songs are among the finest Partridge and Moulding have ever written, even considering the band's previous high standards. There isn't a moment on the album that's anything less than captivating, from the first pizzicato string plucks and answering horns of "River of Orchids" to the giddy exhilaration of "I'd Like That" to the riveting "Easter Theatre." "Fruit Nut," about an English gardener, has become an anthem to me - "Every man must have a shed/to keep him sane" (for me it's my basement, aka The Musical Kingdom).

For some reason, this album defies my powers of description more than any other I've reviewed in a long time - I feel frustrated trying to convey its beauty and brilliance, power and subtlety, delicacy and drama. I am floored by the sardonic wit and word play of "Your Dictionary," written while Partridge was divorcing his wife - perhaps the cleverest use of profanity in a pop song ever. (No, I won't spell it out for you.)

The sound quality is extremely good, though you wouldn't mistake it for a Living Presence or Living Stereo. The tonal balance is rich and smooth, weighted toward the bass with a slight high-end roll-off. Detail resolution is quite good though top-notch, and there's some dynamic compression, particularly during densely orchestrated parts. The mix is excellent, with a realistic sense of instrumental placement and separation in a well-crafted sound-space that is, however, somewhat lacking in depth. Some of the vocals are processed, but not egregiously so. Nevertheless, the overall sound is inviting, with a pleasing natural quality.

For those of you who want your XTC electric, APPLE VENUS VOLUME 2 will follow later in the year, with electric guitars and instrumentation. Here and now, I'm telling you, run, don't walk, and check out this extraordinary album.

[Thanks to Steve Schiavo]

Mai 99

Apple Venus

Titre : Apple Venus

Artiste : XTC

Label : Cooking Vinyl

Distribution : Musidisc

Genre : Pop



remiers symptômes : Déjà une immense joie de retrouver deux songwriters des plus habiles de leur génération - mais sont-ils seulement d'une génération ? Les dédales mélodiques des compositions d'XTC sont de plus en plus ardus pour l'auditeur moyen, mais leur savoir-faire l'emporte sur la complexité.

Production : Le groupe a recours à un orchestre symphonique sur plusieurs titres, et son utilisation est à la hauteur de l'ambition. Beaucoup d'arrangements impliquent des instruments à vent, dont les interventions cycliques peuvent rappeler Phil Glass. Les harmonies vocales sont comme à l'accoutumée aussi savantes que luxuriantes.

Personnel : XTC n'est plus qu'un duo composé du guitariste-chanteur Andy Partridge, également principal compositeur, et du bassiste-chanteur Colin Moulding. Dave Gregory, anciennement troisième homme, est relégué au rang de musicien de session.

Emballage : Sobre et sophisitiqué à la fois. Une plume de paon sur fond blanc, dotée d'un vernis glacé qui accentue ses couleurs vives. Luxueux.

Les titres forts : "River of orchids", une plage d'ouverture à la structure improbable dont les empilements mécaniques feront tourner la tête à plus d'un. "Easter Theater" pour son charme immédiat et son refrain chatoyant.

Posologie : Réclame une parfaite attention lors des premières écoutes afin d'en saisir toutes les subtilités. Une fois cette phase passée, la modération n'est plus à prendre en compte.

Jérôme Didelot

Periódico Público
Viernes 28 de mayo de 1999. Año II, número 622

"Abuelos" del new wave


Desde su nacimiento, a finales de los setenta, XTC fue alabado por la prensa musical. Consiguió un séquito de seguidores incondicionales, pero han sido comúnmente ignorados por el público en general. Esto último resulta un poco extraño. XTC nunca ha presentado música demasiado pretenciosa; al contrario, es bastante digerible. En general, sus canciones son melódicas, pegajosas y contienen ganchos que atrapan fácilmente al escucha. Para ser justos, también hay que mencionar que sus discos no han sido regulares. Algunos son verdaderas joyas, y otros simplemente son buenos. Afortunadamente, su más reciente producción, Apple Venus, volume 1, se encuentra dentro de la primera opción.

El ahora dueto, formado por Andrew Partridge y Collin Moulding, tardó siete años en entregar este trabajo por diversos pleitos con su anterior disquera. Esto, sin duda, les ayudó a replantear su visión y su estilo. Han abandonado la instrumentación pop y se han concentrado en lo acústico y orquestal. De hecho, en el extranjero han clasificado su estilo con el nombre de orchoustic. Por momentos se antoja invocar cierta influencia de Phillip Glass en este trabajo, pero lo que sobresale es la inigualable fórmula de Partridge para componer melodías pop. El disco es bastante completo, no se aprecia ningún relleno. Aunque por otro lado, sí contiene dos excelentes canciones que, ellas solas, valen el gasto: la cautivadora "Easther theatre" y la costelliana "Your dictionary". Después de disfrutar este disco, sólo nos queda esperar con ansias la siguiente producción de estos "abuelos" del new wave (Apple Venus, volume 2), que por fortuna han prometido que saldrá a más tardar a principios del año siguiente.

Apple Venus, volume 1
Idea Records/TVT, 1999

Derechos reservados © Página Tres, S.A. de C.V.

Amplifier - 50,000 Watts of Nonstop Pop
Vol. 4, No. 2 - (May) 1999

XTC - Apple Venus Volume 1
(Idea Records/TVT)

Those fearful that this highly anticipated record, billed as "Acoustic and Orchestral Flavored Tracks by Tandem of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding," would be a straight classical project devoid of juicy pop hooks and instrumentation can rest easy. XTC's Apple Venus Volume 1 is nothing if not a beautifully simplistic (guitarist Dave Gregory, although he does appear some on this album, has departed), sonically splendid record which bestows upon the listener a fabulous Beatles/Beach Boys vibe that is to cherish.

Partridge and Moulding's songs on Apple Venus Vol. 1 contain all of the classic tunefulness and occasional bite we've come to love from XTC. The "slow drip" beginning reminds us that after seven years, the wait for prime new XTC material is over. "River of Orchids" features a classic Partridge melody and delicious harmonies, while "I'd Like That" is a (Buddy) Hollyesque acoustic guitar drive romp that happens to be one of Partridge's most joyous songs in years. The magnificent chorus of "Easter Theater" is not soon forgotten as it gently sweeps the listener up in swirling sound and harmony. Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" mergers Brian Wilson production values with Ray Davies wit and wisdom, while his "Fruit Nut" is a wonderful nod to Sir Paul McCartney, and has more hooks than a well-stocked tackle box. "Dictionary" is Partridge at his most acerbic and personal (supposedly written about his divorce from wife Marianne, he asks the musical question, "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell "love" in you dictionary?"), and features an ominous string quartet and one of his best vocals ever. The record concludes with Partridge's jazzy and mournful "The Last Balloon," in which he ruminates over ther current state of humanity and not suprisingly, doesn't like what he sees. Overall, though, Apple Venus Volume 1 is an "up" record that radiates in all that is good about XTC. Tuneful, thoughtful, and entertaining, it is simply not to be missed. - John Holcomb

[Thanks to John Palagyi]

Real Groove, New Zealand
May 1999

Apple Venus (Volume One)

(Cooking Vinyl)

It's been 7-years since XTC, England's prodigal sons of pastoral-pop, released an album. The intervening years have seen Britpop come (Parklife, Definitely Maybe) and go (13, Be Here Now), while XTC, who were as responsible as anyone for planting the seeds of Britpop, sat on the sidelines and watched. The victims of a self-imposed recording exile, XTC had decided to go "on strike" in order to escape a financially crippling contract with long-time label Virgin Records. Eventually freed from their Virgin deal and newly signed to Cooking Vinyl, they must have been tempted to return with an album chock-full of their own slices of Britpop.

But XTC have chosen to avoid comparisons to their Britpop progeny on Apple Venus (Volume 1) and instead draw a seamless line back to the baroque orchestrations of latter-day Beatles and Smile-era Beach Boys, all filtered through their own west-country, pagan sensibilities. The album's 11 tracks are set in a lush soundscape that mixes orchestral and acoustic elements in equal doses - "orchustic" as XTC's resident in-house songwriting genius, Andy Partridge describes it. It's a heady brew - luxuriant and inviting, yet by turn rueful and at times difficult, not least the opening track "River of Orchids". Here Partridge bemoans the trappings of our modern age and wishes instead "to see a river of orchids, where we had a motorway", his lament set to cyclical, pizzicato strings, vocal rounds and parping trumpets which suggest a pile-up on an English roundabout. It's XTC at their most experimental and a difficult introduction to an album that is otherwise incandescent in its beauty.

From the jaunty "I'd Like That" to the ambitious and audacious "Easter Theatre", through the pagan idyll of "Greenman" to a jaw-dropping final brace of songs ("I Can't Own Her", "Harvest Festival" and "The Last Balloon"), Apple Venus plays like a finely painted masterpiece - so vibrant are its colours, so delicate are its flourishes, so fully realised is the final result. While the heart-felt reminiscing of "Harvest Festival" is almost enough to bring tears to your eyes there is the occasional slip - bassist Colin Moulding's "Fruit Nut" is to Apple Venus what "When I'm 64" is to Sergeant Peppers, while the caustic "Your Dictionary" seems the odd man out amidst the surrounding gorgeousness. And "gorgeous" just about sums this album up - Apple Venus (Volume 1) being a thing of true and rare beauty amidst the clutter and noise of today's music scene.


[Thanks to Martin Bell]

Fahrenheit 440
Mai 16, 1999
Mensuel - numéro 25

XTC Apple Venus vol. 1 (Cooking Vinyl)

Le récent départ de Dave Gregory n'aura trompé personne, XTC est toujours au complet du moment qu'Andy Partridge mène la barque. Le volume 1 de ce qui s'annonce comme une série de premier choix nous le ressuscite en pleine possession de ses moyens et de sa magie, et ce dès les premiers instants de River Of Orchids, composition qui doit tout à un enchevêtrement de violons joués pizzicato, et que Partridge a placé aux avants-postes de l'album. De cette manière, ceux qui auraient sous-estimé son travail savent immédiatement qu'ils ont eu tort. La suite est moins surprenante, bien que le souci du détail soit toujours aussi manifeste. On croirait recevoir de bonnes nouvelles des Kinks sur I'd Like That, et les violons reviennent sur Easter Theatre. On ne tarde pas à retrouver Colin Moulding, qui n'est pas non plus ce qu'on pourrait appeler un manchot (Making Plans For Nigel, le plus beau score de XTC, c'était lui), même si ses performances de chanteur l'empêchent de prétendre au premier rôle. Il signe ici deux titres, Frivolous Tonight et Fruitnut, deux plaisanteries sucrées impeccables à l'heure du thé, mais qui ne rivalisent en rien avec les véritables sommets de cet album, que sont le déja cité River Of Orchids, l'orientalisant Greenman, ou le magnifique Your Dictionary dans lequel Partridge règle une affaire qu'on devine personnelle avec autant de vacherie que d'humour. Car, on finit par s'en apercevoir, Apple Venus, premier du nom, est un disque mélancolique. Ou plutôt un disque dans lequel la bonne humeur n'est jamais insouciante, et où la beauté et le souci du détail servent de rempart contre la vie réelle. D'une certaine manière, Andy Partridge n'a pas tort. Désormais, plus grand chose ne peut l'atteindre.


[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

Le recensioni di Gino Forma

May 5, 1999

Apple venus vol.1 - XTC

Dopo ben sette anni di assenza ecco il nuovo disco degli XTC, una delle band più interessanti in circolazione. Nati nel periodo del punk, ne hanno creato subito una versione più pop (ben testimoniata dal recente cofanetto live "Transistor Blast): a suo tempo si esibirono addirittura a Varese nel famigerato tendone dietro alla Questura. Ritiratisi dai concerti per problemi psicologici di Andy Partridge, il loro leader, virarono verso atmosfere sempre più personali, in molti casi riconducibili ad alcune esperienze beatlesiane. Questo nuovo album "Apple venus vol.1" è da loro stessi definito un album di musica "orchustica", definizione che si comprende bene dall'apertura dell'iniziale inno ecologista "River of Orchids". Da segnalare in particolar modo "Frivolous tonight", dove chiudendo gli occhi sembra di vedere i Fab Four che scendono ballando la scala di Magical Mistery Tour, e "Your dictionnary", dedicata da Partridge alla moglie dalla quale ha divorziato di recente. Splendido poi il finale dell'album, con un assolo di tromba che va a sostituire la voce per sfumare dolcemente.
This is pop!

Issue 7
mai 1999

alice au pays de XTC

Joie et ravissement de la pop éternelle et de la délicatesse british, des violons sixties qui caressent les oreilles et des voix de rêve qui pénètrent le corps et l'esprit pour ne plus s'en déloger. Et qu'on ne nous casse pas les castagnettes avec Oasis et tous ses sbires. Non, s'il ne fallait garder qu'un orchestre de pop en 1999, ce serait XTC. Et pas seulement pour leurs mélodies de miel psychédélique et leur délicatesse enfantine. Sur "Apple Venus", premier opus du groupe depuis sept ans, plane l'ombre des Beatles de Sergent Pepper mais aussi une myriade d'influences magnifiquement digérées, de Michael Nyman à Salvador Dali, des Kinks à Lewis Caroll, et des musiques nouvelles au thé avec nuage de lait. . . Aujourd'hui, les XTC ne sont plus que deux, Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding, mais ils n'ont rien perdu de leur sophistication pop et de leur fabuleux sers de la mélodie. "Apple Venus" est leur meilleur disque depuis "Skylarking", sorti il y a déjà quelques lustres. Un album hors temps, d'une finesse rare, qui symbolise à merveille l'inatteignable de la musique techno : l'émotion pure et la rime entêtante.

[Thanks to Frédéric Solans]

Radio Tequila Deinze 106.2 FM
CD.nova (#1)

# XTC - Apple Venus Vol. 1

Deze klassieke Engelse popgroep rond de geniale gentlemen en sarcast Andy Partridge staat na ruim een half decennium muzikale stilte opnieuw midden in de belangstelling. Eind vorig jaar was er immers de live&rarities box "Transistor Blast", nu dus eindelijk gevolgd een volledige nieuwe schijf met overwegend ingetogen nummers die opvallend worden versterkt door orchestrale arrangementen en Beatles bombast ten tijde van Sgt. Pepper. De creatieve XTC kern bestaat anno '99 naast Partridge enkel nog uit bassist Colin Moulding doordat gitarist van het eerste uur Dave Gregory er ondertussen de brui aan gaf. Tekstueel hoogtepunt van de CD is ongetwijfeld "Your Dictionary", waarbij Partridge een flinke sneer geeft naar zijn ex! In het najaar verschijnt "Apple Venus Vol. 2", een vervolg op het huidige opus dat heel wat meer up-tempo nummers zou bevatten, om het woord gitaarrock niet in de mond te nemen...

Copyright Radio Tequila Deinze - Yves Van den Hove

El Pais
Mayo 1999
Guía de Reseñas


Apple Venus Vol. 1

Autor: XTC

Compañía discográfica: Cooking vinyl / Discmedi
Género: Pop-rock
Calificación: * * * *

Crítica: Quedan ya sólo Andy Partridge y Colin Moulding de la formación original (más de veinte años en activo) de XTC. Autoexiliados en América y al margen de lo que se cuece en el mundo del pop, XTC rompe su parón de seis años con un disco arropado por orquesta (prometen que habrá otro más convencional antes de que termine el milenio), rebosante de esa excentricidad y de ese espíritu pop tan british que les hace irrepetibles. ¿Harían esto los Beatles si por algún milagro volvieran a estar juntos? De momento, demos gracias de que lo haga XTC.

Autor Crítica: RAFA CERVERA


© Copyright DIARIO EL PAÍS, S.L.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Spleens a Go-Go
April 1999
by Natalie Jacobs

XTC: Apple Venus Vol. 1

It's orchestral! It's acoustic! It's "orch-oustic"! It's seven years in the making! It's. . . a new XTC record, that's what it is, and it's an odd beast indeed.

Apple Venus, Vol. 1, XTC's first studio album since 1992's Nonsuch, juxtaposes orchestral grandeur with acoustic pop in an uneasy combination. Nine of the eleven songs were written by Andy Partridge, who can't seem to decide whether he wants to be Michael Nyman or Paul McCartney. This gives the album a slightly schizophrenic feeling, especially as the orchestral songs are considerably more challenging and interesting than the acoustic songs, which are fairly straightforward.

However, that's not to say the acoustic tracks are bad, by any means. "I'd Like That" is a sweet, charming love song that steps along at a cheerful pace, marred only by what must be Partridge's worst couplet ever: "I'd smile so much my face would crack in two/Then you could fix it with your kissing glue." (Ack! Andy, how could you?) Though it makes little impression overall, "Knights in Shining Karma" is gentle and pretty, featuring some nice finger-picking and one of Partridge's weirder similes, "cold as vichysoisse." Only "Your Dictionary," a furious, bile-spitting tirade directed at Partridge's ex-wife, is on the questionable side — Partridge's rage blunts his skill, resulting in uncharacteristically clumsy lyrics ("all your corn I'll reap"??).

But if the acoustic tracks are pleasant enough, their orchestral companions are truly dazzling. The album's opening track, "River of Orchids," sets the standard: a dizzying, cyclical swirl of pizzicato strings and tooting trumpets which sounds like nothing XTC have done before. It's followed closely by "Easter Theatre," a grand pagan pageant in celebration of spring, which may possibly be the only song not written by a black-metal group to mention the Norse god Odin. The melancholy, Brian Wilson-esque "I Can't Own Her" revels in the string arrangement of hired gun Mike Batt — the massive orchestral sting after the words "the swirling sky" is absolutely stunning. And then there's "Greenman," the album's jaw-dropping centerpiece, a wild Middle Eastern-flavored dervish dance which features lush strings (also arranged by Batt), a trilling flute solo, a delicious bassline, and lyrics that would have neo-pagan bards weeping tears of envy. It's too bad "Your Dictionary" has to come along right afterwards and crash the party.

Skip over "Your Dictionary" and you're mired in "Fruit Nut," one of Colin Moulding's two contributions to the album, and its worst track — awkward, silly, and trivial, with a horribly grating keyboard riff. Moulding seems more concerned here with making puns about fruit than with writing a decent song. "Frivolous Tonight," the other Moulding track, is much more appealing — a light-hearted, nicely-arranged ode to hanging out with friends at the pub — but both songs are essentially Beatle-esque fluff that Moulding could have penned in his sleep. It's odd to hear Andy Partridge pushing his own musical boundaries, working with an orchestra and minimalist and classical textures, while Moulding just treads water.

Then there's the ending. XTC like to have their albums end with a flourish: for instance, there's "Travels in Nihilon," all gloom and doom and apocalypse, or the string-drenched "Sacrificial Bonfire." Apple Venus Vol. 1 could have — should have — ended with "Harvest Festival," a gorgeous, brilliantly-arranged orchestral number in which Partridge waxes eloquent about childhood longing and the passage of time. It's the sort of song that makes you feel as if nothing could possibly come after it. But a little rattle of cymbals heralds the album's final song, "The Last Balloon," which limps along at a dreary pace, seemingly forever, before the absurdly long final trumpet solo mercifully fades away into the sunset. Surely XTC's triumphant comeback should end on the high of "Harvest Festival" instead of this dirge? Unfortunately, the band thought otherwise, but there's always the "stop" button to save us from their decision.

Despite its flaws, Apple Venus Vol. 1 still has enough on its plate to satisfy even the hungriest fan. Was it worth waiting seven years for? Given the quality of its best tracks, yes, it was. Will Apple Venus Vol. 2 — the all-electric sequel — live up to Vol. 1's promise? Let's hope it's even better - and let's hope we don't have to wait another seven years to hear it.

Thanks to Eb for helping with this review.
[Thanks to Natalie Jacobs]

Avril 1999
heartbeat city

XTC: Apple Venus

progressive pop. On ne présente plus XTC et on salue leur retour après un silence de près de sept ans ! Ils ne sont plus que deux (Partridge et Moulding), voila pourquoi, sans doute, l'absence de leur guitariste, Dave Gregory, est compensée par arrangements orchestraux, overdubs alambiqués et mini-symphonies pop. Esprit et séduction font merveille dans ces compositions où, une fois de plus, le concept de chanson est transfiguré sous des structures anticonventionnelles, des arrangements de cordes malicieux ou de légers cuivres fleurant le désuet. Musique infiniment British, un peu comme si cette pop de chambre se gorgeait d'harmonies aux odeurs de thé, d'excentricité suave et charmeuse dans le seul but de nous enchanter...


) à ranger entre Sergeant Peppers

et les Zombies (

(cooking vinyl/m10, cook cd 172) 11 titres 50m 07s
produit par xtc

[Thanks to Frédéric Solans]

Virgin Megapress (France)
April 1999

"Apple Venus Volume 1"

(Cooking Vinyl / Musidisc)

On imaginait ce groupe rescapé de la new wave britannique usé par des années de galère.

On redécouvre un talent d'orfèvre qui n'a jamais été aussi limpide et chatoyant. Collection de délicieux paysages, d'un onirisme orchestral royalement maîtrisé, "Apple Venus" allie les vertus de l'épure et l'audace des constructions les plus élaborées. Si les nouvelles chansons d'Andy Partridge et de Colin Moulding fonctionnent comme des mécaniques de précision, l'utilisation prédominante de la guitare acoustique, la discrétion de la batterie et la subtilité d'une orchestration de musique de chambre, réchauffent et humanisent la brillance de ces sculptures pop. On retrouve la vision cubiste de l'art des Beatles ("I'd Liek That"), cette humeur pastorale typique d'XTC ("Greenman", "Knights In Shining Karma"), des ballades d'une légèreté de berceuse ("I Can't Own Her"), mais aussi les installations sophistiquées de "Easter Theatre" que s'ordonnent comme une comédie musicale miniature, parcourue de plusieurs thèmes mélodiques et de changements de tempos. A'lexception d'un morceau, le noir et cruel "Your Dictionary" ("F-U-C-K is that how you spell friend in your dictionary"), un chef-d'oeuvre d'une beauté paisible.

[Thanks to Frédéric Solans]

The Evening Post (Wellington)
April 29, 1999
Album of the Week
by Tom CARDY

Apple Venus
Volume 1


It's hard to believe, or even remember, that in the late 70s and early 80s XTC were cool and popular. They were the Blur of their day, but took more risks, especially with psychedelia and dub. Everyone remembers the single Making Plans For Nigel and the album Black Sea went to No 1 in New Zealand. But hardly anyone bought the next six albums, including the last in 1992. XTC have spent most of the past seven years on strike waiting for their loathed label Virgin to dump them. Mainstay Andy Partridge went through a bitter divorce and during the recording of Apple Venus guitarist Dave Gregory quit. Despite all the odds, Apple Venus is one of the strongest and most rewarding XTC albums. They still dip too often into references from English folk history and every gardening metaphor imaginable, but the result is the audio equivalent of an endorphin hit. What's more surprising is that the risky use of orchestration doesn't smother any track. The best results are on the sublime Greenman, wrapped in swirling Middle Eastern orchestration and Partridge's take on Beach Boys harmonies. I Can't Own Her and opening track River Of Orchids, with its Philip Glass-style strings, are equally majestic. The stripped down Your Dictionary is one of the most vicious songs about divorce ever written. The Colin Moulding-penned efforts Frivolous Tonight and Fruit Nut are the weakest tracks - strong pop hooks, but too Beatlesque and twee next to Partridge's songs. Apple Venus is still one of the best albums to come out of the British pop tradition this decade. Hardly anyone will buy it but 50 minutes of Apple Venus was pure XTC.

Tom Cardy

Copyright 1999 Wellington Newspapers Limited
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Daily Cardinal
April 28, 1999

Apple Venus Vol. 1
TVT Records

For some 20 years, XTC has almost become the definitive model for the evolution of an influential pop band, except it does not have the praise from the public or the almighty dollars. The band's latest album, Apple Venus Vol. 1, is just further down the path.

After waiting for something new after hearing 1992's Nonsuch, people might have expected that XTC was taking a long break and settling down (with the aid the major-label money it had accumulated) with the band members' happy wives and families after hearing cutesy songs like "My Bird Performs" and the much needed-to-be-vandalized "Humble Daisy."

Instead, dominant songwriter Andy Partridge went through middle-age hell: an exploding eardrum that left him deaf for months, a painful divorce and a swollen prostate he said he "either drank or fucked to death." All this in the midst of a horrible battle with their former label Virgin UK--nothing was going to be released, and the band was not even allowed by its label to record as XTC.

From this hell, Partridge belted out more than 40 tunes, nine of which appear here. AV1 was Partridge's idea (after Nonsuch) to make an orchestral album. The second half of the album ("Rook," "Wrapped in Grey" and "Bungalow") seems like the band was going that way anyway, with strings, horns and acoustic guitars--the instruments that dominate AV1.

That is not to say XTC and Partridge went overboard with the idea. AVI was just meant to have the heavy treatment a la Nonsuch and Skylarking. AV1 is arguably the best album since Skylarking.

The first couple of minutes proves it was worth the wait (if you were waiting and hold the last three albums among your favorites of all time).

The first track, "River of Orchids," is reminiscent of Oranges & Lemons with its heavy use of horns and an ambitious vocal line by Partridge that builds up to an enticingly repetitive chaos.

For the most part, the lyrical style has not changed much. Partridge is still one of the few genuine artists who can get away with such obvious wordplay in a title like "Knights in Shining Karma" and the bitter-divorce anthem "Dictionary," where he asks "f-u-c-k--is that how you spell 'friend' in your dictionary?"

He also writes about his penis, like on "Pink Thing," from Oranges & Lemons. In AV1, it's the acoustic-driven "I'd Like That," where Partridge sings "high like a really high thing, say a sunflower."

The sound of this album is not far off from something one would hear through the speakers at Barnes and Noble, where AV1 is currently on the main listening station.

The orchestration is more simple than Skylarking this time around due to the departure of member David Gregory. Though not included in the photo session, he played on the album, but he did not write the orchestration. Instead, Partridge did all those duties with the exception of two songs Mike Batt arranged.

Partridge's sidekick, Colin Moulding, who always writes less, gets only two tracks here and sounds geekier than ever. One of the tracks, "Fruit Nut," is about how much fun "growing fruits and vegetables" can be. But like the rest of the album, it becomes addictive.

Hopefully, with the "hard-nosed and electric" rock of this fall's anticipated Vol. 2, a tour will follow. Please, Andy?

--Brian Steele

©1999 The Daily Cardinal Media Corporation

Creative Loafing Savannah
April 24, 1999
For The Record
by Jeff McDermott

Apple Venus Volume 1

You could say they were off refining their art. XTC spent seven years in a battle with their former record company (not to mention Andy Partridge's war with his ex) and a CD of baroque pop recorded with the London Chamber Orchestra. And they've kept their humor about things. Despite the high-falutin' trappings and more serious subject matter of "Your Dictionary" ("F-U-C-K, is that how you spell 'friend?') and the beautifully bittersweet "The Last Balloon", Partridge and Colin Moulding have created music the likes of which haven't been heard since McCartney's contributions to late-era Beatles. Volume 2, due out in the near future, promises a slight return to basics (ie. electric guitars); by then, though, you may find yourself held rapt by the new direction.

Copyright ©1999 Creative Loafing Savannah, Inc.

Creative Loafing Greenville
April 24, 1999
Record Reviews

Apple Venus Vol. 1
TVT Records

The last time we heard from this band, we had a Republican President, and the single, "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead," was on the radio.

That was seven years ago, the longest hiatus XTC has ever taken in 22 years of making records. Even down to two members, XTC still has a full sound, thanks to the fact that, like the post '65 Beatles, XTC is a studio band, and they use their multi-tracking skills well. Not to mention that Partridge and Moulding are genuinely talented musicians, and no amount of studio trickery can substitute real skill.

XTC has not toured since 1982, as frontman Andy Partridge has a fear of being shot on stage. Incidentally, "Pumpkinhead" is about the life and murder of JFK; so the subject matter of being an assassinated public figure must strike a chord in Partridge.

Apple Venus Volume 1 has been worth the wait. Partridge and his partner, Colin Moulding, wear their Beatles influences (not to mention Pet Sounds) on their sleeves. Then again, they always have, and the Fab Four (and Brian Wilson) are a pretty good bunch to look up to.

Partridge has called this latest effort "orchoustic." It is a friendly, accessible record, with acoustic guitars at the center of the mix (XTC unplugged?) on most tracks, topped off with pleasant string arrangements, along with the usual XTC blend of horns and sound effects. Missing from the mix is the traditional percussive instrumentation found on most rock albums. But even without the snare drum, this record has a timeless feel to it, and is sure to stand the test of time as well as the group's other releases since 1982's much touted English Settlement LP.

"I'd Like That" is a happy, fun love song the listener can float away on. It has received airplay on NPR's "World Café," and rightfully so. The song is a prime example of what the duo can do, and is quintessential XTC, right up there with "Senses Working Overtime" from English Settlement or "Dear God" from 1986's Skylarking. "River of Orchids," the album's opening, has an amazing syncopation to it that will have you hitting the repeat button. The song's rhythms are created entirely by the interplay of strings and horns, and the vocals of Partridge and Moulding. "Your Dictionary" is the album's most lyrically powerful cut. Partridge sings of a relationship gone sour: "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary? /K-I-C-K pronounced as kind..." The song is as emotionally intense as "Dear God," and as deeply moving.

Apple Venus Vol. 1 (Vol. 2 is to be released later this year) should make the year's best-of lists by many critics. The band is now on TVT Records instead of Virgin, and the small label seems to fit the band better. Undo the knot in your headphone cords and find your adapter, 'cause this is most definitely a "headphone album."

-Mark Staples

Copyright ©1999 Creative Loafing Greenville, Inc.

Der Standard
23. April 1999


XTC Apple Venus.

"This Is Pop!" verlautbarte zu Beginn der 80er Jahre Andy Partridge und unterstrich diese Behauptung mit begnadeten Nummern wie Making Plans For Nigel oder Statue Of Liberty. Nachdem die mittlerweile zum Duo geschrumpfte Band nach siebenjährigem Streik gegen die böse Plattenfirma Virgin endlich vertraglich erlöst wurde, meldet sie sich nun mit Apple Venus zurück. Neben melodischen Prachtstücken, die XTC heute noch locker aus dem Ärmel schüttelt, neigen die beiden britischen Exzentriker zu orchestralen Unterstützungen ihrer Songs, die jede kopierte "Bittersweet Symphony" so mancher Jungspatzen vom Platz fegt. Greifen Sie zum Original. flu
Cooking Vinyl/Vertrieb: Hoanzl

Denver Post
April 18, 1999

Though never reaching the same sales level as some other bands from the new wave explosion of the late-'70s, XTC remained one of the most consistent and revered British imports, fashioning an intelligent, skewed brand of power pop on signature tunes like "Dear God" and "The Mayor of Simpleton."

During much of this decade, XTC has been idle because of legal hassles. "Apple Venus Volume 1" (TVT), the first new album in seven yers, seasons the band's patented songcraft wih gorgeous orchestral arrangements and acoustic melodies by the tandem of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (guitarist David Gregory recently quit the band). It's an experiment, something Partridge calls "orchoustic." And it succeeds.

The ambitious opening track "River of Orchids" and the galloping "I'd Like That" are reminders of Partridge's creative power. The odd track is "Your Dictionary" a biting indictment of his ex-wife (inspirational lyric: "F-*-*-*, is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?").

[Thanks to Brian Landy]

Tokyo Weekender
April 2, 1999

  Tokyo Music
with Jim Merk

CDs of the Week

Apple Venus Vol. 1

Rarely does a band cause quite as big a sensation with a release as XTC has done with this one. After recording enough material for a slew of releases, guitarist Dave Gregory split the band, leaving only Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge to carry on. They selected material, found a distribution partner and put out this nicely quiet release. Then the critics got hold of it, and now the CD is moving.

If you were to take Paul McCartney's songs in the "I Want To Hold Your Hand"-era and added the orchestral experiments of his later years, you would get this release. The songs are simple, save for the frequent use of orchestral strings and such.

The work makes a very pleasant listen. Personally, I don't get the commotion. The music is very nice. The band has been around a long time. They have never done this sort of thing before. Fine. It is not as though this style of music hasn't been around before. So why so much fuss? Still, if you would like to include a pleasant and well recorded CD to your collection, this would be my recommendation.

House of Blues
April 2, 1999
CD Reviews

Apple Venus Volume 1

"Apple Venus Volume 1"

Rating: 3.5 hearts

TVT Records
Review By: Albert Torres

XTC have always had the luxury and the will to be uncompromising with their sound. While for the most part their work has been highly original, they have consistently failed to achieve the success that they so aptly deserve. Perhaps the largest anchor that weighs them down, aside from their refusal to tour, is their fervent denial to follow any sort of musical trend. Vocalist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding have an uncontrollable knack for creating melodious pop that always seems to transcend the times. Never are XTC bound by rules of hipness, and as a result they inevitably reach new levels of it.

So it goes with Apple Venus Volume 1, their first album in seven long years and the first half of an expected set of two. This decidedly orchestral album stays true to what we've come to expect from these somewhat mad innovators. In fact, at times they even surpass their own parameters, leaving the album as an endeavor that is unlikely to garner any new followers due to its blatant disregard to form. Instead this long awaited album, with its theatrical presence, is crafted for the fan. Its cleverness is sure to be lost among the jaded popster looking for the latest trend setting fix. But those in the know will see the finely produced elements that build tracks like "River of Orchids." A patiently evolving and subtlety restrained piece that relies on the sparseness and delicacy of water drops, violin plucks and stunted trumpets to create a hypnotic cacophony of sound. It is the perfect lead in for what is to come. XTC once again carefully constructs some very lively compositions that are counter pointed by Partridge's occasional dark side. The mixture of melancholy and witticisms is thick and never more poignant than other cynically clever "Your Dictionary," which recounts the mistreating of a lover through a series of misspellings such as "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary? K-I-C-K, pronounced as kind."

Apple Venus Volume 1 moves to the beat of its own drum (no pun intended), without apology or fear of non-acceptance. A bold, unbending return that epitomizes the definition of a vision.

Copyright © 1995-2000 House of Blues Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

Illinois Entertainer
April 1999

Ending their seven-year strike against their former record company (Virgin), XTC eases back into the music business with their new album Apple Venus Volume 1. The hiatus, while frustrating to avid XTC fans, took its toll on the band as well: key member Dave Gregory left (tired of the wait and the direction) and, more importantly for this new batch of songs, XTC main man Andy Partridge's marriage ended in divorce. Inactivity begets such deterioration, and from the sound of Apple Venus, idling has the band at a bit of a standstill.

Partridge and XTC have always copped to their obvious Beatles influence, and it's all over Apple Venus. Fans of the band's last album -- 1992's Nonsuch -- will hear Apple Venus' direct antecedents in songs like "Rook" and "Wrapped In Grey," two songs that have always turned me off the overly long record. In the pop song idiom, orchestration always runs a risk of pushing the listener away rather than luring them in more deeply.

XTC's music has always been at least interesting on the rhythm end, the innovative and sometimes eccentric rhythm beds churning underneath pure pop melodies being something of a trademark. There's very little in the way of rousing rhythm on this new album. Apple Venus is primarily acoustic and heavily orchestrated. It's a gentle album; its charms creep up on you with repeat listenings, though truth be told, there's a dearth of charms.

"River Of Orchids" opens the disc as a sort of standard-bearer for what you will hear over the next 50 minutes: sharp, plucked strings, muted, walking horns, and layered vocal and instrumental harmonies swirl intoxicatingly around the song's circular construction. "Just like a mad dog you're chasing your tail in a circle" Partridge sings, reflecting the lyric and music structure; "I want to see a river of orchids where we had a motorway" is his wish for a return to more natural ways. "Orchids" is one of three distinctly romantic -- in the Wordsworth sense -- Partridge songs on Apple Venus. The allegro "Easter Theatre" describes the sensual circle of life, with oboe providing a buoyant bass line, and the mysterious, eastern-tinged "Greenman" (earth itself?) allures as much with the chunky, tribal percussion and sylvan texture as it does with the nebulous lyrics about building "beds of oak and pine."

From the perch of his quiet home in Swindon, England, Partridge has often yoked the demise of the natural with the loss of innocence, which is why some of his most exhilarating music has been the most unabashedly romantic. The most exuberant song on Apple Venus is "I'd Like That," a rolling acoustic love song (a la The Beatles' "Two Of Us") that surges three or four times in glorious strum / vocal tandem on the word "sunflower" and fades out with tap-dance-sounding hand claps. Of course, it also contains the horrible line "I'd smile so much that my face would crack in two / Then you could fix it with your kissing glue" -- BLECH! -- but you can't deny the sheer joy Partridge is celebrating. The school crush memory "Harvest Festival" ("What was best was the longing look you gave me / More than enough to keep me fed all year") is another romantic gem, and Colin Moulding's jaunty, very British "Fruit Nut," extolling the virtues of tending one's garden ("A man must have a shed to keep him sane"), has a similar personal charm.

The remaining half of Apple Venus seems in a bit of an orchestrated rut. The madrigal "Knights In Shining Karma" gets lost (especially lyrically) in its lilting, lullaby self; "Last Balloon," despite a haunting flugelhorn ending, meanders listlessly; and the lush, dreamy "I Can't Own Her" sounds like something from a Lerner & Lowe musical (with the same lack of emotional impact). Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" also sounds like a musical reject, but this one stars Bertie Wooster and the unflappable Jeeves. And though one can completely understand the spurned-heart venom of "Your Dictionary," wherein Partridge spells out nasty words to sarcastically spear his ex-wife, it's obvious, lunkheaded, and pretty much of a one-time listen.

XTC claims to have more of a proper rock album coming out later this year. Let's hope the long vacation hasn't muted their amps as well.

* * 1/2 - Michael C. Harris

[Thanks to Dan Wiencek]


Canibalismo transformista

Apple Venus
Cooking Vynil/Megamúsica

COMO é que se resolve a aparente contradição que consiste em arrasar noventa e nove por cento da produção do britpop sob a acusação de não passar de cópia desnaturada e bastarda das fórmulas clássicas e, ao mesmo tempo, considerar Apple Venus uma das mais fantásticas concretizações actuais dessa mesma linha genética de evolução? Felizmente que os XTC me pouparam o esforço de ter de o explicar, e do modo mais prático possível - escutando o álbum - se encarregam de dissipar todas as perplexidades.

Mesmo assim, tome-se como termo de comparação o exemplo paradigmático Oasis. O que fazem então os manos Gallagher e associados de ocasião? Como se vivessem no mundo de há trinta anos, sem o menor ensaio de deslocação ou ironia, transplantam intacta uma linguagem, sequências de acordes e todo um conceito musical e sonoro (basicamente o de Lennon & McCartney reduzido ao menor múltiplo comum) para a sua discografia e, sem cerimónias, chamam-lhe seu. Poderia até ter graça como modelo de «fake» mais perfeito do século se os cuidados indispensáveis para se esquivarem aos processos por plágio puro e simples não transformassem tudo numa mera e rasteira operação de furto vulgar e dissimulado. Para quem se satisfaz com pouco (mesmo muito poucochinho) e se diverte com piadas ao nível da cócega, poderá ser suficiente.

Os XTC de Andy Partridge e Colin Moulding jogam decididamente numa divisão superior. Se o vocabulário musical que utilizam não se situa hoje muito longe do lugar geométrico definido pelos mesmos Lennon & McCartney mais os Kinks, Beach Boys, o John Cale de Paris 1919, o Elvis Costello de Imperial Bedroom e, obviamente, eles próprios desde 1978 (quando, em pleno pós-punk, armadilharam a pop com textos cifrados, ziguezagues formais e bizarrias melódico-harmónicas), o que Apple Venus apresenta é a celebração de tudo isso como uma linguagem simultaneamente clássica e contemporânea onde todos os elementos desempenham um papel preciso. Da tortura chinesa da gota de água inicial e naturalíssima sequência em labirinto contrapontístico orquestral e vocal de «River of Orchids» (uma «ecological nursery rhyme») ao «Dear Prudence»-meets-«Because» de «Knights in Shining Karma», seguido do muito raydaviesiano «Frivolous Tonight», todas as referências são tão nítidas e exactas quanto imediatamente excedidas e ultrapassadas.

Antes e depois, neste delicioso «song cycle» que reúne onze intricadas sinfonias de bolso, a obra-prima «Easter Theatre» consuma a improvável colisão de Cale com os Beach Boys e Philip Glass em gloriosa encenação estereofónica com «stage cues» panoramicamente explícitas, «Greenman» viaja em registo modal exótico pela história do próprio grupo (Partridge chama-lhe «pagan Vaughan Williams»), «Your Dictionary» expele sulfúrico «hate mail» conjugal, na mais venenosa e costelliana veia pop, e «I Can't Own Her» é a canção por que Brian Wilson abdicaria de bom grado da prancha de surf para ter escrito.

Como justifica então o próprio Andy Partridge a sua atitude de canibalismo estético transformista através da qual concebeu esta formidável suite «orcústica» (leia-se «orquestral» e «acústica») de canções com que interrompeu a sua greve de sete anos contra a Virgin? Assim: «Há pessoas que eram capazes de devorar o braço até ao cotovelo para escrever canções destas. Mas eu fico sempre com um enorme desejo de fazer melhor. Preciso de assassinar quem me influenciou. O Ray Davies não há meio de me sair de casa. Tenho de dar cabo dele. Tenho de espancar o Brian Wilson até à morte. Posso não exterminar o Burt Bacharach mas, pelo menos, vou ter de lhe apertar bem os tomates. Ao McCartney, quero reduzi-lo a puré de soja. E, ao Lennon, bem, a esse já alguém fez o trabalhinho por mim... De facto, há até um tipo na Internet que garante que fui eu quem o matou.» E a quem lhe sugere se a música dos XTC não terá qualquer coisa a ver com os Blur, ele limita-se a responder: «Parece-me que era melhor reverem os vossos conhecimentos de História. Dizer isso não será o mesmo que afirmar que Ricardo III era um bocadinho parecido com Peter Sellers?»


Copyright 1999 Sojornal. Todos os direitos reservados.

Bieler Tagblatt
Ressort Kultur

XTC: «Apple Venus Vol. 1»

«Wir spielen unser eigenes Spiel»

Sieben Jahre und einen Rechtsstreit später kehren die englischen Pop-Exzentriker XTC mit dem neuen Album «Apple Venus Vol. 1» in alter Frische zurück.

robert pally

Dass XTC einen gewissen Kultstatus besitzen, merkt man spätestens, wenn man beim surfen durchs Internet auf eine Homepage namens Chalkhills (benannt nach dem Song «Chalkhills And Children») stösst, auf der über die Musik der Band diskutiert wird. Sänger und Hauptsong-schreiber Andy Partridge (46) weiss dazu eine amüsante Geschichte: «Auf dem Internet geht das Gerücht um, dass jedes unserer Alben nach einer Textpassage eines vorhergehenden benannt wurde. Es wird behauptet, dass 'Oranges & Lemons' eine Passage aus 'Ballet For A Rainy Day' von 'Skylarking' sei, und dass 'Nonsuch' aus 'Chalkhills & Children' von 'Oranges & Lemones' stamme. Das ist schlichtweg falsch und passierte rein zufällig.» Und Partridge weiter: «Ich fand das aber auf eine alberne Art und Weise geheimnisvoll, deswegen suchte ich in unserem letzten Album 'Nonsuch' nach einem passenden Titel für unsere neue Platte. Ich fand ihn im Song 'Then She Appeared'. 'Apple Venus' passt zur Natur der Musik. Er bedeutet, sich weiblich, reich und belohnt zu fühlen. So wurden wir zu den Fans unseres eigenen Spiels», amüsiert sich Andy.

Gegen Virgin im Streik

Der Zusatz Vol. 1 weist darauf hin, dass in etwa sechs Monaten «Apple Venus Vol. 2» erscheinen wird. Eigentlich wollten XTC eine Doppel-CD herausbringen, aber finanzielle Erwägungen brachten sie davon ab. Sie brauchen einen Teil der Einnahmen von Vol.1, um Vol.2 finanzieren zu können. Obwohl sich alle ihre zehn bisherigen Alben gut verkauften, wurden XTC nie vermögend. Ein katastrophaler Vertrag mit Virgin Records, den sie 1976 in ihrer Naivität abgeschlossen hatten, verhinderte das. Nach «Nonsuch» hatte Andy Partridge endgültig genug davon. «Als 'Nonsuch' herauskam, wussten wir, dass Virgin das Album nicht promoten würde. Es hätte sich zwar trotzdem gut verkauft, aber wir hätten nicht viel Geld gesehen. Also bat ich sie, unseren Vertrag zu verbessern oder uns gehen zu lassen. Das wollten sie nicht. Deswegen sind wir vor ungefähr fünf Jahren in eine Art Streik getreten. Ich sagte zu Virgin: 'Wir machen keine Platten mehr.' Laut Vertrag hätten wir aber noch vier machen sollen. Virgin nahm das nicht so ernst. Jeden Monat fragten sie uns, wann wir endlich ins Studio gehen würden. Schlussendlich gaben sie aber klein bei und liessen uns gehen», erklärt Andy.

Nur noch ein Duo

Seit ihrem letzten Album ist noch mehr passiert. Gitarrist Dave Gregory verliess die Band und lies XTC zum Duo (zweiter im Bunde ist Bassist Colin Moulding) schrumpfen. Da die Band seit 1982 nicht mehr live auftritt, ist das kein Problem. Lag das früher an der Bühnenangst von Andy Partridge, so ist er heute nach eigenen Angaben daraus «entwachsen». «Ich ging nie gerne an die Konzerte anderer Bands, ich liebe es aber, ihre Platten zu besitzen. Die Magie liegt für mich dort. XTC waren immer blosse Plattenmacher!» Auch ist Andy Partridge unterdessen geschieden. Dieser schmerzvolle Prozess hat sich im bitterbösen Song «Your Dictionary» niedergeschlagen, der mit seiner ex-Frau abrechnet. «Ich schrieb ihn, als ich ziemlich sauer war. Aber nicht, um sie zu verletzen, bloss um mit der Situation fertig zu werden. Eigentlich wollte ich den Song gar nicht für 'Apple Venus Vol. 1' verwenden, aber viele Leute sagten, dass er gut sei und unbedingt auf das Album gehöre. Ich hatte mir auch überlegt, den Text zu ändern. Das ging aber nicht, weil ich irgendwie im Konzept des Songs gefangen war», erläutert Andy.

«Erwachsenes» Album

Das ist einer der Gründe wieso «Apple Venus Vol. 1» ziemlich nachdenklich und melancholisch wurde. Auch haben die sehr gedankenvollen Arrangements und die vielen Streicher dazu beigetragen. Der Eröffnungstitel «Rivers Of Orchids» besteht grundsätzlich aus einem teilweise gezupften Streicher-Loop, der von simplen Melodien überlagert wird. Ein ziemlich schwieriger Einstieg für ein Album! «Wer diesen Song übersteht, hat sich den Rest des Albums verdient», scherzt Andy. «Eigentlich finde ich nicht, dass 'River Of Orchids' ein schwieriger Einstieg ist, obwohl andere Leute dieser Meinung sind. Er hat bloss keine normale Rock'n'Roll-Struktur. 'Apple Venus Vol. 1' sollte einfach ein erwachsenes Album werden. 'Vol. 2' wird mehr gitarrenlastig und lärmig sein.»

XTC: «Apple Venus Vol. 1» (Cooking Vinyl / RecRec)

[Thanks to Robert Pally]

The Manitoban
Arts: Toban CD Reviews
April 7, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1
4.5 Stars

Very few bands in their 23rd year of existence sound as vital and together as XTC do on this stunning disc. While at times reminiscent of the psychedelic pop of swinging London, Apple Venus Volume 1 looks beyond that to the pastoral "green and pleasant land" of Victoria and Albert that also informed the sixties scene.

XTC has explored this milieu before, but they've now returned after much too long an absence with perhaps their most perfectly crafted set of songs - brilliant, intricate melodies about loves found and bitterly lost. Victorian pop has never sounded so good: this band doesn't write pop songs with strings and horns, but fully integrated songs instead, where the guitar is simply another instrument in the ensemble.

-Darren Kramble

aggiornato il: 05 April, 1999
i dischi


Apple Venus
Vol. 1


Cooking Vinyl
RTI - 1999

7 anni di attesa prima di andare nuovamente in XTC. Incredibile, eppure vero. Litigi e incomprensioni con la Virgin (solitamente etichetta attenta al livello qualitativo), libertà limitata in studio cui Partridge e Moulding non hanno saputo rispondere se non con il silenzio, una specie di "sciopero bianco". Quindi, il tempo scorreva lasciando sempre minori speranze di ascoltare nuove alchimie beatlesque degli XTC. Poi, di colpo, un accordo con la Cooking Vinyl ed un cofanetto antologico (in 4 cds con un interessante prezzo contenuto) delle esibizioni live negli studios della BBC (l'ottimo Transistor blast, uscito prima della fine dello scorso anno) ed oggi questo volume uno della neo-saga Apple Venus.

Composizioni. La verve di Mr. Partridge è ancora intatta sia musicalmente che liricamente, con quel tanto di ironia tipicamente british (basta intuire cosa nasconde il testo di Your dictionary!) che caratterizza i Nostri. Intatta anche la capacità di Moulding di comporre un numero inferiore di songs rispetto al leader e, nonostante questo, di porre la firma in quelle "che si fanno ricordare"... in questo caso, Frivolous tonight e Fruit nut.

Arrangiamenti. La maturità consente oggi a XTC di governare l'orchestra, violini e fiati, con una originalità evidente ed una complicazione di partitura sempre piacevole e cerebrale al punto di non-irritazione: River of orchids!

Cantati. La voce personale di Mr. Partridge sembra timbricamente misurata sul tipo di cantato che il gruppo richiede, con una capacità interpretativa pop di beatlesiana memoria (Easter theatre), così come la struttura dei cori rimanda ancora oggi proprio là, alla baia di Liverpool.

Strumenti. L'impronta attuale del suono XTC è acustica oltre che orchestrale (secondo Mr. Partridge, "orchacustic"!). Si sono perse le spigolosità originarie della chitarra elettrica che avevano segnato un epoca (specie se intrecciate con quelle di Dave Gregory, ormai presente solo in un ruolo di secondo piano ed impegnato in altre produzioni).

Esaltante ritorno. E non dovremo attendere nuovamente 7 anni per il bis: già prevista (come gli stessi XTC accennano nelle note di copertina) per autunno l'uscita del Volume 2.

Voto 8

Raffaello Carusi

Sunday Star-Times
New Zealand
April 4, 1999
by Gary Steel


XTC - Apple Venus Vol 1 (Cooking Vinyl/Festival)

It's a little disheartening to realise two middle-aged suburbanites from Swindon, now without the corporate muscle of a 'major' record company, have come up with an album that blows all the young bucks clean out of the water.

XTC were always one of the great, under-appreciated British bands, whose unwillingness to tour ultimately sealed their fate.

Anticipating Britpop by more than a decade, their overtly English songs were crafted around the watercolour imagery of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Kinks.

A raft of lesser mortals - all circa 1966, that moment of apocalyptic psychedelic era - absorbed its gently experimental nature; at the turn of the 70s, fronting his own group, Andy Partridge was one of the first white boys to show an overt interest in that peculiar Jamaican artform, dub.

Back from a seven-year exile caused by lengthy litigation with their former label, XTC are slimmed down to a two-piece for Apple Venus, an astonishing album of acoustic pop with lashings of orchestra.

This is highly complex stuff, but the immense graft it must have taken to give birth to this project never obscures the accessible core of the songs.

The two most important qualities XTC still espouse, however, are experimentation and soul. They're still taken with strange textures, unusual chordings, daft combinations, and Partridge writes lyrics which betray a genuinely paganistic love of life, without ever descending to hippy triteness.

Apple Venus is more than 1999 deserves.

[Thanks to James Dignan]

SEE Magazine
April 1, 1999

HMV Spins: CD Reviews
BY SEE Staff

XTC Apple Venus Vol. 1 (TVT/Universal)

I've always had a soft spot for XTC's quirky, slightly precious popcraft but sticking Andy Partridge's observations about human silliness, romantic disaster and pre-Christian hedonism in front of a 40-piece orchestra is a bit too self-indulgent. Aside from the poncey Englishness of it all ("I'll be your Albert if you'll be my Victoria"), the lavish arrangements become cloying and contrived in almost no time and eventually sound like one big, long, uninteresting song. But don't take my word for it — guitarist Dave Gregory found it so tiresome, he quit the band after 20 years.

— Scott Lingley

Copyright © 1999. All Rights Reserved

Montreal Mirror
April 1, 1999

XTC Apple Venus (Volume 1) (TVT/Universal)

The last time we were graced with an album from XTC was around the time North Americans were getting the hang of a new drug of the same rough pronunciation (1992). But time doesn't much dent fastidious and classic Anglopop--although it will wither your group down to just two chappies named Moulding and Partridge (Moulting partridge? Might explain the feather on the cover). Right, so, this is just the kind of fastidious and classic Anglopop you'd expect aging XcenTriCs to make: mellow, refined and laced with strings 'n' thinking things. 7/10 (Chris Yurkiw)

©Mirror 1999

Nouvelle Vague
nº 40, avril 1999

Apple venus - volume 1

(Cooking Vinyl/M10)
"Now the son has died, the father can be born". Formule à tiroirs typique d'Andy Partridge qui balaie sept années de frustrations depuis Nonsuch. Mais écoutons ce disque comme s'il était vierge. Ainsi donc, voilà "l'album orchestral" du groupe ? Oubliez Bacharach et l'easy listening annoncés, ici il est question d'un orchestre, de samples et d'instruments divers au service des mélodies prodigieuses de Partridge, plus proche de Britten et des Beatles que jamais. Britannique, le disque l'est assurément. Mythes de fécondité, métaphores théâtrales, souvenirs d'enfance, amours bucoliques ou ratées, folie chapelière s'entrecroisent dans la beauté bleue des ciels de banlieue dont l'âme plane sur tous les morceaux. Ceux d'XTC, comme à l'habitude, sont éclatants, brillants à la première écoute, puis révèlent une multitude de strates, de lignes, de sens cachés dans les paroles. Dressés vers la lumière, ils fouaillent bien plus loin que la pop courante. Que ceux qui croient aimer la world music écoutent la pulsation de Greenman, au plus proche de ce que tribal veut dire, idem pour River of orchids et sa démonstration de la boucle. Les moments exceptionnels abondent : ici (Your dictionary) un décollage lumineux, là (I'd like that) de breaks qui laissent pantois, partout, une richesse harmonique qui atteint sa maturité. Seules ombres au tableau : le départ du multi-instrumentiste Dave Gregory, de guerre lasse, et l'effacement de Colin Moulding, le fidèle second qui ne livre que deux morceaux discrets. Gaffe, Colin, si tu te contentes de ton rôle de George sur ce disque de Paul, tu pourrais bien te retrouver en Ringo sur le prochain qui sera très John. Partridge est un monstre, et il s'est réveillé. Mais le plus important, c'est que cette musique belle à pleurer fait du bien, nettoie en profondeur et aide à vivre. Le bonheur d'un nouveau XTC, Easter Theatre, plus beau morceau du monde : que demander de plus à la vie ?
Jeremiah Cornell

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

April 1999

XTC's New World

by Tim Quirk
Pop-Ed Columnist

In a better world, every band would be as good as XTC: complicatedly simple, literate and inspired, worthy of blind devotion.

We don't live in a better world, however. We live in a pretty stupid world, a world where you don't usually get to hear XTC on the radio, a world where my nineteen year-old nephew has no idea who XTC are, a world where label woes have kept XTC out of the studio for seven years.

Seven year break
That's right. It's been seven years since XTC's last album. And the world has gotten even stupider during that time, hasn't it?

It doesn't matter, though, because XTC have always known how to build their own worlds. On their first three albums, they created quirky, modern cities, reacting with freakish glee ("I'm heading into the atom age --- a bah bah de bah bah") when they stepped back to examine what they'd wrought. But that excitement soon turned into mistrust and paranoia (the cold, mechanical "Battery Brides," for example, or the Orwellian nightmare in "Real by Reel"), and as the band members have aged, the places they make have grown progressively more pastoral, beautiful and inviting.

Not many pop bands would risk returning from a seven year absence with an album of acoustic-based, orchestrally-enhanced recordings.

Like the Kinks, XTC have always mixed nostalgia ("Life Begins at the Hop," "Towers of London,") with social commentary ("Respectable Street," "Scarecrow People"). But lead songwriter Andy Partridge never sounds totally convincing in either mode: the England he complains about seems just as unreal as the one he remembers. XTC's best songs take place somewhere else entirely, in a pastoral wonderland of their own invention. It's a place where people travel by balloon, the mayor is the highest authority, pretty girls promenade along the quayside, farmboys fall in love, and everyone lives in a quasi-mystical relationship with the elements.

True talent
XTC's talent lies in their ability to make that world sound not only more attractive than our own, but more real. And with their long-awaited new release, Apple Venus, the band succeeds again. Apple Venus is another triumph of XTC's world-making prowess.

Of course, you never really have to ask if a new XTC album is any good, you only have to ask how good it is. Apple Venus is excellent. It's also audacious -- not many pop bands would risk returning from a seven year absence with an album of acoustic-based, orchestrally-enhanced recordings. Dave Gregory, XTC's second guitarist, apparently thought it was such a bad idea he quit the band, reducing XTC to a duo. They're promising an electric follow up (Apple Venus Volume Two) later this year, but it's hard to imagine just what amplifiers and distortion boxes can add to the lush beauty XTC have created here. Apple Venus sounds like the music XTC always meant to make.

XTC's new sound
"River of Orchids," the first track, lays out the new sound while restating XTC's ambition to recreate the planet. The lyrics offer images of grass pushing up through concrete followed by exhortations to "push your car from the road." The sentiments are old, but the music lends them surprising vigor: the first thing we hear is slowly dripping water, followed by an isolated bass note. These mix with displaced string instruments and random brass figures, finally flowing together into a bedazzling example of how XTC can interweave complex arrangements with hooks so basic they sound like nursery rhymes our daycare providers neglected to teach us.

That ability to rise above their own cleverness is another mark of XTC's genius. It's pretty easy to sound smart; it's a lot more difficult to make everything sound right. Take "I'd Like That," a simple love song which addresses the most elemental of rock song subjects: the desire to fuck the person you've just met. Partridge knows how to make that urge sound like a natural part of his yesteryear paradise: rather than compare his love with that of Bonnie for Clyde or Sid for Nancy, he states, with all seriousness, "I'll be your Albert if you'll be Victoria." The music, too, seems basic and timeless: acoustic guitar, bass drum, and slapped knees. But Partridge can't resist dropping in a line like, "I wouldn't Hector if you'd be Helen of Troy." If anybody else tried that, he'd come off as a pre-Christian Letterman, and this delicate vision of innocently depraved longing would shatter. Partridge, however, consistently gets away with stuff like that, partly because bookworm fans like myself eat it up, but mostly because his melodies and his delivery are so convincing. Cleverness is usually distancing; with XTC, it's often the opposite, a testament to how transcendent pop can be when each note and every word are chosen with the utmost care.

© 1999
[Thanks to Evan Mulligan]

Juice #76
April 1999
by Dave Messer

XTC - Apple Venus Volume 1
* * * * *

XTC's story is one of the saddest musical tragedies of the decade. In 1992 they released Nonsuch, their best album thus far and one of the great pop masterpieces of all time. For whatever reason, Nonsuch was ignored by all but committed fans.

Naturally embittered by this experience, XTC became even more so when they calculated that despite earning 30 million pounds for Virgin Records (that's 90 million Australian dollars!), the band had never made a profit. Finally Virgin release them, they found another record label, and - happily - recorded these songs.

Despite the passing years, Apple Venus is a natural follow-up to the sweet but sour pop of Nonsuch, but with a twist. Eschewing the massive production of its predecessor, this album finds XTC in acoustic mode: Partridge's guitar, Colin Moulding's bass, some percussion from Prairie Prince and - in all its glory - the London Symphony Orchestra [sic].

Opener "River of Orchids" introduces this new line-up. It begins with a sparsely plucked single bass note, followed a little later by a drop of water. Gradually, other instruments are added to this initially unmusical soundscape: violas, violins, trumpets, acoustic guitar. If this reads dangerously like Tubular Bells, it's not, especially when after a couple of minutes Partridge breaks in with one of his trademark alternately discordant and sweet melodies. Apart from being a beautiful song, it's also a declaration of intent; its seven minutes of Brian Wilsonesque grandeur seem to say, "We're back, and I bet you haven't heard anything on this grand fucking for a while." [Note: not a transcription error - your guess is as good as mine. Is it some new teenage slang?]

"I'd like that" is a more stripped-down affair - reminiscent of XTC's rural phase circa English Settlement - a simple ode of domestic wishful thinking based around acoustic guitar (which Partridge attacks with all the vigour of Pete Townsend in full electric flight), bass and percussion. "Easter Theatre," which follows, does what XTC do best - alternating between an almost harsh verse (based on odd chord changes and challenging melodies) and the sweetest of chorus hooks, rich with harmonies in thirds and fifths. While Beatles and Beach Boys comparisons spring immediately to mind, XTC have learnt from those 60's bands best work and moved on.

"Knights in Shining Karma" is a case in point. Partridge, accompanied only by his own finger-picked guitar, combines the sweetness of McCartney and the edginess of Lennon in the one song, but with a sense of sophistication in both the music and the lyrics (the latter, despite Partridge's recent experiences, some of his most uplifting) frankly beyond either one of them. After this gem - one of Partridge's greatest songs - Colin Moulding steps in with one of his exquisite cameos. "Frivolous tonight" finds him in music hall mode, this witty ode to domestic bliss (Moulding, describing his perfect dinner party, laments that "Of course, there's always one who wants to talk shop") suffering little from comparisons with the previous tracks.

The first single, "The Green Man," is strangely unrepresentative of the rest of the album - relying, as it does so heavily on eastern sounding strings, flute and percussion. It is, nonetheless, an excellent song, even if I still have no idea of who this green man is that Partridge bows down to. Next comes "Your Dictionary," in which all Partridge's frustrations tumble out. It's difficult to work out whether this is directed at his ex-record company or ex-wife (perhaps both), but lines like "S-H-I-T, is that how you spell me in your dictionary?" are effective, whatever the target. That this litany of hate has the sweetest of vocal harmony codas only makes it more effective.

Moulding's other song, "Fruit nut," comes as something of a relief after all this, its jaunty beat and jazz pop chords giving simple pleasures, while its lyrics ("I'm tending my fruit / A man's got to have a hobby... to keep him sane") outline his position as long-suffering sidekick to Partridge's intense genius. The latter seems to take back everything he said in "Your Dictionary" with the next track "I can't own her," a gorgeous piano-based ballad that recalls Bacharach (whose revival, incidentally, XTC began with Nonsuch) in its melodic sophistication. "Harvest Festival" continues this more relaxed and resigned mood, Partridge enjoying the rural view to a sweet, keyboard based backing.

Like a chance meeting that reignites a long-lost friendship, hearing this album is a bitter-sweet experience. The joy of reunitement is tempered by the thought of what has been missing all these years. If its any solace, XTC have already recorded Volume 2.

[Thanks to Hobbes]

April 1-8, 1999
record reviews
Rock Options/Mark Deming

Apple Venus Vol. 1 (Idea/ TVT).

Speaking of memory lane, if someone had told me back in 1979, when I was addicted to the sharp herky-jerky power pop of XTC's Drums and Wires, that 20 years later the band would not only still be together but they'd be playing elaborately arranged neo-psychedelic stuff, I'd have figured such a thing was impossible.

Then again, I also would have also thought it impossible that Elvis Costello would be making records with Bert Bacharach and Debbie Harry would be moonlighting with a jazz combo, so it just goes to show what sort of seer I am.

It's been close to seven years since XTC last released an album (thanks to a very bitter dispute with their old record company), but Apple Venus Vol. 1 proves that Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have been using their down time profitably; to these ears, this sounds like XTC's most solid and consistently pleasing album since English Settlement in 1982. Again, if you were hoping for some of the wiry pop of this band's early period, you're even farther out of luck than usual, since they're not even making a token gesture in that direction.

But if you dug the languid, dreamy stuff that dotted albums like Mummer, Skylarking and Nonesuch [sic], I have good news for you -- you get a whole disc of it on Apple Venus Vol. 1, and they've never done it better.

Sweet and a little trippy, with a dash of melancholy here ("The Last Balloon") or bitterness there ("Your Dictionary") and even a bit of understated lust on occasion ("I'd Like That"), Andy Partridge is making his pop resonate with a laid-back but potent melodicism that ranks with the best work of his career. And while Colin Moulding's two numbers suggest he's been listening to an awful lot of Ray Davies lately, I can't say the influence doesn't suit him, and the cheery home-and-pub ambience of "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut" is just the chaser Partridge's heady liquor needs. And while this band has long shown a fondness for tossing in strings and horns, the results have rarely been as subtle and as effective as what they've achieved here -- the gentle tug and nudge of the orchestra on the opening cut, "River Of Orchids," is nearly worth the purchase price all by itself.

I'm not sure I ever wanted an XTC as laid back as this (the absence of a permanent rhythm section to kick them in the butt may well have something to do with it), Apple Venus Vol. 1 makes clear XTC have not only survived their layoff, they're writing and playing as well as ever. Apple Venus Vol. 2 is due before the end of the year, and if it's anywhere near as good as this, all I can say is I can't wait. (TVT, 23 E. 4th Street, New York, NY, 10003.)

March 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Review by Martin Monkman

There's a certain strain of British pop that falls somewhere between a formalized psychedelia and what the Beatles might have done if they hadn't broken up after Abbey Road.
(Greil Marcus)

This post-Beatle musical strain has been shamelessly and ambitiously explored by XTC since their third album, 1980's Black Sea. And even with their musical ambitions on a steady climb since then, nothing they've recorded will quite prepare you for Apple Venus Volume 1. This collection of 11 songs contains some of the most innovative use of orchestral instrumentation in a pop music setting since Abbey Road, all in the service of some astonishing songs.

Apple Venus Volume 1

XTC has had a tortuous career, in part due to their own unwillingness to play The Game of being rock stars. It's been seven years since their previous album, Nonsuch. In the interim they've released only two songs, one of which was under the pseudonym Terry & The Lovemen that appeared on the XTC tribute album Testimonial Dinner. In 1998, as the recording of Apple Venus neared completion, guitarist Dave Gregory quit the band, leaving only the two songwriters, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, to continue as XTC, more a brand than a band.

The departure of Gregory will likely not change XTC a great deal, given that his role was always one of virtuoso multi-instrumentalist sideman and that XTC's strength has always been the quality of the song writing. De facto leader Andy Partridge has a great facility with language, turning a single clever phrase into a moving metaphor that underpins an entire song. Colin Moulding has always been both less prolific and less "clever", writing eloquent songs about the small details of life.

Apple Venus Volume 1 doesn't change XTC's balance or emphasis at all. One of Partridge's nine gems on this album is "Easter Theatre", a hymn to the springtime awakening of Mother Earth, expressed in the most sensual of terms. Moulding makes but two contributions; one of them, "Frivolous Tonight", concerns nothing more than the idle chat at a party. Moulding's songs, while vastly outnumbered throughout XTC's canon, are an important component, acting as a counterbalance (an antidote?) to Partridge's more serious and arty efforts.

The album opens with "River of Orchids", an Andy Partridge song extolling the merits of the demise of the automobile. Without roads, there would be more natural beauty, and "the grass is always greener when it grows up through concrete." This song's arrangement is pure Minimalism, incorporating repeating phrases of text and music in much the same way as pieces by Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It builds slowly, starting first with a single drip of water, followed by a pizzicato double bass note, then another drop, then more pizzicato notes from other instruments and more drops, until the rhythmic foundation of the song is built. The vocals are layered, with complex counterpoint, but repeating only a limited number of phrases. The ultimate effect is hypnotic; Steve Reich might have called it "Swindon Counterpoint".

After the last drop of water signals the end of "River of Orchids", an acoustic guitar introduces "I'd Like That", a slight pop song about the giddy feelings of a new love. Partridge lists famous couples, and then rhymes the woman's name with an exclamation of glee: "I'd be your Albert if you'd be Victoria, hah hah" or the clever "I wouldn't hector [Hector?] if you'd be Helen of Troy, oh boy". The instrumentation is not much more than an acoustic guitar, a bit of bass, and a few hand-claps. But bolstered along the way by some lovely harmony vocals and a few instrumental flourishes, it captures the mood of infatuation perfectly.

The central song on the album both artistically and chronologically is "Greenman" . An exuberant paean to the pagan god of the life/death/rebirth cycle (a favourite theme of Andy Partridge's; c.f. "Easter Theatre" on this album or "Season Cycle" on Skylarking), this is a joyous piece. The orchestration on "Greenman" is rich and lush, much like the woodlands we might expect such a character to inhabit. The song isn't all strings; some standard rock instruments are also there in the mix: guitar, bass guitar, and drums all have a part to play. This is song is a stroke of genius.

Both Partridge and Moulding are unabashed fans of The Kinks, The Beatles and The Beach Boys (listen to the Dukes of Stratosphear collection Psonic Psunspot if the XTC albums alone don't convince you), and those influences show through in subtle ways here. There are lots of little things that recall their musical heroes. For instance, the tender lullaby "Knights In Shining Karma" contains a Beatle-esque guitar sound (think "Blackbird" meets "Julia") beneath some lush Beach Boy-type vocal harmonies. But these influences are subsumed into a seamless whole, never becoming self-consciously referential.

Elsewhere on the album you'll find "Your Dictionary", a song that requires a close listening to the lyrics to hear the pain and bitterness, and Moulding's "Fruit Nut", a song about gardening: "A man's got to have a shed to keep him sane". The album closes with the wistful "The Last Balloon", a song that revisits some of Partridge's earlier misanthropic songs but casts it with a more gentle and optimistic spirit. Here Partridge appears to be holding out some hope that future generations won't make the same mistakes as those who have gone before.

I'm not usually one to comment on the audio quality of an album, but here it's worth noting. The sound of Apple Venus 1 is absolutely astonishing. There is a great deal of depth to the soundfield and there are many little things that jump out. The voices are many but always distinct, nicely balanced between left and right and front to back. I was also quite struck by the sound of the orchestra, laid out in the sonic environment just like a classical recording (the best of which seek to emulate a concert hall). This is no doubt the influence of producer Hayden Bendall, a veteran studio engineer.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) their self-destructive tendencies, XTC have made some great but unheralded albums, earned a great deal of respect from other musicians, and built up a loyal cult following (which has, if anything, grown during the recent drought in the band's output). Apple Venus Volume 1 is a shamelessly lovely, nay, beautiful, album. Even on the songs that are weakest lyrically, redemtion is found in the beauty of the sound, both in terms of the audio quality and the musical arrangements. Is Apple Venus Volume 1 a masterpiece? Only time will tell, but I'm certainly not going out on a limb by declaring it to be one of the strongest albums I've heard in many a year.

© 1999 Martin Monkman

INsite Atlanta
March 1999

Class: A welcome blast from the past

After a seven-year strike against their former record label, XTC bathes in smaller indie waters with a bright, bubbly, and peppy album. Of course, this is in XTC terms — Andy Partridge consistently presents himself as the court jester, but as any Shakespeare fan knows, it's the court jester who has the most ominous lines. Remember, this is the guy who wrote the world's catchiest ode to atheism (“Dear God”). Apple Venus is well worth the wait, wrapping Partridge's flights of fancy and bile in gorgeous textures. An intricate interplay of horns, strings, and vocals weaves through “River of Orchids”, while “I'd Like That” bounces along to slaphappy rhythms and a plaintive trumpet punctuates “The Last Balloon.” All in all, it's XTC fulfilling their last mission of creating seemingly simple songs that are actually as complex as an English hedge maze. Most importantly, XTC continues to be brainy without losing their music's heart. “Your Dictionary” maliciously asks “F-U-C-K is that how you spell ‘friend’ in your dictionary,” while “Greenman” nimbly matches its mystic namesake with a jaunty melody and stirring Eastern strings. For me, it's as good as Skylarking — maybe more so, due to the enjoyment of being reminded just how good these guys are.

Andrew Gilstrap

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

the only guaranteed Y2K non-compliant webzine [sparks will fly baby!]
March 1999
mArCh ReCoRd RoUnDuP


Andy Partridge shoulda been a blues musician. First his record company left him, then his wife left him, then his guitarist left him, then the tapes of his new record were stolen. There's an album of blues material right there. Instead Andy Pandy decided to forge ahead with his askew pop vision. Part one of which is finally available, despite the thieving efforts Squeeze's Difford (or is that Tilbrook?). And despite the harsh cry of "foul" heard around the world, this pompous, orchestral pop slab is selling like hotcakes. Those crazy XTC fans finally have an outlet I suppose. But what about you, the uninitiated, what's in this for you? Forget the lore of boppy new wave yesteryear, this XTC is basically the evolution of The Beatles, all snide and witty and lush and plush. Think I jest? Check the title. Apple = the Beatles infamous record company. Venus = Paul McCartney's venture into pop schmaltz wonderland (Venus & Mars). You don't have to be a conspiracy freak to see this one coming. And though I tend to cringe when multitudes of tuxes blow and pluck on a so-called "rock" record, there is something here that makes it all kinda palatable. It might be Andy's smarmy intellect coming through, or his catchy, bombastic music swirls, or it may be that I'm really a closet XTC freak. Whatever, there may be no stopping this baby, and frankly, I can't wait for the next set (more pop, less wind is promised).



Apple Venus Volume 1

Es ist vollbracht: Sieben Jahre nach NONESUCH [sic] meldet sich mit XTC die Mutter aller Brit-Popper zurück. Denn daß es ohne Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding weder Blur, Radiohead noch The Verve geben würde, unterstreicht APPLE VENUS auf ebenso eindrucksvolle wie verspielte Weise. Und:

"XTC schwelgen nicht nur in der Ära von SGT."

Als rein orchestrales Pop-Epos angelegt, ist diese Kollektion aus elf Songs ein sinfonischer Ausflug in blumige Psychedelia und wunderbare Harmonien. Ob mit süffisanten Streichern („River Of Orchids”), akustischen Gitarren („I'd Like That”) oder epischen Rock-Arrangements („Easter Theatre”) - XTC schwelgen nicht nur in der Ära von SGT. PEPPER'S oder PET SOUNDS, sondern fügen ein weiteres Kapitel hinzu und errichten damit ihr eigenes Denkmal.

War ihr Zweitprojekt The Dukes Of Stratosphere [sic] eher reine Parodie, folgt nun der ernsthafte Versuch, ein goldenes Zeitalter fernab von Techno und Dance wiederzubeleben. Und wie das funktioniert, zeigen „Knights In Shining Karma”, „Greenman” oder „Your Dictionary” - Songs, die bei Brian Wilson einen weiteren Zusammenbruch bewirken dürften. Ganz einfach, weil der Beach Boy es nicht ertragen könnte, daß es jemanden gibt, der seine gute-Laune-Arrangements noch besser beherrscht, als er selbst. Aber genau das ist bei XTC der Fall. Die Freude, nach all den Jahren wieder ein neue Platte aufnehmen zu können, trieft aus jeder Note und Textzeile. Kurzum: APPLE VENUS Vol. 1 ist Seelenbalsam, Streicheleinheit und Denkanstoß zugleich. (ma)

March 1999
Smash or Trash - Reviews

March 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1
* * * *

With a new label and 11 new tunes, XTC has apparently scratched the seven year itch with their first new album since 1992's Nonsuch. It's no doubt fans of the quirky band's art-pop explorations will enjoy this one; it's part classical, part pop, part folk, with all the traditional XTC nuances, yet it is a finely tuned work. Even in the wake of many obstacles (label fight with Virgin, departure of guitarist Dave Gregory, Andy Partridge's divorce et. al.), XTC has managed to craft an exquisite collection of what Partridge likes to call "music that could have been made at any time in the last 200 years."

The usual Beatles influence is here, but this time it's awash in orchestral arrangements layered under lilting pop melodies and infectious little hooks. The cartoonish "Green Man" manages to be both tactful and classy despite its animated feel. African-inspired bass drums provide the beat over nifty flute trills and hopscotched keyboard runs; later, the orchestra kicks in towards then for the grand finale, sparring with the flute's little closing jabs. Elsewhere, "Your Dictionary" is short and sweet, a string quartet whose party is crashed by a stumbling piano. The happy jig of the aptly-titled "Fruit Nut," is just plain delightful. Partridge's low, dark tone provides lyrical introspection over a carnival melange of non-rock instruments.

Apple Venus Volume 1, while not quite totally the "classical" album everyone is calling it, is still a wonderful exploration into the adventurous world of XTC. Not bad for what basically amounts to a one-off project for Partridge, who says Apple Venus Volume 2 will be more rock oriented. Too bad.
-Dennis Walkling

Kultur : HÖREN


Ganz anders XTC. Zu seiner Blütezeit Anfang der Achtzigerjahre war das englische Quartett so unbedacht schlagfertig, das es sich bis heute für einige seiner Songtexte schämt. Wegen seiner damaligen Arbeitswut brannte XTC auch schnell aus und zog sich 1992 von der Bühne zurück; seither existiert XTC ausschliesslich im Niemandsland des Tonstudios. Die Alben der Band verloren zunehmend ihren Popappeal und auch ihren Bezug zur übrigen Musikgeschehen. Unter dem Pseudonym Dukes of Stratosphear kopierten die verbliebenen drei Mitglieder den Psychedelik-Rock der späten Sechzigerjahre, unter eigenem Namen generierten sie Renaissance-Musik, wie sie Lennon-McCartney hätten schreiben können. Nach sieben Jahren Verweigerungsstreik gegen die Plattenfirma Virgin bricht die auf ein Duo geschrumpfte Band mit "Apple Venus Volume 1" endlich ihr Schweigen und glänzt in gewohnter Manier mit einer Mischung aus unbekümmerter Gescheitheit und instrumentaler Brillanz. So delikat sind die Melodien und Harmonien auf "Apple Venus Volume 1", dass die an sich sparsamen Arrangements beinah überladen wirken; dafür kaschieren die Streicher und Bläser auch die Tristesse der Songsujets. Oft geht es um Midlife-Krisen und Scheidungsdelikte, aber in XTCs Händen kumulieren sich diese dunklen Schnappschüsse zu einem funkelnden "Sgt. Pepper's" für die Übervierziger. (nij.)

XTC: Apple Venus Vol. 1 (Cooking Vinyl/RecRec COOK CD 172).

Rant N' Rave
March 30, 1999
Music Reviews!

* * * *
Reviewed by Jim Lynch

APPLE VENUS VOLUME 1 is XTC's first new album since 1992's NONSUCH (not counting the Christmas boxed sex TRANSISTOR BLAST), and Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (guitarist Dave Gregory has left) have assembled a quirky, mostly solid album with great range.

The songs on this APPLE VENUS were written during their hiatus, and there is a wide difference in topics. Fans of XTC's lighter pop side will enjoy such confections as the love song "I'd Like That," the silly "Fruit Nut" (which extols the virtues of growing a garden), and "Frivolous Tonight," which celebrates friends gathering and talking about nothing in particular. While these tunes will get little to no airplay, they will delight those who hear them.

Exploring the failed relationship of Andy Partridge's divorce, "I Can't Own Her" sings of having everything you want but that one person you need; and the dark "Your Dictionary" does for romance what "Dear God" did for religion.

Then there are the more abstract tunes that sing of life in general. "Easter Theatre" is an unusual take on the passing of seasons. "Green Man" is a well-written exploration of Pagan themes and cycles; this idea is returned to in "Harvest Festival," where fertility rites, marriage ceremonies, and childhood memories all merge. "Knights in Shining Karma" looks at the comfort from being good. And "The Last Balloon" may be about the end of life, or the end of the day, or the end of a journey.

APPLE VENUS VOLUME 1 isn't a completely cohesive album, and a few songs are a bit dull. That said, listening to the album is a delight, a nice alternative from the overplayed fare of "alternative" radio. If you want to taste something different, look for APPLE VENUS VOLUME ONE and prepare to enjoy music again.

©1997 Steve Willett

Ottawa Express
March 25, 1999
by John Sekerka

Apple Venus

Forget the lore of boppy new wave yesteryear, this XTC is basically the evolution of The Beatles, all snide and witty and lush and plush. Think I jest? Check the title. Apple - the Beatles infamous record company; Venus - Paul's venture into pop schmaltz wonderland (Venus & Mars). You don't have to be a conspiracy freak to see this one coming. And though I tend to cringe when multitudes of tuxes blow and pluck on a so-called "rock" record, there is something here that makes it all palatable. It might be Andy Partridge's smarmy intellect coming through, or his catchy, bombastic music swirls. Or it may be that I'm a closet XTC freak. Whatever, there may be no stopping this baby and, frankly, I can't wait for the next set (more pop, less wind is promised).

[Thanks to Erich Walther]

Issue Number 104 - 3/24/99

Apple Venus Volume 1


* * *

XTC has never been shy about having a decidedly different sound. But Apple Venus Volume 1 is sure to surprise even the most dedicated fan -- "different," here, would be understatement. Apple Venus Volume 1 was inspired by the classics. Not the classics as in Beethoven or Bach, but classic show tunes such as are found in South Pacific and My Fair Lady. The result is a refreshing change.
     Apple marks XTC's return from a seven-year hiatus, the result of a feud with Virgin Records, a paralyzing case of stagefright, a nasty divorce, random health problems, lack of funds, and the exit of guitarist Dave Gregory. But XTC -- and its songwriting team of Colin Mould and Andy Partridge -- has persevered. Songs such as "River of Orchids" are arranged as if for the stage, the orchestra chock-full of syncopated horns and plucky strings. It is truly inspired, but may not be appropriate every time. "I Can't Own Her" is beautifully arranged and quite catchy, but may have been better off as a pop song. The lyrics to these pearls get lost sometimes -- and lyrics are usually XTC's strength. "Knights in Shining Karma" and "Your Dictionary" include funny, sometimes biting lyrics that reflect the band's experiences in the last few years, yet manage to hold on to that Beatles-inspired sound fans expect from XTC.
     The mixture of the old XTC sound and classic orchestral arrangement works on Apple Venus Volume 1. Don't expect to wait another seven years for Volume 2. . .

Jill Albert

© 1994 - 2000 SLAMM Magazine, All Rights Reserved.

La Crónica de Hoy
La CeDería

XTC: Apple Venus
(Idea Records/ TVT Records)

Siete años teníamos sin material nuevo del grupo y aunque en el proceso de grabación de este redondo muchas cosas pasaron (las más triste: la salida del guitarrista Dave Gregory), XTC muestra que su orientación temática (ampliada esta vez con una orquesta de cuerdas y la ausencia casi total de percusiones) continúa sobra las pistas que antes trazaron con piezas como "Sacrificial Bonfire" (de Skylarking, de 1986), "Chalkhills and Children" (de Lemons & Oranges), "Rook" y "Humble Daily" [sic] (ambos temas de Nonsuch, de 1992). Es decir, Partridge y Colin Moulding se dejan embargar por un sonido pastoral que, sin embargo, no desdeña un agrio matiz, particularmente cuando Andy le recita la cartilla a su ex cónyuge en "Your dictonary": "H-A-T-E / Is that how you/ spell love in your dictionary. / K-I-C-K / Pronounced as kind", o cuando musita, con un tono torturado que remite a Chris Bell, la imposibilidad por hacer suya a una persona amada. Moulding, por su parte, es tan caballeroso como siempre y sirve de adecuado contrapunto. Un álbum maduro, bello y que escapa a los calificativos. Ideal para quienes fincan en la reflexión su existencia en la vida adulta.

March 22, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1 Monday, March 22, 1999
Andy Partridge - Guitar, Vocals
Colin Moulding - Bass, Vocals
Dave Gregory - Guitar, Keyboards, Background Vocals, String Arrangements

Additional Musicians:
Guy Barker Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Steve Sidwell Trumpet
Nick Davis and Haydn Bendall Keyboards
Prairie Prince Drums
London Session Orchestra

Label: TVT Records

XTC has been one of the most underrated, yet important, new wave bands ever. Their influence can be seen in bands like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Primus. Primus has even covered XTC tunes on two of their records ("Scissor Man" and "Making Plans for Nigel"). It's been about seven years since their last record, but now they've come back with "Apple Venus Volume 1". This record is tremendous effort is musicianship and composition for the band. Many of the tunes are heavily orchestrated and the compositions are generally more dense.

At my first listen, the album immediately reminded me of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper". The melodic hooks in "Frivolous Tonight" reminded me of "She's Leaving". The string and horn arrangements took me back to "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". There's so much more to this record than a few Beatles comparisons. "I'd Like That" has an old Talking Heads feel on the guitar, but the melody has such a hook that it's easily become my favorite track on the album. "Venus" utilizes so many styles; it's impossible to pin down any single influence. Every track on this album sounds to me like a mini-epic. Each song tells a story and sort of brings you into a little world that they've created for you.

"Apple Venus Volume 1" is great deal more than an example of a great "new wave" band. This can be described as more like "demented pop music". For those who've never been exposed to XTC, the melodies are extremely catchy but a little strange at the same time. For long time fans of the band, this record is far from a disappointment. It has all of the things you've come to love about the band, but it's the maturity that's come from years of playing together that makes this a really great record.

People Magazine
Monday, March 22, 1999
Issue: March 29, 1999 Vol. 51 No. 11
Picks & Pans

talking with...XTC's Andy Partridge

XTC, the famously quirky British new wave band, stopped touring in 1982 when singer-songwriter Andy Partridge began suffering panic attacks onstage, and they seemed to disappear for good after their last studio album seven years ago. Even so, "the world didn't forget us," says Partridge, "and in all that time we stored up about four albums' worth of material."

This month, XTC returns with Apple Venus Volume 1, a richly orchestral acoustic disc that may surprise some of their old fans. "This album is rather easy on the ear," says Partridge, "and some people are going to say, 'Oh, my God, they've turned into their parents,' or whatever. But that kind of excites me. I do like to get up people's noses." But Partridge, 45, and bassist Colin Moulding, 43 (guitarist Dave Gregory quit the band), still won't tour. "Why would you want to see my fat [posterior] on the stage," asks Partridge, "when you can buy a slice of my soul and take it home?"

Marisa Sandora

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

MediaOne Chicagoland
March 19, 1999
Scalzi's Private Blend
by John Scalzi

XTC, "Apple Venus, Volume 1"

Another band with melodic genius and a lyricist, Andy Partridge, who could use antidepressants from time to time. But you have admire XTC no matter what for this album. Their first album in seven years and what do they do? Hire an orchestra to give the songs a certain, special, difficult air. But after the herky-jerky opener ("River of Orchids"), you may be surprised at how well the idea works, as the strings slide up to the acoustic guitar and Partridge's adenoidal warble. It works. By the way, if you were ever wondering what would happen if you got on Partridge's bad side, listen to "Your Dictionary," which is directed towards Partridge's ex-wife. Mean, mean, mean. Now you know.

Copyright © 1999 MediaOne, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Age Green Guide (Melbourne)
by Shaun Carney

Cooking Vinyl/Festival

TWENTY-ONE years after its first album and seven years on from its previous release, the one New Wave act still standing releases its most ambitious album, a pastoral, acoustic symphonic pastiche that has to be heard at least a dozen times before the melodies become clear. But when they do, wow! Chief writer and singer Andy Partridge has described pop writing as a continuous process of overcoming your influences and on Apple Venus Volume 1 he manages to sound like nothing so much as himself. Song after song is a triumph, from the galloping bubblegum of I'd Like That to the compelling, bilious tract on revenge, Your Dictionary. Partridge and bandmate Colin Moulding manage to apply a deft touch to material that is regularly dark and reflective in a work that is probably their most cohesive since 1982's English Settlement. A companion album of more percussive, electric tracks will be released later this year. Can't wait. . .

[Thanks to Carlo Di Martino]

March 18, 1999

MÄSTERLIGA. Specialagenterna Moulding och Partridge ute på uppdrag för XTC.

Apple Venus (volume 1)
(Cooking Vinyl/Kommunikation skivor)
BETYG: 5 öron

Smart så det glöder

  Mästerligt. XTC som avhållit sig från skivproduktion i sju år återkommer med ett styrkebevis som det glöder om. Det är popmusik i dess mest sofistikerat intelligenta form, utan att den därför förlorat sin omedelbara charm.
  XTC, som reducerats till kärnduon Andy Partridge och Colin Moulding, skapar på den nya plattan en storslagen, men inte pompös, popmusik som tar fatt i den tråd som Beatles släppte efter "Strawberry Fields" och "Sgt Peppers". Det vill säga den experimentellt symfoniska popen. På den nya skivan finns flera spår av en klass som Beach Boys popgeni Brian Wilson skulle ha varit mäkta stolt över. XTC förenar faktiskt i sina bästa stunder det bästa hos Beatles, Beach Boys och Costellos utvecklade, innerliga, melodikänsla med Steely Dans svalare sofistikation.
  Plattans inledande spår är knäckande bra. Det inleds med ljud av vattendroppar och växer i styrka och intensitet med stråkar, Miles Davis-blås och smarta meloditeman som efter hand vävs samman till ett smått extatiskt, men ändå tyglat, popmästerstycke. Sedan följer ytterligare tio spår som bara bekräftar det första intryckets slagkraft. Pop så smart och kärleksfullt uppbyggd att den höjer sig ljusår över det mesta i genren.


© Arbetarbladet

The Daily Free Press
music reviews
March 18, 1999
Muse Staff

XTC Apple Venus Volume One TVT Records

If Radiohead's OK Computer was the herald for the impending doom of civilization at the hands of technology, XTC's Apple Venus Volume One is a rebuttal, its view being that things might turn out alright after all.

XTC, now a duo of the band's founders, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, has been prohibited by Virgin Records from releasing music for the last seven years. The story goes: In the late '70s, XTC was comprised of four excitable geeks who banged on their instruments until they sounded somewhat tolerable. Virgin records offered them a record deal and they jumped at the chance.

It wasn't a good deal. The band worked for pennies like many other young bands. However, Virgin attempted to keep this insulting original contract for more than 20 years, even after the boys grew up and developed into some of the most accomplished pop musicians in the world.

XTC went on strike and now, seven years later, Apple Venus Volume One marks their triumphant return.

It was worth the wait. The new album is restrained to 11 tracks (their last two albums averaged around 15). And each track is a musical masterpiece in its own right.

Andy Partridge, who wrote nine of the 11 songs, seems to have devoted his life to making music in the tradition of Brian Wilson, John Lennon and other pop-rock innovators and forefathers. All the songs on Apple Venus are either melodic acoustic tunes or gigantic orchestral pieces that are so big and beautiful it's hard to believe they're written by the same man who penned the frenetic "Traffic Light Rock" 20 years ago. Some clever record company employee has dubbed the style on Apple Venus as "ochustic."

Of his two contributions, Colin Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" is the pinnacle of the album. Its unabashed and not-ironic sentimentality about the simple pleasures of wallowing in "a bit of nonsense" is a welcome return from the tongue-in-cheek "I don't care about anything" lyric style that has been so prevalent in the '90s.

This unashamed sincerity seems to be a new direction that is slowly emerging in lyricists lately. For example, just take a listen to Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach's Painted From Memory to hear a former cynic sing a handful of sentimental songs without sounding sappy or insincere. Like Costello, Moulding pulls it off so masterfully that it's almost impossible not to smile instead of rolling your eyes when he sings, "Let's reveal our childlike nature...We're all so frivolous tonight!"

As for the OK Computer comparison, the proof is in Partridge's words. He opens the album explaining that he had a "dream where the car was reduced to a fossil" and that the road turned into a "river of orchids." His voice does not sound as if he's warning about the end but rather as if he is the harbinger of a new beginning.

This new beginning includes an "Easter Theater" guarded by "Knights In Shining Karma" as the stage is filled with love songs such as "I'd Like That" and "I Can't Own Her." It's all very innocent and sweet and one gets the feeling that it's exactly what Partridge has been planning ever since he began writing the album seven years ago.

The clincher is the last song, "The Last Balloon," set up as a direct invitation to the listener to come join in this new beginning. "Climb aboard you menfolk/ You won't need any bombs or knives/ Climb aboard you menfolk/ Leave all that to your former life." This is optimism and hope, perfectly clear and powerful, unheard of since Lennon's "Imagine." The song ends, however, with a solemn two-minute horn solo that seems to end the hopeful anthem on a less-than-optimistic note.

Perhaps the old cynic in Partridge couldn't help but imagine that no matter how much he promised, no one would join him on his journey and the last balloon would leave with him as its lone passenger.

Grade: A+

-Ryan Walsh Muse Staff

Copyright 1998 Back Bay Publishing

Bristol Evening Post
March 18, 1999
Full on
New albums

XTC - Apple Venue Volume 1 (Cooking Vinyl)

Back after seven years, Swindon's prodigal pop sons return with a new label and an album of true class. Andy Partridge is on fine form on the Kinks-like Frivolous Tonight and the music-hall splendour of Eastern Theatre. XTC remain one of the truly original British pop bands of the past 25 years, and it's great to see them back. MT

Copyright 1999 Bristol United Press
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Seattle Weekly
March 18, 1999

Apple Venus, Vol. 1 (TVT)

This time last decade, you'd have had a hard time getting an unbiased review of an XTC album outta me. After all, Andy Partridge's sarcastic wit and melodic wisdom blazed a trail through the 80's, starting with the jittery post-punk opus Black Sea and ending with the psychedelic mind bender Oranges and Lemons. Hell, I'd probably have taken a bullet for the guy at that point. But 1992's Nonsuch didn't exactly follow the dictum "Always leave 'em wanting more," and folks like me who'd once frightened friends by absent-mindedly drifting off into verses of "Making Plans for Nigel" were left yawning. Now, Partridge and Colin Moulding resurface, minus the only other long-term member, Dave Gregory, with a last-ditch attempt to reel in those with the XTC chromosome and maybe attract some new fans. Apple Venus, Vol. 1 puts Partridge's orchestral compositions at center stage and adds a few acoustic vignettes in a dazzling rebound after seven years of silence. The stripped-down numbers work best, with the jaunty, lighthearted "I'd Like That" leading the charge, and a bitter sign-off on Andy's divorce, "Your Dictionary," perfecting his mix of pop smarts and lyrical vitriol ("F-U-C-K, is that how you spell friend...?"). Moulding's contributions, particularly the XTC-does-Beach Boys romp "Frivolous Tonight," don't register as vintage, but neither do they detract from the whimsical flow Partridge achieves with his meticulous string and horn arrangements. Heralding the prospect of a second volume that'll mark a return to electric pop, Apple Venus is like a call from a long-lost friend who says he's coming back to stay.

- Richard A. Martin

[Thanks to Benjamin Lukoff]

The Laminated Cat
March 18, 1999
by Dominic Lawson

XTC - Apple Venus Volume One (Cooking Vinyl)

As a self-confessed worshipper at the temple of Sabbath, it may come as a surprise to some of you that I am not completely averse to a bit of what was once referred to as "popular music". In fact, I'm often heard whistling a merry tune, in between bouts of frenzied screaming and headbanging, in a style vaguely reminiscent of the never popular Roger Whittaker. The chances are that the happy melody in question will be by XTC. The single most disgracefully under-rated pop group that the UK has ever produced, and, in my not-particularly-humble opinion, the only serious contenders to The Beatles' "best songwriters in the world.... ever!" crown, XTC have been making effortlessly brilliant albums for over twenty years now. Their appalling lack of commercial success has always been something of a mystery, and so it has come as a great relief to the band's legion of devotees that Apple Venus Volume One, the band's first album since leaving Virgin Records looks set to be one of their most popular and successful releases to date. A new label, Cooking Vinyl Records, have already put far more effort into promoting XTC than their old employers ever did, first releasing the wonderful Transistor Blast 4 CD box set, and now providing the world with this frighteningly good collection of songs. Now reduced to a duo, following the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory, XTC have long been masters of the art of tunemongery. Apple Venus Volume One may well be the closest these Swindonian maestros have come to achieving pop perfection - it really is that good.

As usual, this latest XTC album is dominated by the songs and voice of renowned awkward bastard Andy Partridge, his partner in pop, Colin Moulding, contributing just two of his own songs (along with, it has to be said, some stupendous basslines and harmonies elsewhere) to this eleven-part feast of melody. Such is the effortless splendour of Apple Venus Volume One that I feel compelled to approach it track by track, so here goes...

The first song, "River Of Orchids", is absolutely fucking phenomenal. Beginning with a watery and welcoming "plop" and developing gradually into a complex but irresistible maelstrom of strings, parping trumpets and hippopotamus bass, this is as close to classical music as pop has any right to be, and it's stunning. Numerous vocal melodies and hooks interweave as Mr Partridge proclaims his love of the great outdoors, and his contempt for its wilful destruction by motorists and town planners, with some truly inspired lyrical gems along the way. Few ostensibly "pop" artists would dream of attempting something so experimental, let alone putting it right at the start of the album, but then XTC are not your average dumb pop band and "River Of Orchids" works so brilliantly that its unconventional form doesn't sound at all in appropriate.

Next up is the fluffy and whimsical "I'd Like That", touted as a possible first single and already receiving airplay in the US, a typically gentle love song with some sweet, but far from sickly, lyrics and some splendid leg-slapping percussion. Divine harmonies descend from on high, and an unexpected splash of jazz chordage arrives at the end of the chorus, instantly elevating this simple ditty well above the rest of today's pop quagmire and into the realms of genius. Marvellous.

"Easter Theatre" is next, and is arguably both the best thing here and quite possibly the best song Partridge has written to date. With pinpoint precision, the Partridge muse conjures up the best aspects of both Beatles and Beach Boys, while simultaneously urinating on the entire solo output of all their members combined. Paul McCartney really should be making records as good as this, but he doesn't. Quite why not is anyone's guess, but you'd have to go back to Abbey Road to find anything approaching this level of songwriting skill and with the added bonus of some sublime orchestral arrangements and a flawless production job, this song deserves to be regarded as a true modern classic. Such is the lot of XTC that it probably won't be - no, there is no God! - but I firmly believe that it is only a lack of exposure keeping this band from thoroughly deserved wealth and fame.

"Knights In Shining Karma" also paddles tentatively in Beatles fluid, recalling John Lennon's "Julia", only with added punnery. Far from being plagiaristic, Partridge's skill lies in his ability to write emotive music significantly without ever falling into the schmaltz trap, while deftly re-working the subtle nuances of his most obvious influences into new and interesting forms. Well, something like that....

The first of Colin Moulding's two contributions is next. "Frivolous Tonight" is yet another quirky gem from the obscenely gifted bass player and as with "Bungalow", from 1992's Nonsuch album, it's a pleasantly old fashioned pseudo-knees up which tugs a forelock in the general direction of Ray Davies without actually sounding like any particular Kinks tune. Somewhat lightweight in comparison to most of Partridge's songs, Moulding's latest creations are generally well-observed vignettes of English life, his West Country tones adding a refreshing down-to-earth charm to proceedings, nicely offset on this occasion by an unmistakable air of Vaudevillian whimsy. Apparently.

"Greenman" could well be the only song here with real single potential. Like Kula Shaker with brains, this track has immense charm from start to finish, the Eastern vibe fitting beautifully with the lyrics' seemingly pagan themes; Moulding's impeccable bass work squelching and popping in the mid-ground, propelling this highly danceable tune along with some measure of exuberance and swagger. Nice one. With a bit of crafty editing, this would sound fantastic on the radio and would surely fit in with much of the overtly tune-based pop music currently residing in the British charts (only ten times better, natch). Were it not such an objectionable thought, I would dance to this like a deranged hammer-thrower.

"Your Dictionary" must rate as the vitriolic singalong to end them all. Spelling out the emotional aftermath of a disastrous marriage, Mr P's lyrics are as personal as can be, and yet there is much here to which we could all relate. Rumour has it that there are two sides to every story, but since I don't remember ever having spent an evening basking in the musical outpourings of Andy Partridge's ex-wife I can't really summon up the energy to give a monkey's about whether this song is fair or not. Whatever the truth may be, "Your Dictionary" is a simple but effective demonstration of how to vent one's spleen using only a guitar and a big bag of resentment. The chiming Brian Wilsonisms of the unexpected coda add an extra dimension of artistic cheek, and the whole thing is executed with dignity, albeit with a fair amount of internal foaming at the mouth. Gorgeous.

Track number eight is "Fruit Nut", the second of Moulding's songs and by far the daftest thing I've heard all year. Yes, it's a song about gardening and nurturing fruit trees, containing the immortal line "a man must have a shed to keep him sane". Wise words indeed, if a little unfair to the shed-dwelling women present. Either way, this is an insidious little bleeder, with its slightly mad tootling refrain and much talk of spraying buds and the like, which will stick in your head for days. Unless, of course, you don't fancy buying this album, in which case there is no hope for you anyway...

Many people would argue that employing Mike Batt to do your orchestral arrangements is tantamount to creative suicide, but away from his more Womble-related activities Batt is a major sax & violins wizard. "I Can't Own Her" is one of many deeply affecting songs on this album, but it is the delicate use of strings which raises this up to classic status. The introductory chords alone are enough to have me blubbing like a big girl, and from then on Partridge's inspired lyrics are left to shine, with ample room to breathe amid the exquisite score, resulting in a genuinely beautiful whole which improves with each listen. Jesus H. Partridge, I love this song. You can almost hear Sting and Phil Collins scrabbling at the door like desperate hyenas (what do you mean, you've never heard a desperate hyena? You ain't lived, buddy!). "Oh please Mr Partridge, write us a song!". Tell 'em to fuck off, that's my advice. In the hands of XTC this is a work of art, in the hands of AOR slags it would be a very different story.

"Harvest Festival" conjures up some of the least exciting aspects of my childhood, not least those majorly uncomfortable canvas chairs that primary school teachers forced me to permanently scar my arse with, back in the late 70s. Another lilting slice of razor sharp nostalgia, this song is worth hearing for the recorders alone - memories of my mum teaching countless poor sods how to cover the right holes with the right fingers come screaming back to haunt me - a vile racket in any other circumstances, but here an inspired embellishment which should send many a shiver down many a spine. However, the question remains, what exactly did happen to all those tins of food? My guess is that the vicar was spared a month of trips to Sainbury's, but then I always was a bit cynical...

Finally we reach "The Last Balloon". A more perfect finale would be hard to imagine, and given all the delights that have passed before it is even more astonishing that XTC managed to hold this one back so long. A gentle, melancholy waltz, "The Last Balloon" suggests to Mother Earth that since we've spent hundreds of years battering the crap out of the planet, she might be better off cancelling the post-nuclear evacuation and dropping the lot of us on our stupid, selfish heads. It's a fair point and although I have made it sound somewhat less moving than it actually is, this final tune is in many ways the epitome of what XTC have always stood for. Peace-loving men with respect for their surroundings and fellow humans may not be the most radical of social groups, but it's so refreshing to hear such honesty and weary resignation at a time when most pop stars are too scared to deviate one inch from the media-created zeitgeist (whatever the rat's cock that means). Perhaps this is why XTC seem destined never to truly break through into the mainstream; they're simply so good at what they do that the majority of people wouldn't be able to cope. After a diet of toenails and maggots, a top quality pie might be more than your digestive system can take, if you know what I mean.....

So it's a brilliant album. An astounding album. A big, spangly pile of glittering jewels touched by the hand of genius and thoroughly shafted by the gilt-edged penis of quality tunesmithery. If you love pop music then you owe it to yourself to hear this album. Mug a few children if you have to, but get yourself a copy. I can confidently predict that whether this makes XTC a shitload of money or not, there will be many people for whom this album remains a firm favourite for many years to come. Believe what I say, cybergeeks, for I have heard pop perfection, and its name is Apple Venus Volume One. I thank you.



[Thanks to Dominic Lawson]

The Globe and Mail
The Arts
Thursday, March 18, 1999
By Chris Dafoe


Rating: * * *

After a seven-year silence, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding return, sans guitarist Dave Gregory, in all their eccentric, cranky and brittle glory. Apple Venus Vol. 1 is the 'orchustic' (orchestral and acoustic) half of a two-volume set -- an electric album will follow -- and seems inspired by mid-to-late period Beatles, Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys, the peculiar joys of life in rural England and the bitterness of middle-aged heartbreak. Letting pop stars play with orchestras is usually an invitation to pompousness, but Partridge shows a light hand from the start, deftly criss-crossing plinking string lines and flowery horn figures on River of Orchids, a whimsical environmental call to arms. He revisits that theme in several other songs, while touching on love-gone-wrong in songs such as Your Dictionary and I Can't Own Her. While Partridge's voice is something of an acquired taste, his charms as a songwriter are undeniable, whether he's punning on the names of famous lovers in I'd Like That ('I wouldn't hector if you'd be Helen of Troy') or musing on the apocalypse in The Last Balloon. Moulding steps in for comic relief here and there, most successfully on Frivolous Tonight, a playful celebration of superficiality.

Copyright (c) 1999 by The Globe and Mail
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

La Salle University Collegian

collegian online       Entertainment       collegian online

XTC can lure its listeners with the promise of potential
By Michael Pelusi
Collegian Editor

If you've found yourself doubting the potential and potency of modern pop lately, you really need to hear the new XTC album.

On their latest album, Apple Venus Volume 1 (Idea/TVT), the fortysomething Britpop veterans return from a seven-year strike - during which the band struggled to break free from its contract with Virgin Records -to show all those cocky pop upstarts how it's done.

In the interim, the band had its hands full - the strike was followed by the arduous process of recording the new album. Things got so intense that lead guitarist/ keyboardist Dave Gregory quit the band halfway through recording, leaving XTC reduced to the duo of singer/guitarist Andy Partridge and singer/bassist Colin Moulding.

The brilliant if "difficult" Partridge, XTC's leader, also had a few kinks in his personal life: a divorce, an ear infection that rendered him deaf for a short time and prostrate troubles.

In response to such events, other musicians might have responded with something wholly angry, something reflecting pure bile and pent-up, embittered frustrations. Not this band.

With Apple Venus Volume 1, Partridge and Moulding have unleashed a gorgeous album, awash in lush orchestrations and gentle acoustic guitars. It resounds in both needling cynicism and glorious optimism. It reflects both middle-aged craziness and youthful enchantment.

In its first track alone, Apple Venus presents more musical ideas than most modern bands can fill with an album and these ideas are expressed on a song, "River of Orchids," that doesn't have any chords! Instead, "River of Orchids" builds up plucked violins, water droplets and brazen trumpets giving way to weaves of overdubbed Partridges exchanging melodic passages, calling for the extinction of the automobile. "The grass is always greener when it bursts up through concrete/Push your car from the road."

"River of Orchids" supports the suspicion that XTC didn't lose their knack during the strike; track three "Easter Theatre" cinches it. Playful bassoons and Partridge word games in the verses unfold to an uplifting chorus celebrating the life cycle. "If we'd all breathe in and blow away the smoke/we'd uphold her new life."

Of course, on this album, XTC flaunts their debt to '60s pop, as they have throughout much of their 22-year existence. Moulding's two contributions, "Fruit Nut" and the excellent "Frivolous Tonight," tip their hat to the Kinks, while Partridge's "Knights in Shining Karma" bears resemblance to more than one White Album-era Beatles song.

But while too many bands inspired by Messers L & M et al are content to merely litter their music with references in lieu of new ideas, XTC has always used the music that inspired them (not just the aforementioned but also Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath and West Side Story) as a groundwork. With it, they can start building something else, perhaps a little unsure of themselves, but soon enough they've hoisted up something grandly new, something only they could have pulled off.

How else do you explain "I'd Like That," where Partridge sings of newfound love, slapping his thighs in delight, exclaiming that time spent with his new girlfriend would make him "grow up really a really high thing/say, a sunflower?"

On "Harvest Festival," Partridge lets himself get carried away on memories of schoolboy crushes, propped along by chugging flutes and marching drums.

Andy Partridge is that classic British rock anomaly: highly literate, articulate and eccentric, yet idealistic enough to use his considerable verbal gifts to express his thoughts, no matter how simplistic they might seem, in no uncertain terms.

Perhaps that's what endeared XTC to American college students, when in 1986, they paid enough attention to Partridge's atheistic diatribe "Dear God" - a mere b-side at the time - that their American label added it to the band's then-current album, the pastoral masterwork Skylarking.

And, today, when Partridge spends considerable breath deriding something as simple as a car, it seems right. And on "Your Dictionary," one of the few new tracks that reveals the pain of what he's been going through in the past few years, Partridge returns to the acoustic bitterness of "Dear God," only this time the subject is his divorce. "S-L-A-P/Is that how you spell kiss?"

Apple Venus Volume 1's pure Englishness (and sparse use of trad rock items like electric guitars and drums) might not endear itself to the general public (XTC hopes to have the more electric Volume 2 out by late 1999-early 2000). But music lovers should take note that some sorely underrated pop masters have returned after too much time spent in limbo.

If they ever have to take another extended vacation, don't say you weren't warned.

News-Journal, Daytona Beach
March 17, 1999
Entertainment Writer

XTC, "Apple Venus," * 1/2    (retro pop gunk)

Usually, when a band is as weird as XTC, their production work lacks professionalism. But XTC has sold albums since 1972, counting name and cast changes, so they got plenty of money and studio time to craft odd, and only slightly charming, quirky songs.

The musicians don't do much more than badly rehash pop ideas of the 1960s and 1970s, inadvertantly mocking themselves, the Beatles and anyone else from Britain who mixed plucky orchestras with bubblegum keyboards.

Singer Andy Partridge once mused that after XTC's heyday in the early 1980s, Virgin Records kept XTC on as a tax deduction. Now, that's the unfortunate domain of TVT Records. It must have seemed a good bet for TVT to release XTC's first and best album in seven years.


Popadel utan märken av tiden

XTC: Apple Vinus

(Cooking Vinyl)

Tillbaka efter sju år frälser den engelska duon sina fans med elva nya, intrikata låtbyggen. De är som vanligt helt opåverkade av tidens sound och låter lika originella som någonsin.

Vare sig kompet är knäppande stråkar, pulserande gitarrer eller annat, dominerar de speciella melodierna. En musikalisk lindans där den ena oväntade ackordvändningen avlöser den andra utan att det hela flippar ut. Tyvärr finns som vanligt tillräckligt många spår som drar ned helhetsintrycket så att inte heller Apple Venus blir den klassiska, stora plattan XTC borde kunna göra. Då måste alla låtar vara lika bra som I'd like that, Greenman och Your dictionary. Med såna låtar försvarar XTC, hela 21 år efter debuten, sin plats i popvärldens finaste adel.


©1997 Västerbottens-Kuriren



XTC: Venus Apple Volume 1

Venus Apple
Idea/Cooking Vinyl
Distr.: MNW

Apropos XTC

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus # 2)

Yippie! Nytt XTC-album!

Dette er vårens - og ganske sikkert årets - mest ambisiøse pop-prosjekt. Om du har fulgt med en stund, lar du deg ganske sikkert ikke overraske av at den ansvarlige bærer navnet Andy Partridge. Hva tror du om ei pop-plate der kompet hovedsaklig består av live strykere og messingblåsere?

Ved første øreskast, "River Of Orchids", låter dette like mye samtidsmusikk som pop. Oppå et strikt organiset, men likevel relativt kaotisk komp, legger Andy Partridge et stykke kledelig, smått manisk stykke vokal. Det hele løses opp i "I'd Like That" - og kom ikke her og fortell meg at ikke bassisten i The Beatles får tårer i øya når han hører dette!

Og da gjør vi ferdig vokalen, først som sist. Han likner virkelig ganske så mye både på Sting, Paul McCartney og Nik Kershaw. Likevel er Andy Partridge overlegen.

Som låt nummer tre ligger de lekreste få minutter popmusikk jeg har hørt på svært, svært lenge. Kompet er igjen stryk og disharmonisk blås - men så løser det seg bare opp! - opp!! - opp!!! Hvilket refreng! Kjenner du følelsen; å komme rundt en sving, etter en lengre bil- eller sykkeltur - for så, plutselig, å skue ned på en kvitthvit, gresk landsby... med havn og fiskerestauranter og iskald hvitvin... Sånn, akkurat sånn - er "Easter Theater".

I det hele tatt. "Apple Venus Volume 1" er så full av lekre detaljer at det er til å... ja - du skal vite at Partridge's kompanjong Colin Mouldings to bidrag ligger hakk i hæl hva kvalitet angår.

Jeg anbefaler deg på det varmeste å kjøpe denne plata. Kjenner du noen som fortjener en oppmerksomhet, eller har du kanskje bare en god venn du vil glede? Om den eller de ikke setter pris på hva du har under armen, har du i det minste fått konstatert hvor dårlig musikksmak de har.

Dem om det, men de får - ufortjent nok - én sjans til. "Apple Venus Volume 2" er allerede meldt.

Arild Rønsen

March 16, 1999


Het Parool (Amsterdam)
Dinsdag 16 maart 1999

Apple Venus Volume I


XTC: Apple Venus Volume I (Cooking Vinyl)

De Britse groep XTC kwam in dezelfde tijd, aan het einde van de jaren zeventig, op als The Police en Joe Jackson, maar moest met heel wat minder succes genoegen nemen. Prachtige singles als Making plans for Nigel en Senses working overtime bleven ook in Nederland ergens helemaal onder in de hitparade hangen. En dat was behoorlijk ten onrechte, zo kan ook nu nog worden vastgesteld. Terwijl van de muziek van The Police en Joe Jackson de uiterste houdbaarheidsdatum allang is overschreden, kun je vandaag de dag nog met alle fatsoen een oudje van XTC opzetten: klinkt nog even fris en vrolijk als toen.

Ook zoiets: terwijl The Police al heel lang geleden ontbonden is en die Jackson waarschijnlijk ergens op een Stille Zuidzee-eiland zijn geld zit te stellen, gaat XTC onverdroten door met muziekmaken. Vooruit, tussen de nieuweling en hun voorlaatste cd gaapt een gat van niet minder dan zeven jaar, maar dat heeft alles te maken met businessperikelen. Eindelijk vrij van wat de groepsleden een wurgcontract met de firma Virgin noemden, presenteren zij nu Apple Venus Volume I. De in die titel schuilende belofte wordt snel waargemaakt: nog dit jaar verschijnt in de herfst Apple Venus Volume II. Dat we niet denken dat ze de afgelopen zeven jaar uit hun neus hebben zitten peuteren.

Veel is er hetzelfde gebleven bij XTC. Nog altijd wordt de dienst er uitgemaakt door Colin Moulding en vooral Andy Partridge. Nog altijd ook doen ze in muziek die weliswaar prettig en gemakkelijk in het gehoor ligt, maar die wel zeer geraffineerd in elkaar zit. Het grote verschil met vroeger is dat de muziek van XTC nagenoeg niets meer te maken heeft met new wave, het genre waar de groep bij gebrek aan beter altijd bij werd ingedeeld. Apple Venus Volume I staat vol met het soort akoestische en orkestrale muziek waar de Beatles en de Beach Boys in het tweede deel van hun carriére ook zo dol op waren. Gemeen met die twee groepen heeft XTC ook de obsessie voor een perfecte sound. Alleen al die vallende druppel water waarmee Apple Venus opent zal de groep een zee aan studiotijd hebben gekost.

Soms klinkt de plaat zelfs zo perfect, dat een zekere afstandelijkheid het gevolg is. Je voelt je als luisteraar een beetje de bezoeker van een audio-museum: je mag alles horen, maar nergens met je handjes aan zitten. Als XTC erin slaagt die distantie te doorbreken, wordt Apple Venus Volume II echt een wereldplaat.


[Thanks to Jan Bletz]

Sacramento Bee
Entertainment News
March 14, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1
* * 1/2

Anyone expecting to hear XTC's famous singsong choruses on their new recording, "Apple Venus Volume 1," should heed the caveat on the album's liner notes: "Do What You Will But Harm None -- You May Like Apple Venus Volume 2." The British rock band is still inventive with vocal melodies and instrumentation, which are said to be in more abundance on the Vol. 2 follow-up. But it sounds like frontman Andy Partridge has mostly eschewed his Beatles influences for the minimalist compositions of Steve Reich.

The result is a sound some are calling "orchoustic," with "Apple Venus'" mix of strummy guitars and pop vocals paired with discordant strings and odd time signatures. In particular, "River of Orchids" features the pitter-patter of staccato violin notes that sound like raindrops falling, while "Easter Theatre" showcases oboes and dissonant horns.

"I'd Like That" is the closest the group gets to its familiar pop rock sound, with the song's clever twists on Beatles-ish vocal stylings. "Harvest Festival" also has nods to the Fab Four, with flutelike sounds much like those heard on "The Fool on the Hill."

The album does have intriguing orchestration and playful lyrics, but the often dissonant string sounds probably won't intrigue non-XTC fans.

Rating key: 4 stars=Excellent, 3 stars=Good, 2 stars=Fair, 1 star=Poor, 'No stars'=Offensive.
CHRIS MACIAS is The Bee's pop music writer.

[Thanks to Michele Dreamsmoke]

Vancouver Sun
March 13, 1999

XTC Apple Venus 1 * * * *

It may take a few rotations on the CD player, but ultimately you'll come to relish the quirky arrangements and pop orchestrations of XTC's newest album, the first of a two-volume series.

By the third or fourth listen, reality sets in that not only is this album very good, ti's a cleverly masterminded and intricate work that is by turns lush and restrained.

Remaining XTC members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding certainly haven't abandoned their fixation on the Beatles, most evident on Frivolous Tonight and Harvest Festival, two songs that Sir Paul could have drafted during his creatively experimental period circa 1967. Other standouts include the sweetly melodious I'd Like That and subtly Indian-flavoured Greenman.

This is the first studio album in seven years from the 25 year old band, which hasn't performed live since the 1980's. For fans, it's an exciting output, to be followed up by a second volume that's rumoured to be composed of the harder, rock-oriented tracks. So far, it's a set worth owning.

Kerry Gold

[Thanks to John Greaves]

Fredag 12. mars 1999

Stoslagent gjenhør

Et av de beste britiske popbandene noen sinne er tilbake med sin første plate på syv år, grunnet streik og krig med sitt tidligere plateselskap.

Apple Venus Volume 1

I perioden 1978-92 gikk de fra punkpop til sofistikert popmusikk. Her låter de mer ambisiøse enn noen gang, med orkestrerte sanger som låter et stykke unna «This is Pop». Saken er imidlertid fortsatt pop. I XTC-land  plasserer plata seg et sted mellom deres beste album «Skylarking» og den ambisiøse, men noe ujevne «English Settlement». Med unntak av den verbalt råe «Your Dictionary» er det en voksen, melankolsk grunntone over plata. Colin Moulding har  blitt gropere i rø sten og er dessverre bare tilgodesett med to sanger. Til gjengjeld er de gode. Det låter som om han har vært i Kinks-land i det siste, mens Andy Partridge svever egenartet mellom Brian Wilson, psykedelia og orkestrert jazz. Det er godt å ha dem tilbake, tett opp mot sitt aller beste, samtidig som ingen kan  beskylde dem for å gjenta seg selv.


[Thanks to Espen Stemland]

Dayton Daily News
Friday, March 12, 1999
BOB UNDERWOOD, Dayton Daily News


A working band must hate hearing its name followed by the phrase 'Where are they now?' VH1's show Where Are They Now? recently included a segment on XTC. However humbling, exposure is exposure, and this cult band needs it - especially after not releasing new music for seven years while on strike against its old record label.

As oblivion knocked, Englishmen Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding stockpiled tunes. The 11 released on Apple Venus show the risks when songwriting perfectionists get time on their hands: The new XTC ditches electric guitars for baroque orchestral pop. Some songs try too hard, but others soar higher than a freed handful of helium balloons.

The artsy direction helped drive guitarist Dave Gregory to quit the group, now a duo, albeit one using an orchestra.

Like many a stubborn musical genius, Partridge can grate, as on the kiss-off Your Dictionary. Bass player Moulding, whose tunes are more approachable, only gets two of his on the CD. But Partridge redeems himself: The last three songs - I Can't Own Her, Harvest Festival and The Last Balloon - are perfect ballads.

Fans wanting XTC's rock side must wait about six months for Apple Venus Volume 2.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Philadelphia Inquirer
March 11, 1999
Reviews of new pop, country/roots, jazz and classical releases

XTC “Apple Venus Volume One” (TVT * * * )

The '90s have not been kind to XTC. For surviving members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, it has been a decade marred by illness, marital collapse, and the bitter departure of longtime guitarist Dave Gregory. Not to mention the five years the band refused to record a note for its old record company, in protest of its contract.

With all those lemons, Partridge and Moulding have fashioned a tart lemonade. Expanding on the precious baroque-pop of the last few albums, “Apple Venus Volume One” is an orchestral parade of sumptuous strings, richly rendered harmonies, and pastoral melody. In short, XTC has mastered the emerald-pasture whimsy that is the birthright of the British - imagine the Moody Blues scoring “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Even the most sour sentiments are delivered with a certain Beatlesque sweetness, proving, if nothing else, that art need not be as messy as life.

-Jonathan Valania

© 1999, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Detroit Free Press
March 11, 1999
What's new in record racks

XTC “Apple Venus Volume 1” (TVT) * * * *

Andy Partridge has always looked on the baroque side of life. As his British peers revered the '60s pop elders for their concise crunch, Partridge seemed more intrigued by the cinematic, psychedelic bents of the Beatles-Byrds-Kinks gang. When XTC - a college-cult fave that never broke big here or at home - bubbled up in the 1980s, Partridge and partner Colin Moulding did best when the arrangements became more complex, the lyrics more ironic, the production more lush.

XTC is still a college-cult fave - it's just that it's been seven years since we've seen anything new from Partridge and Moulding, who have ditched all supporting players and embarked on their most luxurious art-pop journey yet. “Apple Venus Volume 1” is far, far removed from the jittery guitar rock that marked XTC's early work. Oh, it's a distant cousin: Partridge still writes his lines with oh-so-British wryness, the melodies are still sweeping and contagious, and a strange melancholy still courses underneath it all. But the duo has orchestrated - quite literally - an 11-track effort more colorful and pastoral than anything it has made to date.

Leadoff cut “River of Orchids” aptly sets the stage, gorgeous title and all: Opening with more than a minute of placid dripping water and plucked strings, the song blossoms into a spiral of staccato horn punches and intertwined vocals, a simple and effective soundstage. Next up is “I'd Like That,” which finds Partridge romping in a whimsical Paul McCartney playground somewhere between “I Will” and “When I'm Sixty-Four.”

The pace keeps up from there, an organically knit blend of fanciful, pastoral drama. Percussion is light - only the exotic “Greenman” features anything resembling syncopated drumming - and the pulse here is created by the brass and strings that drench most of the album. You might call this Partridge's revenge: Several years ago he lost out to Randy Newman for the chance to score the film “James and the Giant Peach.” Much of this album, at least sonically, sounds like what Disney missed out on.

Partridge is 45 now, and his pen may not be a sword anymore; indeed, “Your Dictionary,” a smirking scolding of an ex-lover, falls flat with some of the weakest lyrics he's put on record. Still, by the time you get to the closing tracks - the utterly lovely “Harvest Festival” and forlorn “The Last Balloon” - you'll feel quite confident that XTC has created something that stands up against anything in the group's two-decade catalog, and stands out among any music being made today.

-Brian McCollum

© 1999, Detroit Free Press

The College Hill Independent
For The Record

The Return of Peter Pumpkinhead

Apple Venus Vol. 1


Best known for crafting such original songs as "Dear God" and "Making Plans for Nigel," English veterans XTC certainly have a grasp on the offbeat. Emerging in the same post-punk storm as the Psychedelic Furs and the Smiths, XTC share their secret to greatness with these bands - literate, tense pop songs that avoid the pitfalls of the pop genre by avoiding the obvious. This did XTC well in the 80's, perhaps the decade of offbeat pop, as the band gained a moderate amount of success, capped by XTC mastermind Andy Partridge's indictment of a higher power in the excellent, bitter "Dear God."

As the musical tides have shifted, however, XTC's relevance in a decade of grunge and hip-hop has been called into question. How Partridge's literate pop will survive in a decade hostile to the genre is still anyone's guess. This question should have been answered a long time ago, but due to XTC's seven-year strike against its record company, Apple Venus Volume 1 is only the second XTC to be released in the 90's (The album Nonsuch was released in 1992). And so now, with the band once again stable and the planned release ofVolume 2 later this year, XTC has declared itself ready for judgment.

Their case, Apple Venus, is a dangerous opening argument. A shotgun wedding of Partridge's grief following his divorce, and the band's penchant for show tunes, the album is certainly in the XTC tradition, but is going to be a hard sell for the average music consumer. XTC, however, have consistently cared for artistic success over commercial success, and Apple Venus is an artistic success. Mostly beautiful, only occasionally mediocre, Apple Venus is the kind of schizophrenic artistic statement that XTC has long made.

Opening the album with the sounds of raindrops and plucked strings, the lead track "River of Orchids" soon degenerates into a wall of atonal trumpet and Partridge's pleading, caustic vocals. This marriage of orchestral beauty and Partridge's pained non-melody somehow works, and sets the pace, and a high standard, for the rest of the album. This standard is preserved in songs such as the album's best track, "Easter Theatre," in which Partridge creates a world of fleeting romance and impending doom, reflecting recent events in his personal life. Partridge's pathos is buoyed by lush strings and brass, creating beautiful yet difficult songs.

These songs create a certain emotional heaviness that necessitates some sort of release. Only songs as silly as XTC's experiments in show tunes could do the trick. These songs are provided in a block midway through the album, mainly by Partridge's partner, Colin Moulding. Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" is a campy toast to a night of drinking and other laddish behavior, while "Fruit Nut" is about, well, a fruit nut. Both rely on the London Session orchestra for the proper cinematic grounding, and provide welcome contrast to Partridge's grief.

Partridge tries his hand at the show tune game as well, following Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" with his own "Greenman," but fails to stay as true as Moulding. Partridge seems incapable of escaping his domestic troubles. This becomes apparent as "Greenman" gives way to the opening lines of "Your Dictionary." "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary," Partridge asks of his estranged wife. This is the album's most bitter moment and the ultimate statement of Partridge's pain.

The final three songs, "I Can't Own Her," "Harvest Festival," and "The Last Balloon" resemble the second side of the Beatles' Abbey Road, as they maintain a certain theatrical quality reminiscent of that album.

Apple Venus is far from perfect, however. The album's first single, "I'd Like That" is a mediocre pop number, pleasant but lacking in substance. "Knights in Shining Karma" recalls sixties folk at its worst and most bland. Thankfully, these songs are the exception. Apple Venus Volume 1 is on the whole a challenging, complex and rewarding album. Whether it will maintain XTC's relevance is doubtful. This decade just isn't ready for "Fruit Nut." It might take Apple Venus Volume 2, which Partridge has promised will be more rock-oriented, to offer XTC any hope of future commercial success. This, again, is doubtful. In terms of sheer quality, however, Apple Venus Volume 1 certainly maintains the XTC tradition.

- Robert Newcomb

The Argosy
March 11, 1999
CD Reviews

Apple Venus


reviewed by Trevor Clements

Upon first popping XTC's Apple Venus into my CD player I was pleased with what struck my ears: a very creative display of sounds, audio stimulation of my cerebellum. The band XTC are basically listed as two members, Colin Moulding on vocals and bass and Andy Partridge (probably no relation to The Partridge Family).

These guys are not hacks and they don't keep the company of hacks either. The songs were really well put together and often had the help of some really proficient hired guns, who lent their talents to the band in the form of another guitar, piano, keyboards, and drums. I was also very pleased with the tasteful trumpet and flugal horn work best heard on "The Last Balloon", which is aptly placed as the last song. These hired guns make the sound full but they didn't stop there; the band also employed the services of the London Session Orchestra and a good time was had by all, myself included.

I could list some of the songs I like the most, although I honestly enjoyed them all; nevertheless, check out "Green Man", "Fruit Nut", "I Can't Own Her", and "The Last Balloon". No, scratch that; listen to the whole CD, because this is not one of those CDs from which you only get one interesting song. Immerse yourself; that's an order.

At times I had a Beatles feeling and others maybe a Sting thing: very good melodies, catchy, original, enlightening at times. What more can I offer you but maybe a few examples of lyrics that got stuck in my ear: "So I'm tending my fruit and I don't give a hoot because it keeps me sane... So I'm tending my fruit, tending my fruit, ah you've got to have a hobby; a man must have a shed to keep him sane..," from "Fruit Nut", and "H.A.T.E., is that how you spell love in your dictionary?... F.U.C.K., is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?.. There are no words for me in your dictionary," from "Your Dictionary".

All in all this is about an eight or nine out of ten in my humble quasi-hacker opinion, a great listen for an introspective evening alone or even with small company. Maybe next time I review a CD I'll get a bad one so I can bitch a little but not this time, so I will leave all with words of wisdom found printed on the back CD jacket: "Do what you will but harm none." Bye-Bye.

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Le Soir (Belgium)
mercredi 10 mars 1999

«Apple Venus vol. I»

Enfin débarrassés de leurs problèmes contractuels avec Virgin, Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding peuvent sortir un nouvel album de XTC. Le temps est passé? Et alors, ça n'empêche nullement nos deux Anglais de livrer de ces chanson pop décalées dont ils avaient le secret. Les moyens n'ont fort heureusement pas manqué pour garnir tout cela des arrangements pour cordes du London Session Orchestra sous la direction de Gavin Wright. Ces chansons (un volume II suit) ont été entassées durant les longues années où XTC fut muselé contractuellement. Il s'agit de réelles «lost tapes» ressemblant comme deux gouttes d'eau à ce qu'on connaît du groupe né il y a bientôt vingt-cinq ans. . . (T.C.) -- Cooking Vinyl/Bertus.

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

Shake It Up!
March 1999

Apple Venus Vol. I

While many would consider it unusual for XTC to return from such a long hiatus with this collection of delicate acoustic and orchestral arrangements, it is consistent with XTC's agenda. They have indeed dabbled in such experimentation before, and wear their achievements quite convincingly. Apple Venus Vol. I doesn't detract from this at all. In fact, it deserves recognition as a bold move even from a band that has never "played it safe".

Their more trademark electric pop sound would have been a better re-introduction to the world of music, if only to satisfy the many who have done without for so long. Nevertheless, Apple Venus Vol. I is indelibly stamped with Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's pop smarts.

The most successful track here is the opening River Of Orchids. Andy Partridge manages to deliver a very "XTC" song wrapped in a truly dynamic interplay between the percussive strings and the stuttering brass. The addition of an outstanding vocal arrangement makes it all the better. A more traditional approach is favoured on the lovely Easter Theatre to great success as well. It's only on the almost-unlistenable Your Dictionary, a track that epitomizes bitterness a little too well, that the string arrangement become merely ordinary. There are a few such themes of loss, betrayal, and acceptance here due to the widely known events in the 1990's in Andy Partridge's life. A few moments probably work better as therapy than as music.

The lilting folk of I'd Like That and the upbeat bounce of Moulding's Frivolous Tonight will ring familiar with most fans of mid-to-late period XTC. The evocative Greenman could very easily have appeared on any CD from Skylarking to Nonsuch and also would have taken a rightful place as a standout. There's even a chance to let a delicate electric guitar have the spotlight, accompanying Partridge on the lullaby Knights In Shining Karma.

Apple Venus Vol. I does not announce XTC's return with the proverbial "bang". Keep in mind, though, that some things are best said with a whisper.

Claudio Sossi

[Thanks to Dan Wiencek]

ORBIT, Detroit
March 1999
by Liz Copeland

Apple Venus Volume 1 XTC
TVT Records

After a proper sabbatical period of seven years, it would seem as if never has a group made such a triumphant return. Perhaps this has something to do with the whirling string and wind section that often replaces the guitar, as on the majestic opening cut, "River of Orchids". It could also be accounted for in the XTC trademark of mainly innocent, fairytale like lyrics that could convince you that the group, now paired down to Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, are not - and never have been - from this world. Only occasionly do hints of reality pop in, as with the cynicidal [sic] "Your Dictionary". With a close eye on production, and a love of fantastic romps of make-believe, we've no choice but to roll out the red carpet for this first installment in a two-volume series presented by these two mellifluous pop princes of all time.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Micheal Stone]

April 1999

Blondie: No Exit (Rating: 3)
XTC: Apple Venus Volume 1 (Rating: 8)

As the '70s hardened into the '80s, Blondie and XTC operated as unsmiling nostalgists, gung-ho to reinvent, dammit, yet still fond of '60s pop pleasures. In New York, Blondie cherished faded teenage trash and girl-group flintiness - anything untouched by singer songwriterdom, or boogie, or Boston. They welcomed technology, increasingly insisting that you could rock and still dig drum loops. In the U.K., meanwhile, XTC cherished, ah, the Beatles. Yet Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding remained too alive and restless to content - or reward - themselves with life as Crowded House.

Now, after a few pop lifetimes in Blondie's case and seven years in XTC's, both groups return with new albums. Blondie's goes wrong and XTC's, which brings on orchestral arrangements, doesn't. It's like this:

No Exit stalks a real Blondie vibe, man; it's an album for people who cherish the band's earliest, rawest work. It strands Deborah Harry in some notion of a kickass, subway-riding NYC band that Blondie, with its cool constructions, rarely - if ever - was. The arrangements, intentionally inelegant, bite, so you don't know what to do with Harry when she delivers lines like "I'm a multicellular individual" on "Screaming Skin." The unmemorable songs are awkwardly constucted, with thudding drum tracks that Giorgio Moroder wouldn't use to scare away crows. Toward the end, Blondie turns bluesy and country for two songs - a relief - and "Divine," coming out of nowhere, is a well-written gloss on the perception, furthered by complicated albums like Eat to the Beat and Autoamerican, of Blondie as somehow blessed. On too much of No Exit, though, they just aren't.

XTC open Apple Venus Volume 1 bracingly with "River of Orchids," a surrealistic float of strings and brass with maze-like vocal melodies and countermelodies that crest on the line "Want to walk into London on my hands one day." Throughout the rest of the album, Partridge and Moulding, leaving behind their most prepackaged upside-down Beatlisms, triumph with deep cleverness like "Your Dictionary," a cool-headed revenge tune with an appropriately cold and cutting folk-rock character, and "I'd Like That," which flows with super-literate wit into some spectacular thigh- and knee-slapping. "Stage left, stage right," they coo on the top-notch Beach Boys music hall of "Easter Theater [sic]." XTC sound fresh and unwired. Unlike Blondie, they go at their later work the way Elvis Presley and Depeche Mode did: They know that backtracking usually sounds dubious. --James Hunter

© 1999 Vibe/Spin Ventures. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Ned Frey]

March 9, 1999

XTC. Apple Venus Volume 1 (Cooking Vinyl/Bertus)

Na zes jaar zwijgen blijken XTC-survivors Partridge en Moulding het schrijven van intelligente popsongs niet te zijn verleerd. Ze klinken barok en gedistingeerd, maar nergens over de top. 'Kleurrijke pop.' (OOR 5)

[Thanks to André de Koning]

The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ
Tuesday, March 9, 1999
Star-Ledger Staff

"Apple Venus Volume 1" XTC (TVT) * * * 1/2

In 1982, British new-wave band XTC announced it would stop touring and concentrate on its studio efforts. A decade later, it temporarily stopped recording in order to extricate itself from an undesirable record contract. Now it emerges on a new label, with plans to release the many new songs band members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding wrote during their leave of absence in two volumes: this collection of gentle, orchestrally arranged songs, and a harder rocking collection, due out by the end of the year.

This is one of the band's best albums, buoyed by classic pop melodies and inventive instrumental touches, full of dreamy ballads but grounded by the harsh put-down, "Your Dictionary" ("H-a-t-e, is that how you spell 'love' in your dictionary?/K-i-c-k, pronounced as kind," goes one typical line). Recalling the best moments of its 1986 commercial breakthrough "Skylarking," the group consistently rejects the overly wordy lyrics and fussy arrangements that have hurt some of its other albums. These songs are full of surprises, but there's a graceful, unforced flow here that should make XTC fans ecstatic. * Jay Lustig

Copyright Newark Morning Ledger Co., 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Austin American-Statesman
Tuesday, March 9, 1999

"Apple Venus Volume 1"
TVT/Idea Records
* * *

On their first studio album since 1992, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, the two remaining members of the British band XTC, frolic through a lush, mannered, orchestrally-minded acoustic set that showcases their quirky pop to melodious effect. From its layered beginning to its smoky jazz ending, "Apple Venus Volume 1" frames itself beautifully. The album's first single, "I'd Like That," appealingly echoes the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice," while Moulding's Beatlesque "Frivolous Tonight" is the kind of vaudeville-flavored tune Paul McCartney might have written had his "Magical Mystery Tour" concept been more coherent. And "Your Dictionary" serves as a reminder of just how biting Partridge can be ("S-L-A-P/Is that how you spell 'kiss' in your dictionary?"); it's every bit as venomous as "Dear God" from 1987's "Skylarking" album.

As the title of this collection implies, there will be an "Apple Venus Volume 2." It's due out in the fall, and advance word is that it's plugged in. A little rock added to the pop could complete XTC's comeback and give fans a solid two-disc set from one of the smartest bands of the past 20 years.

-- Jody Seaborn, American-Statesman Staff

Copyright 1999 Austin American-Statesman
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Music Monitor
March 8, 1999

Apple Venus Volume One

by Wes Long

Andy Partridge, XTC's somewhat reluctant frontman, once said of their 1983 release Mummer, the band's first after his debilitating stage fright forced the non-stop touring machine to a grinding halt, "out of the sour came forth the sweet." This sentiment holds true for XTC's first release in seven years, Apple Venus Volume 1, a dizzyingly splendid amalgam of string-arranged and acoustic pop, which Andy dubs "orchustic," born of equally troubled times: Andy's bitter divorce, an ear infection which left him temporarily deaf, and a five year strike against Virgin.

The songs themselves, though a bit of a departure from 1992's accolade-studded Nonsuch, are classic XTC. With the exception of the opening track, "River of Orchids," a wondrous and endlessly cycling loop of giddy abandon that would easily feel at home on a Philip Glass recording, all of the old influences are intact. Being compared to Brian Wilson and The Beatles is a bit of a double-edged sword, yet, when wielded by "Knights In Shining Karma," a "Julia"/"Blackbird"-like jewel, XTC successfully recalls the past without repeating it.

Andy continuously wears his lyrical heart on his sleeve, and the majority of his songs bear the birthmark of their father's experiences. "Your Dictionary" is, according to Partridge, "a little 'Dear God' for the divorcee." The sumptuous, and far less acidic, "Easter Theatre," and "Harvest Festival," show Partridge to be in top form.

Bassist Colin Moulding's songs need merely to cleanse the pallet between extra helpings of Partridge; yet, as usual, he delivers much more than that. His two offerings are light-hearted, somehow cinematic gems, which lift the spirit and toe with equal ease.

Accompanied by the recent biography Song Stories, and Transistor Blast, a box set of past audio goodies, Apple Venus Volume 1 stands proudly with brilliant banners unfurled and trumpets brightly heralding XTC's triumphant return from a self-imposed musical hiatus. In "Frivolous Tonight" Colin sings, "This could be our finest hour," and it is.

[Thanks to Wes Long]

Toronto Sun
Music Reviews

Sunday, March 7, 1999

XTC doing fine in '99

By JANE STEVENSON -- Toronto Sun


Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, the two remaining members of this veteran British pop band with a massive cult following, have returned after a seven-year hiatus with a whopper of an album.

Yes, it's bizarre, quirky, even challenging, but that doesn't mean it isn't any good.

On the contrary.

After the attention-getting opening salvo of River Of Orchids -- a Latin-tinged, trumpet-laden, symphonic wonder -- XTC braintrust Partridge, who wrote nine of the 11 songs, moves straight into Paul McCartney territory. On the pleasing acoustic track I'd Like That, he sounds remarkably like "the cute Beatle" and adds some neat hand clapping at the end of the tune.

The same "McCartney effect" can be heard on the sombre Knights In Shining Karma, the acidic number Your Dictionary (about Partridge's nasty divorce), and Harvest Festival.

For the most part, however, this is a collection bursting with intriguing orchestral pop with plenty of brass, violins and woodwinds on songs like Easter Theatre, Frivolous Tonight and Fruit Nut.

They all sound like show tunes more than anything else, which I mean in a good way, and Partridge has admitted as much.

Expect a Vol. II collection later this year, with more amplification.

In the meantime, the long recording process of Vol. 1 meant the exit of longtime XTC guitarist Dave Gregory and producer Haydn Bendall.

Not that it appears to have left singer-guitarist Partridge and bassist Moulding any the worse for wear.

Great, solid effort from XTC.

* * * *

[Thanks to David Veitch]

The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
Sunday, March 7, 1999
Arts & Entertainment
On the Record
Where were you in '82?

In 1982, Ronald Reagan was barely into his first term as president. Michael Jordan was a freshman at the University of North Carolina, Marilyn Manson was in junior high, LeAnn Rimes was in diapers. Two-thirds of Hanson was not yet born. Cable television and home computers were still rare, and people bought their music on large pieces of plastic called "vinyl records."

1982 was also the year that Blondie, by far the most successful of the New York CBGB's punk bands, saw its string of hits end and broke up. Halfway across the continent, meanwhile, the Replacements were taking their hometown of Minneapolis by storm with a record called "The Replacements Stink." And across the Atlantic Ocean, XTC was confirming its status as new wave's answer to Steely Dan with the sprawling "English Settlement."

Nearly two decades later, all three acts are back in truncated form. Blondie has reunited for its first album in 17 years with all its key players aboard (although two former members who were left out have filed a $1 million lawsuit). In a further Steely Dan parallel, XTC is down to the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, and the act has just released its first album in seven years. And while the Replacements are long gone, Paul Westerberg is still trying to live up to - or perhaps live down - his former band's legacy.

On paper, at least, the Blondie reunion seems promising, because this band never had any notions of "authenticity" to begin with. Blondie was a punk-era pop band that had its biggest successes with dilettante-ish genre experiments such as rap, Eurodisco and worldbeat ska. Derivative and proudly fake, Blondie was nevertheless trail-blazing, reclaiming a measure of dignity for the sorely underrated era of trashy girl groups. By now, however, Garbage and Bjork have taken the formula lots further than Blondie ever did.

Which makes Blondie's sudden reappearance rather dubious, given the overwhelming mediocrity of its reunion effort, "No Exit" (Beyond/BMG Records). There's simply no reason for this album to exist beyond fattening some bank accounts. Too many of the songs are flat and unmemorable, proceeding at a dull thud. The songs that manage to stand out do so for all the wrong reasons - the awkward countrypolitan fiddles and mandolins on "The Dream's Lost on Me" (Blondie goes alternative country?), the bad lounge jazz of "Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room" (sorry, folks, the swing revival was last year), the beyond-lame title track (based on a feeble rearrangement of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor").

About the lone bright spot is the single "Maria," a glorious ode to infatuation written by keyboard player Jimmy Destri. With Debbie Harry in full crush and a soaring chorus, it's a perfect melding of vibe, voice and song - right down to the vintage Blondie gender-bending.

It's also only one song out of 14.

* * *

Herky-jerky no more:

XTC hasn't been heard from since 1992, after going on strike against its former label. The standoff ended with XTC signing to TVT Records (the label that is also home to Raleigh's Connells), which has released "Apple Venus Volume 1." Anticipation for this album was so high that prerelease review copies were going for $80 on the eBay online auction service last month. That has always been the XTC conundrum - the most obsessive, hyper-devoted fans anyone could ask for, just not enough of 'em.

"Apple Venus" is unlikely to expand XTC's audience much, but it's pleasant listening nevertheless. By now, the band's innate high-strung herky-jerkiness has been almost entirely subsumed in layered studio gloss. The mostly acoustic "Apple Venus" has strings, brass and plenty of the fussy detail that has become an XTC trademark.

Yes, Partridge and Moulding are still too clever for their own good, writing songs with such titles as "Knights in Shining Karma." And the bile-filled "Your Dictionary" is a song Partridge will regret someday (probably the next time he hears from his former wife's lawyer). All the familiar reference points and flourishes are in place - the "I Am the Walrus" throb to "Easter Theatre," Kinks-style showtimes, the most precise Beach Boys evocations this side of the High Llamas.

Fortunately, you can still hear actual human hearts beating beneath the affectations, especially the vaudeville sing-along "Frivolous Tonight." The best moments on "Apple Venus" are the low-tech ones, such as Andy Partridge keeping time on "I'd Like That" by drumming on his knees. For a confirmed couple of pop eggheads like XTC, it doesn't get much homier than that.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Friday, March 5, 1999 (Volume 21, Number 29)
New Revolutions

XTC - Apple Venus Volume 1

TVT Records

by Frank Yang
special to Imprint

It's been a bad decade for XTC. After 1992's excellent Nonsuch, Andy Partridge and company became embroiled in a drawn-out battle with their record label, Virgin, which essentially saw the band go on strike until they were released from their contract. To their fans, the band essentially vanished without a trace. The only releases over the next six years were a greatest hits package, tribute album and box set of rarities — usually indicators that a band has gone the way of the dodo. Mercifully though, this is not the case. Despite the departure of long-time guitarist Dave Gregory, XTC (now just Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding) have finally returned from exile — and they've brought gifts.

Fresh from the winter of their discontent, Apple Venus Volume 1 is the sound of XTC's springtime rebirth. Ebullient opening tracks like "Easter Theatre" and "I'd Like That" carry the listener into an eternal, idyllic summer, where the afternoons are warm and last forever. Even the venomous "Your Dictionary" (a shot at Partridge's ex-wife) is imbued with an irrepressible buoyancy. Album closers "Harvest Festival" and "The Last Balloon" capture the very essence of autumn forever on tape.

XTC have had seven years to plan this record, and the preparation shows — there is not a single misstep here. For it's entire 50-minute running time, Apple Venus ranges from the gorgeous to the sublime.

Listening to this record, it's hard to believe this is the same band that crafted such angular, new-wave pop gems as "Making Plans For Nigel" and "Senses Working Overtime." There's almost no electric guitar to be found here — the songs are heavily orchestrated with strings, horns and piano and are beautifully arranged. Since abandoning touring over 15 years ago, XTC have become masters of the studio and their proficiency shows here. Apple Venus is a lush, exhilarating listening experience. Hardly a conventional pop record to be sure, but Brian Wilson had some unconventional ideas thirty years ago too.

Words are inadequate for describing this record. XTC conjure up the spirit of the Beatles in a way that Oasis will never, ever comprehend. Messrs. Partridge and Moulding will also take a shot at the guitar-rock crown later this year with the release of Apple Venus Volume 2, a more conventional electric record.

If Volume 2 is anywhere near the masterpiece that Volume 1 is, XTC will have somehow managed to release both their Sgt. Pepper and Revolver in a matter of months, and the world will be a better place for it. Anyone who loves good music should own this record — it's as simple as that. If the only two CDs you own are Pet Sounds and Abbey Road, buy Apple Venus Volume 1. You will understand.

Denver Rocky Mountain News
Friday, March 5, 1999

Unlike other '80s acts who took time off and are launching comebacks, XTC's seven-year exile wasn't entirely by choice. But the band is back and sounds like it used its layoff well on Apple Venus Volume 1 (TVT).

After the release of 1992's Nonsuch, England's XTC showed its displeasure for Virgin Records' lackadaisical support by refusing to fulfill its contract and record for the imprint. Lengthy legal hassles kept the group out of the record stores but not the studio, and Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding took the time to make a grand, orchestral album filled with sweet melodies and subtle hooks.

Always willing to wear their Beatles influences on their sleeves, the two songwriters sound like the Fab Four at their most experimental.

The opening track, River of Orchids, starts with water drops before gradually opening up into three intertwining melodies played by plucked violins and syncopated horns. Easter Theatre forges the duo's superb harmonies with a lush string section, synthesizers, horns and odd breaks that set up a sweeping chorus. Greenman is XTC at its eclectic best, mixing a plucky Middle Eastern vibe with strings and a singsong chorus.

It's not all soothing and pretty: Partridge uses Your Dictionary as anger therapy for a bitter divorce, asking whether "kiss is spelled S-L-A-P" and whether friend is spelled like another word that begins with "F."

If it's more guitar and electric you're looking for, XTC will release Apple Venus Volume 2 later this year and promises it will have a sharper edge. For now, Volume One shows that the group didn't lose a step waiting out its contract dispute.
Grade: B+

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Friday, March 5, 1999
'Cuddly, little pink hand grenades'
Wayne Bledsoe

It was a disappearing act that no one wanted to see.

In 1992, after the release of XTC's popular album "Nonsuch," the group went into self-imposed exile.

XTC's seven-year absence ended last week with the release of "Apple Venus Vol. 1" (TVT Records). The disc is filled with orchestral and acoustic songs written during the band's hiatus and will be followed this fall with "Apple Venus Vol. 2," a disc featuring more familiar rock band format songs.

In a phone call from his home in Swindon, England, XTC principal singer/songwriter Andy Partridge says that after a week's worth of interviews, he can already anticipate my questions:

"Why did Dave leave the band? Why the seven-year lay-off?" says Partridge.

Actually, most XTC fans already know those answers. Keyboardist Dave Gregory left the band because he didn't feel that he had enough creative input. The band quit recording to protest a bad recording contract.

Instead, I'd like to know how it felt to be at a creative and commercial peak and then suddenly stop.

"I felt we were imprisoned," says Partridge.

Partridge says XTC was, if not a golden goose at Virgin, "a golden chicken, laying them lots of money, but none of it was coming our way."

The group's recording contract hadn't changed since XTC was signed to the label in 1977. Partridge says the contract gave the group 13 percent of sales with all production, recording and packaging costs coming out of the group's 13 percent, including 10 percent taken out for defective or broken discs. Added to that, says Partridge, once an album became considered "back catalog," the royalties were cut in half.

"You make an album, which you pay for with your tiny pittances per disc, and you'll never own that property," says Partridge. Partridge says he first asked the company to make their contract better, but Virgin refused. "In '92, I said, 'Can we go, please?' " says Partridge.

For the next five years, Virgin refused to let the group go or to renegotiate its contract. In turn, Partridge and his partners, Colin Moulding and Gregory, refused to give the company any new material for an album.

Partridge says the situation was horrible but then revises his statement.

"Actually, I found it a bit inspirational, but it's morally horrible to prevent people from working."

Virgin finally let the group out of its contract in 1997.

"Oddly, it was literally the week we left them that we went into the black," says Partridge. "There's something suspicious about that."

XTC signed with TVT Records in early 1998. The group's first release for the label was a four-CD collection of early live recordings titled "Transistor Blast." Partridge prefers to make his music in the studio.

Partridge says that most of the songs that appear on "Apple Venus Vol. 1" were written between 1992 and '94, when he became fascinated with orchestral sounds.

"People have said, 'Do you want to emulate classics?' And the answer's no, I don't wanna make 'Five Guys Named Mozart,' " says Partridge.

Instead, Partridge says the inspiration probably came from his childhood when he would have to listen to "light entertainment" (studio orchestras performing light classical and show tunes) on British radio while waiting for popular songs and novelty records.

Having never written for an orchestra before, Partridge bought a digital sampler with orchestral samples on it.

One early success was the strange and dreamy "River of Orchids," which opens "Apple Venus Vol. 1."

"I sat down and put together a little cyclical pattern where nothing seemed to be on the beat. Everything seemed to be pushing and falling in conversation with the next thing and on the off-beat. And it came out very buoyant and bubbly."

He programmed the piece to repeat endlessly.

"It was so rhythmic that I took off my shirt and my shoes and socks and leapt around like a cretin in my little studio for about an hour," says Partridge. "I thought, 'God, I hope no one pulls open the door. I'm going to look really stupid.' "

He then picked out a line from some unused lyrics and began improvising around it, eventually coming up with what he calls a "sort of ecological nursery rhyme."

It should come as no surprise that Partridge is heavily influenced by nursery rhymes.

The band's 20-year oeuvre is peppered with songs as sweet and whimsical as nursery rhymes -- but, like nursery rhymes, once scrutinized, they sometimes reveal themselves to be less than childish.

"They were comment about incredible, dreadful things or political corruption or whatever or death or famine or whatever, and you can still make a jolly little song to sing your kid to sleep," says Partridge. "It's like a cuddly, fluffy, little pink hand grenade. It's really loaded. But there it is: Kids are playing with it innocently."

But, in many instances, XTC's songs truly are sweet and whimsical.

That aspect set the band apart from its late '70s contemporaries.

Partridge says he never really believed groups who didn't write about the lighter side of life. He is disdainful of artists who insist on "painting everything in big black strokes."

"They're not real," says Partridge. "They're not singing about being human. They're doing some deep-wounded existentialism. And, come on, life's not like that. Life's full of stupidity and whimsical, jolly things or life's full of wanting to smash somebody's face in or food poisoning or stubbing your toe and all these things. And they don't sing about all of the other 9,999 emotions. They just sing about SERIOUSNESS, because 'We're serious.' I always thought that was so fake. So if ever we get like that, just put the gun to my head, please!"

He says the group may have confused listeners, especially when it began.

"Some people found us a bit chewy."


"Yeah, because a lot of people like old-people's-food music. They like you to chew it for them and spit it back in the plastic dish, make it sort of a porridge, gruel for them. They like it to slip down. They like it to be bright-colored.

"Ooooo. It's attractive," says Partridge in a mocking voice. "Most people like that.

"Life's too short for all that. Why have somebody else live your life for you? Why have somebody else chew your food for you?"

Wayne Bledsoe is a music critic for the News-Sentinel.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Buffalo News
Friday, March 5, 1999

Leave it to Andy Partridge and XTC to come up with one of the year's most unusual and provocative albums. For nearly two decades, Partridge and XTC have meshed art and pop into compelling music, but generally have failed to make a commercial dent.

It doesn't bother Partridge. "I don't give a damn about money," he recently told the New York Daily News. "The only thing I want is enough money to keep my head above water and to keep making records."

"Apple Venus Part I" is an XTC masterpiece. It's filled with a tapestry of music -- classic, folk, pop and rock. "River of Orchids," the opening track, is a blue, moody number with strings. "I'd Like That" features a soft, acoustic guitar and mellow vocal.

Strings and orchestration permeate many of the numbers. "Easter Theatre" has a classical feeling and gently floats along with keyboards and guitar. "Greenman" displays a joyful flute solo and strings.

"Most pop musicians think strings equal syrup," Partridge said. "But strings can equal anything. I tend to think of the orchestra as colors. Strings can be greens, trumpets yellow, saxes orange. That's an easy way for me to decide how I want to paint the set of a song."

Andy Partridge and XTC have once again pushed the envelope of pop music. At times, this CD harks back to such classic albums as the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" and the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper."
Rating: * * * * 1/2 .

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Daily Oklahoman
Friday, March 5, 1999

"Apple Venus Volume I" TVT/Idea Records

Listening to the lush orchestral pomp of XTC's new album brings to mind... bright lights! Gleaming tile floors! The colorful surroundings of the cereal aisle, the sparkling greenery of the produce section...

OK, maybe this music is a bit more sophisticated than the stuff that oozes through the ceiling speakers of supermarkets and elevators, but it sure isn't the kind of edgy-yet-ethereal, intricate power pop this British band has been making since its post-punk beginnings in the late '70s.

Things have happened in the seven years since their last studio release - most notably the departure of lead guitarist Dave Gregory, which takes a lot of bite out of the overall sound, plus front man Andy Partridge's uncontrollable desire to work in an "orchustic" (primarily acoustic and orchestral) environment.

Partridge has his way, and the results range from brief moments of dazzle to prolonged dreariness.

Songs like "I'd Like That," with its layered harmonies and nimble strumming, and the panoramic melody of "Easter Theatre" (both by Partridge) are more in keeping with XTC's art-rock traditions, as are the playfully tuneful, keyboard-laced "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut," (by bassist Colin Moulding) which recall the group's once-heavy Beatles influences.

But these are sandwiched between the bloated symphonic tedium of "River of Orchids" - full of nerve-wracking violin plucking, dripping sound effects that are like water torture, and a circular vocal line that seems calculated to drive one mad - and the grinding, trombone-polluted boredom of the anti-war dirge, "The Last Balloon."

In short, this majestic Muzak left this listener in the bargain basement, which is where this CD belongs. Fans can only hope that "Apple Venus Volume II," due out later this year and touted as "much more basic, idiotic electric stuff," comes as advertised.

- Gene Triplett, The Oklahoman

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Boston Globe
MUSIC, p. C13
By Jim Sullivan, Globe Staff

XTC pops back

The British iconoclasts return with a polished 'Apple'

“Apple Venus Vol. 1” starts with the sound of dripping water, then a deep rumbling bass note is plucked. Strings enter, creating this crazy counterpoint. The journey is about to begin, but it could be anybody, the Verve, the Orb. Horns enter. Hmmm. The melody begins to take shape and a high-pitched voice enters. It is then that a feeling of warmth rushes in and washes over you and - nearly a quarter-century after this long trip started, many years since the last album of new material - we know: We're back in the Oz that is XTC. Everything might be a little off-center, but it all sounds very much all right.

“So you still think it's got our fingerprints?” says XTC singer-songwriter-guitarist Andy Partridge. “It's true, however you arrange it, it's still there. It's still Jell-O, if it's Jell-O you want.”

Which is not, necessarily, a bad thing.

“No, I don't think so,” Partridge says. “I mean my personality has changed a drop of sand a day and my art is going to come out a certain way.”

XTC arose out of England's mid-to-late-'70s punk rock movement, but showed more melodic range, and more sense of irony, of storytelling, than most of its peers. The band's members created a vital body of work through the 1980s and scored with songs such as “Senses Working Overtime,” “Ball and Chain,” “Dear God,” “The Mayor of Simpleton,” and, in 1992, “The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead.” Then they went “on strike” against their record company, Virgin, as Partridge likes to put it, until they wriggled out of what they considered an onerous financial arrangement.

A four-CD boxed set of live material, “Transistor Blast,” was released late last year. “Apple Venus Vol. 1,” XTC's first album of new material since 1992, came out last month. It is an ambitious pop record - more acoustic than electric, with a pronounced orchestral flavoring. As the title suggests, it is one of two halves. The initial plan was to release a double CD, but more rational thinking kicked in.

“When, legally, we were allowed to make records again,” says Partridge, “I said to myself, ‘Well, why don't we just take the best of all this stuff and make a genuine, bona fide two-disc set?’ As the music that was written across 1992 to 1994 came out acoustically or orchestrally, that would make a great disc 1. And then the music that came out from '94 to '96 - I'm being very broad here - was mostly noisy and electric, so that would make a good Vol. 2. They could reflect two sides from the same coin. But, naively, we didn't really take into consideration the money it would cost to get these recorded well, the studio time it would take, and the fact that we picked a very good producer [Haydn Kendall] whose painstaking qualities are kind of tortoise-on-glue speed.”

The early XTC, which scored a hit with “Life Begins at the Hop” in 1979, was a more raucous outfit than today's unit. There was “a very charming naive energy to it. They really don't know what the hell they are doing, but they are doing their darnedest,” ventures Partridge, slipping into the third person. “It is like naive painting - the perspective's all wrong, color choices are maybe not great, but they are trying to finish off as nicely as they can. It's charming, it's folk art.”

Since leaving Virgin, the band has signed with TVT in America. The group has also lost a member, drummer Dave Gregory, leaving the duo of Partridge and bassist-singer Colin Moulding. Gregory recently let loose with an anti-Partridge screed in the English pop music magazine Mojo. Partridge says the interview reads as though Gregory is Islam and Partridge is “Salman Rushdie, the devil incarnate.”

And, oh yes, Partridge's 14-year marriage fell apart. “The whole thing about finding myself out to be a cuckolded husband was extremely painful,” says Partridge. “But I seem to have predicted it all in [songs] and anyway, I did find myself thrown away. I said to myself, ‘OK, this is the most painful thing that's ever happened to me, and I'm going to do two things: I'm going to cut out drinking or cut it right down because I don't want to be over at the pub crying into my beer like a country and Western casualty. I don't want to be a country lyric. And the other thing was: I'm not going to write any divorce songs, because I don't want to turn into Phil Collins. I didn't want to write songs for swinging divorcees.

“So I carried on writing and oddly enough felt very inspired. I suppose the more hammer blows, the sharper the sword gets, and things built up. I was so built up, I was so angry and so upset, that I thought, if I don't write this down in some way, in some form, I'm going to explode. It was written in '93, in the depths of my despair. I gave myself the luxury of writing one divorce song.” That is “Dictionary,” a pointed and joyously profane number.

“It was like a therapeutic treatment,” Partridge continues. “I immediately felt better. And then I fell in love again and my life took a great big upswing.”

This is reflected in the music. There's both a sense of giddiness and maturity in today's XTC - some bitterness, some spite, a lot of wonder. Rather than suggesting an old pop group's calcification, the orchestration helps bring the songs alive, albeit in a gentle, pastoral fashion. XTC's music recalls the more experimental sides of the Beatles and the Kinks.

Does Partridge consider it a mature record? “I think so,” says Partridge, “but ‘mature’ can have negative connotations, especially in the music business - ‘Well, they passed their finest point and they are still making records, isn't it cute.’ It can have that kind of let's-be-nice-to-them-they-are-old-now connotation. I have to say, though, that most records with a tag of mature tied to them are not good, they have a tiredness of life. ... Let's reclaim ‘mature’ and say mature as in, confident, more relaxed with what you do, and getting better, like a piece of fine furniture or cheese.”

Coming as no surprise to any of its fans, XTC will not be touring. Partridge had a notable freakout on stage years ago, but says his stage avoidance these days is based on principle.

“Music,” he says, “seems to be the only art form where making your finished art product is not enough. You make an oil painting, and ... love it or hate it, that's the oil painting. You put your life and soul into making a record, which you are proud as punch of, and they say, ‘Yeah, but when are you going to tour?’”

When young, he says, it was “good fun, the sense of being in a gang with guitars instead of knives. We were young men drinking the world dry and going around the planet for the first time, and making a horrible sound, just being young and arrogant and stupid. And it was great fun. And then, after five years of it, you start to think, ‘I don't really want to do this. I want to live in a house. I don't want to live in a hotel. I don't want to wake up every morning and see orange wallpaper and corporate art and have to ring down a receptionist and say, “Excuse me, where am I?”’”

Partridge now lives a normal life, so normal, he says that a television documentary crew proposed a piece on him and he warned what they would get is this: “I'm going to get up in the morning, put on my duffel coat, and they're going to follow me around to the store to get some milk and that's going to be it. I don't live an ‘art’ life.”

© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
[Thanks to Steven A. Thurber]

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Friday, March 5, 1999
Capsule Reviews
Dave Ferman
Star-Telegram Writer

XTC, Apple Venus Volume 1, TVT Records: XTC returns in fine, if different than usual, form on this, its first studio CD in seven years. Apple is famously stage-shy leader Andy Partridge's first complete dive into orchestral pop, and it's an almost complete success, a credible mix of his wonderful way with a childhood memory or a bit of whimsy fused with smart string and horn arrangements. At its best - River of Orchids, Harvest Festival, I Can't Own Her and The Last Balloon - Apple is as good as any XTC ever. Welcome back, guys.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

March 4-10, 1999
by Matt Galloway

XTC Apple Venus Volume 1 (TVT)
Rating: NNNN

After seven years "on strike" and out of the recording studio, you can't help but imagine Andy Partridge snorting at the idea of starved XTC fans being greeted by Apple Venus Volume 1's heavily orchestrated opening track, featuring a dripping water faucet solo.

More song-friendly listeners will no doubt welcome the electric Apple Venus Volume 2, due this fall. In the meantime, Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding -- now minus keyboardist Dave Gregory -- have returned acoustic and orchestral. Clever wordplay remains, playful at times and exceedingly bitter at others, but conventional pop arrangements have been replaced by a state of symphonic ambience, all weeping strings, French horns and softly strummed guitars. Occasionally, it's all a little too precious -- Moulding's Frivolous Tonight is excruciating -- but to their credit, XTC make no attempt to cover the considerable musical ground that has gone down in their absence, and they benefit immensely from it.

[Thanks to Domenic Staffieri]

The San Diego Union-Tribune
Thursday, March 4, 1999
Jeff Niesel
JEFF NIESEL is a free-lance writer.


Caught up in a dispute with its record label, the British pop group XTC -- which maintains it went on a self-imposed strike to wrangle out of its contract with Virgin UK -- hasn't put out a new studio effort in nearly seven years. The group has hardly been idle, however. It wrote over 40 songs between 1992-96 (11 of which appear on "Apple Venus") and last year released "Transistor Box," a four-disc boxed set of recordings culled from the BBC archives.

The group has also gone through several changes: It has been pared down to a duo, singer-guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding; Partridge went through a bitter divorce; and Sarah McLachlan, Freedy Johnston and the Crash Test Dummies covered XTC songs for the 1995 tribute album called "A Testimonial Dinner."

In other words, even though XTC hasn't released any new music in seven years, it hasn't been a quiet seven years.

Fans of the band's early punk and new wave-sounding material (remember, these guys started playing in Swindon, England, in 1975) will likely be disappointed by the route the band takes on "Apple Venus," its 11th studio effort. This time, the group employs a wide variety of instruments: Horns blow softly on "River of Orchids," strings chirp on "Easter Theatre" and cymbals clash in "Greenman."

Partridge has said that he's recently rediscovered musicals like "My Fair Lady," "South Pacific" and "West Side Story," and you can hear their influence in the orchestral arrangements and layers of vocals. Tracks like "The Last Balloon" and "Knights in Shining Karma" are tender songs that suggest the group is settling into middle age by slowing the pace and mood of its music.

At times, the polished production draws too much attention to itself. With its strings, thumping bass line and flute riff, "Greenman" is simply too busy. The same goes for "Harvest Festival," a piano-and-strings ballad. Yet, in terms of composition, lyrics and performance, these songs are still a step ahead of most of the pop music you hear on the radio.

With mid-tempo acoustic guitars and Partridge's wheezy vocals, a well-crafted pop song like "I'd Like That" is more typical of XTC (or at least of how it sounded on its last studio album, 1992's "Nonsuch"). The Beatles-like "Frivolous Tonight" is perhaps the best song on the album and the one most likely to go down with previous, classic XTC singles like "Dear God," "Senses Working Overtime" and "Mayor of Simpleton."

The vitriolic "Your Dictionary," a diatribe no doubt directed toward Partridge's ex-wife, features the kind of sharp-tongued wit for which Partridge is known. As clever as the lyrics might be, they're a little too obvious (h-a-t-e -- is that how you spell "love" in your dictionary?). Partridge comes off better in the confessional "I Can't Own Her."

With another, electric-oriented album (dubbed "Apple Venus, Volume 2") due out later this year, XTC will undoubtedly have the chance to win back the fans who find this version of the band too quaint. Don't write this group off as an '80s act just yet.

TVT/Idea Records
* * *

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, March 4, 1999

Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding don't appear to bother much with calendars. It's been seven years since XTC's last studio album, "Nonsuch," but the band's world is much the same. Now down to a duo, XTC still concocts pastoral pop that never fails to call to mind the two musical B's of the '60s: the Beatles and Beach Boys. "Harvest Festival" and "River of Orchids" make it clear that the bucolic concerns of the past remain, as does a prodigious talent for melody. The one concession to the '90s is the spotless production. The band's pop confections have always been immaculately framed, and the fussiness that could smother the music of others only makes these songs shine brighter.
- Shane Harrison

Copyright, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution - 1999
[Thanks to Stephen Harper]

Lexington Herald-Leader
Friday, March 26, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1

“The grass is always greener when it's bursting through concrete,” chimes Andy Partridge at the beginning of XTC's first album of new material in seven years.

How very telling. Against the synthetic and manufactured state of modern pop, a new album by Andy Partridge and longtime XTC collaborator Colin Moulding is bound to stand out.

The “band” that XTC employs on much of Apple Venus is a 40-piece orchestra. But as bloated as that might seem on paper, the songs (nine of which were written by Partridge, the other two by Moulding) have an unusually light fabric to them. A chamber-style strings and brass chatter brings the album-opening River of Orchids to life while a regal orchestral sweep sets I Can't Own Her into motion.

But much of Apple Venus is defined, as has always been the case with XTC's best songs, by the temperament of Partridge's lyrical scope. His two best entries are emotional and musical polar opposites. Easter Theatre is a gorgeously expansive bit of romantic fancy that boasts a Sgt. Pepper-ish perkiness while a brittle breakup song called Your Dictionary harks back to the stormier skies of XTC's 1984 epic, The Big Express, but without the overtly rock 'n' roll edge.

Moulding's tunes serve as breezy interludes. Frivolous Tonight is a fun bit of self-effacing whimsy.

A second volume of Apple Venus -- a more elemental rock record -- has been promised by XTC for the fall. Until then, Volume 1 will easily stand as some of the most mature, original and alluring pop issued so far this year.

-- Walter Tunis, contributing music critic

© 1999 Kentucky Connect and the Lexington Herald-Leader

CNN interactive
March 26, 1999
World Beat
Fresh Cuts
New and notable recordings

"Apple Venus Volume 1"


A welcome return from one of rock music's most revered bands, eclectic British pop duo XTC have recorded "Apple Venus Volume 1" their first collection of new tunes since 1992's "Nonsuch." Often accompanied by lush orchestral backing, Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding have lost none of their melodic or witty songwriting instincts. Your senses will be working overtime. (A second volume of electric interpretations is due in the autumn.)

© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
[Thanks to Michael Ong]

CitySearch (Australia)
Sounding Off

Apple Venus Volume 1

Ecstasy? Not quite, but sheer delight pervades as I clutch the first new album to be released in seven years by English pop masters, XTC.

Seven years! An eternity in the music industry and for XTC a period fraught with personal and professional setbacks. Despite this, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (guitarist Dave Gregory has left the band) emerge triumphant, delivering 11 songs bold in concept and near breathtaking in their execution.

Dubbed "orchustic" by Andy, Apple Venus is almost entirely based around orchestral and acoustic textures. Shades of 1986's Skylarking come to mind. Recorded in part at the legendary Abbey Road studios with the London Sessions Orchestra, this is a palette with which Andy Partridge can clearly excel. Stunning arrangements and orchestration underpin most tracks. Vocal performances are always a highlight and this is no exception. Immediate stand-outs include Greenman and Easter Theatre. Andy and lone electric guitar on Knights In Shining Karma recalls Lennon's Julia. Wonderful contrasting textures as usual from the Colin Moulding penned Frivolous Tonight and Fruit Nut. Witness Your Dictionary as a caustic commentary by Andy on the disintegration of his marriage. One-dimensional is not a word associated with XTC.

For the uninitiated XTC defy categorisation. For the mildly aware Apple Venus promises new beginnings. And for the inextricably entwined herewith lies yet another gem and a continuation of their commitment to quality and adventure in songwriting. Welcome back XTC.

Michael Chadwick

© CitySearch 1995-2000


Praktfullt påfunn

XTC «Apple Venus Volume 1» Cooking Vinyl/MNW


Sju magre år har gått siden sist verden fikk et nytt album fra XTC. I mellomtiden har de bare gitt ut et oppsummerende samlealbum, med et fossil på omslaget. Nå er de tilbake i all sin prakt, med strålende påfuglfjær som blikkfang, og slik høres de heldigvis ut også, etter alle disse årene.

Det er et strykerdominert, delikat lydbilde vi møter på denne plata, XTC klarer å kombinere et søkende musikksyn og en popteft som hadde vært The Beatles verdig, og skaper en harmonisk enhet som minner om deres mesterverk «Skylarking» (1986) på mer enn en måte. Partridge starter albumet med tekstlinja «I hear the dandelions roar in Piccadilly Circus» i «River Of Orchids» og drømmer videre om at hele London må bli overgrodd av ville vekster. Det er fortsatt her han befinner seg mentalt, med den karakteristiske, vimsete, lett psykedeliske uskyldigheten vi har lært oss å bli glade i gjennom mer enn 20 år med denne gruppa.

Tiden har lært oss å ikke trekke forhastede konklusjoner om XTC, men at «Apple Venus» er ei strålende plate kan det ikke være noen tvil om. Tittelens «Volume 1» innebærer at det kommer en mer elektrisk oppfølger med det første ­ kanskje allerede i løpet av året. Med denne gruppa kan det likevel være lurt å advare mot å holde pusten i spenning mens man venter.

© 1999 Dagsavisen.

Virgin Megaweb (France)
02 Mars 1999

"Apple Venus"
Cooking Vinyl / Musisoft

Joie et ravissement de la pop éternelle et de la délicatesse british, des violons sixties qui caressent les oreilles et des voix de rêve qui pénètrent le corps et l'esprit pour ne plus s'en déloger. Cet album de XTC, le premier depuis sept ans, est leur meilleur depuis "Skylarking". Des compositions d'une finesse, d'une pureté rares aujourd'hui... Bien sûr, l'ombre bienveillante et ironique des Beatles année 1967 plane sur "Apple Venus", mais au coeur d'une myriade d'influences magnifiquement digérées, de Michael Nyman à Salvador Dali et des Kinks à Lewis Caroll... Aujourd'hui, les XTC ne sont plus que deux, Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding, mais ils n'ont rien perdu de leur sophistication pop et de leur fabuleux sens de la mélodie. Voilà donc le disque aussi intemporelle qu'essentiel du mois. Ariel Kyrou

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
Tuesday, March 2, 1999
Gary Graff is a free-lance writer living in Detroit


"Let me pull up the psychiatrist's couch here," says XTC's Andy Partridge as he prepares to discuss the British pop group's new album, "Apple Venus Volume 1," and the unintended seven-year hiatus that preceded it.

One can fully understand Partridge's reference to therapy. Since 1992's "Nonsuch," XTC - a highly regarded but commercially unsung band best known for its 1987 hit "Dear God" - has staged a "strike" against its former record company and withstood a false start on the album and the loss of a founding member (guitarist Dave Gregory).

Partridge, meanwhile, suffered a bitter divorce and an assortment of illnesses that included a burst eardrum.

"Oh, and I went to [a therapist], too," Partridge, 45, says with a genial chuckle. "I needed counseling. Over the last seven years, I've gone through more pull-you-apart stuff than most people go through in a lot longer times, unless you're at war or something."

War is exactly what Partridge, Gregory and bassist Colin Moulding felt they were waging against Virgin Records, for whom XTC had recorded since 1977.

After "Nonsuch," Partridge approached the label, hoping to renegotiate the group's "appalling" original contract, which had been negotiated on the back of a cigarette pack.

"I asked them to make our deal better, or would they release us and we'd go get a deal with someone else and make a living at this," Partridge relates. "They would do neither. They pathetically offered us a deal, but it was really nothing.

"So the only thing we could do was down plectrum - withhold our services. We were on strike."

Bitter lyrics

XTC and Virgin eventually settled their differences; the label was able to release some compilations in exchange for the band's freedom. During the interim, however, Partridge found his wife to be cheating on him and began divorce proceedings, with bitter feelings that are chronicled in unapologetically biting, new track "Your Dictionary."

"I played it to my daughter, who's 13, and she said 'Daddy, you can't let mummy hear this. She's gonna die!' says Partridge, who shares custody of the couple's two children. "I said, 'Well, look, I didn't write it to hurt your mum. I wrote it because I was upset and I had to pull the cork out of the top of my head and just let some of this evil out or else I was going to go crazy.'

Despite the raw emotions expressed in that and many of "Apple Venus" other songs, the album is one of XTC's prettiest and most sedate, with smooth melodies and lush orchestral arrangements. It also drove Gregory out of the band, an irony since he had arranged orchestral parts for XTC albums in the past.

But Partridge says Gregory was a longtime malcontent whose unhappiness was compounded by the group's long break.

"He was playing the odd session with people, but he basically sat in doors, in the dark, rotting," says Partridge, who co-wrote music with several other performers, including the Verve Pipe. "Nothing was right for him. He didn't want to record an orchestral acoustic record. He said, 'This is your solo album, and I don't want anything to do with it.'

"It got to a point where Colin and I were in pain trying to work with him. So when he left, it was a bit of a blow, but also a relief."

With "Apple Venus" in stores, Partridge and Moulding - who don't perform live because of Partridge's stage fright - have begun a promotional tour that will take them around North America for two weeks, including a guest appearance on "Space Ghost Coast to Coast." Then they'll return to work on "Apple Venus Volume 2," which Partridge says will be more electric and upbeat than its predecessor - an emotional shift he welcomes.

"I certainly felt the day we finished [this album] it was as if we pushed some sort of mountain of golden dog [manure] over the precipice," he says. "It was gold, but it really smelled because of the stuff we'd been through to record it. I knew it was good, but I knew I wanted to get away from it, too."

Copyright (c) The Plain Dealer 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Hamilton Spectator
Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Apple Venus Vol 1
TVT Records
* * * 1/2
by Craig Macinnis - Special to The Spectator

Even at the height of the New Wave, England's XTC never quite fit in. Blending tunefulness with syncopated rhythms, teasingly oblique lyrics and Andy Partridge's Eton coxswain voice, the group seemed willfully at odds with ordinary notions of what a modern band should be. Twenty years along, XTC still sounds as relevant as ever, if only because they've remained at arm's length from the shifting paradigms of popular music.

This orchestral project runs the gamut from plucked violins to burping horns, all of it background to Partridge and partner Colin Moulding's lush, playful melodies. One track, Easter Theatre, might the most infectious pop composition the band has ever written. And that's saying something for a group that's given the world Senses Working Overtime and Life Begins At The Hop.

[Thanks to Bill Curran]

Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
Tuesday, March 2, 1999

XTC finds an alternative

XTC: Apple Venus Volume 1 (Idea/TVT).

XTC's brainy British rock won the band lots of respect and intermittent airplay, but not much commercial buzz. Still, the group and its longtime record label toughed out the retail drought until a squabble prompted XTC to go "on strike" in 1992, after which no new albums were made. The band also refused to tour -- not the hardest line to take for XTC's stage-shy and panic-prone frontman, Andy Partridge.

Eight years later, Partridge and Co. return under a new label -- their own, called Idea -- with an album that is arguably the best they've ever made. XTC calls Apple Venus Volume 1 an "orchustic" work -- acoustic with orchestral trimmings. This is not, however, another "classical rock" abomination, but a tight, elegant collection of alternative pop.

The opening track, River of Orchids, is a lush and mesmerizing tone poem. I'd Like That, the initial single, has a Beatle-esque energy any adult rock radio station could embrace.


Copyright 1999 by the Sun-Sentinel
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

North Shore News
March 1, 1999

Web Published:
March 1, 1999
Welcome back, XTC

By Michael Becker
News Editor

* *****
XTC -- Apple Venus Vol. 1, TVT Records
1999, TVT 3250-2

Oh happy day. The most interesting and prolific pair of English pop songwriters to come along since the Lennon-McCartney juggernaut are back after a lengthy period of silence.

Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge are not foisting upon us a shameless retro-New Wave cash-in either. Rather Apple Venus proves itself an elegant 11-track string of gems.

XTC-lite (guitarist Dave Gregory split in a huff during the recording, allegedly) returns with an all-new studio disc for the first time since 1992's Nonsuch on the Virgin label.

In the interim, the band was embroiled in a five-year lawsuit with British-based Virgin. Partridge says XTC went on strike to get out of its agreement with Virgin.

Also during that period he was divorced.

That painful detour is chronicled in the delightfully acerbic “Your Dictionary”.

Yet much of the rest of the album's lyrical imagery trades in flowers, fruit and blissfully pastoral evocations.

The frantic, sharp angled nature of the band's early output -- circa 1977 White Music -- and the elastic sinew heard on the excellent 1982 release English Settlement is tempered by orchestral arrangements and mid-tempo excursions anchored by Moulding's masterfully fluid bass work.

Moulding and Partridge remain clever wordsmiths, and reward their listeners with an enriching experience.

Already finished for release later this year (possibly August) is Apple Venus Volume 2, a disc rumoured to be a more electric affair.

copyright 1999 by the North Shore News

The Tennessean
Monday, March 1, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1
* * * *

XTC is probably best known for one quirky burst of pop 'n' roll magic from the New Wave era of the early-1980s: Generals And Majors, a whistling, happy-go-lucky example of catchy material that caught on only in fringe circles. Despite its buoyant sound, it never did make its way into the pop charts.

So XTC has languished in obscurity and now, in further obscurity, has put together an absolutely enjoyable album that's even farther off the beaten track than Generals And Majors. River Of Orchids opens the project with the sound of a single water drop, beginning a building process that occurs with the addition of new elements one-by-one: a bass, strings, brass, a human voice, then multiple voices woven over this ongoing tapestry that started with and still contains slowly dripping water.

Much of the album is an odd mix of The Beatles, The Moody Blues and Burt Bacharach: very English, very adventurous, yet profoundly melodic. It employs a rock production; the instruments are loud enough to compete with the vocals instead of merely framing them. Yet it often uses instrumentation right out of The Harvard Dictionary of Music.

That's particularly notable on the closing The Last Balloon, which seems to use a trumpet, fretless bass, strings, a cymbal, and a programmed keyboard that falls somewhere between a harpsichord and a calliope. Easter Theatre, meanwhile, starts with strings and a bassoon then works its way into a Beatle-esque arrangement.

Ultimately, there's a sort of grandeur around this album, the act's first in seven years. XTC has developed something that's stately, thoughtful, textured and artful: an orchestral pop drama. As cultured Brits might be prone to say, quite splendid.

Star Rating: * * * *

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Akron Beacon Journal
Akron Beacon Journal pop music writer

XTC returns on high note

British pop band may be better off today than it was before going on strike in 1992

For a work stoppage to succeed, someone has to notice.

Pilots get attention. So do sanitation workers. Even reporters do OK.

Musicians, however, have a tougher time.

Superstars like Prince and George Michael have yet to regain their stature after high-profile strikes against their record companies. But XTC, which ended a seven-year hiatus last week with the release of Apple Venus Volume 1, may be better off today than it was before going on strike in 1992.

“I wouldn't change a thing,” said XTC leader Andy Partridge, calling from his home outside London. “I have no regrets. The breakups, the illnesses, the corruption -- all that we endured -- was there to teach us something. It was meant to be used. And we used it.”

The band has been using its surroundings for more than 22 years, since it first busted out of Swindon in 1977, boldly declaring “This is Pop!” and leading the quieter end of the punk explosion that the Sex Pistols and the Clash created.

Over the years, the band's sound mellowed, though its knack for stirring up controversy remained intact. And by the time its Nonsuch album, featuring the quirky hit The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, came out in 1992, XTC had assembled an impressive catalog of hits from Senses Working Overtime and Making Plans for Nigel to Dear God and The Mayor of Simpleton.

The band went to Virgin Records, its record company at the time, to discuss ideas for a follow-up and to renegotiate its contract. When the company balked, the band went on strike, vowing not to release another song under its existing contract.

It took five years to work out the differences that would release XTC from its contract, a period during which the band did not stray from its work stoppage.

Partridge said it was tough, but in the end it has helped the band, which is down to a duo with bassist Colin Moulding.

“I found it very stimulating, the bloody-mindedness of the whole thing,” Partridge said. “It was like the more acid that was poured onto me, the more my battery sparked.”

Fervor fed by fear

During that period, which saw the alternative music genre XTC helped build explode in popularity and fade again, Partridge became quite a prolific writer.

“I was writing lots of songs,” he said. “It was this weird, religious fervor fed by this fear that my best stuff was never ever going to see the light of day, that we would get no record deal, that these songs were never going to be funded. They say the sharpest swords are made by smartest hammer throws.”

Once XTC and Virgin Records parted ways, Partridge and Moulding started recording the songs they wrote during that period.

Apple Venus Volume 1, which was released last week by the band's new label TVT Records, is the best of the material written between 1992 and 1994. Apple Venus Volume 2, due out later this year, will be the best of the songs written from 1994 to 1996.

While Volume 1 features the band's trademark intricate lyrics over lush, orchestral melodies that never go out of style, Partridge said Volume 2 is more straightforward and harder-edged rock.

On Volume 1, the songs run the gamut of love -- from the giddy, oogly-googly feeling in the sweet I'd Like That to the bitter, divorce-era self-loathing of Your Dictionary. Your Dictionary is one of the best-written songs of the year, though its expletives will keep it off the radio.

That's OK with Partridge, who is conflicted about the emotions he lets loose in the song.

“It was written at the depth of my despair,” he said. “I was an extremely hurt, cuckolded husband. It really upset my sense of loyalty. I had a betrayal complex from the time I was naught years old and this didn't help. But I feel better now. I feel kind of tacky about it.”

The song, featuring lines like “H-A-T-E. Is that how you spell ‘love’ in your dictionary?” helped Partridge get over his painful divorce. It was meant to be therapy -- not a hit single.

“I cut out the drinking because I didn't want to be a sad, old divorced drunk,” he said. “And I vowed that I was not going to write any divorce songs because I don't want to be Phil Collins. Even Phil Collins doesn't want to be that Phil Collins. But it was so painful, I had to take the cork out of my head and let this volcano of emotion out. I allowed myself this one real hurt song. And I felt better.”

Album well-received

Partridge feels better in general these days.

The early response to the album has been good. And it looks like XTC will once again broaden its audience with this batch of songs.

“It's all been scarily good,” Partridge said. “About 99 percent of the people have been nice, saying it's ‘the best ever.’ They even throw around words like ‘masterpiece’ and ‘genius.’ It has me a bit worried. They're either all lying bastards or it's very good. I'm not sure.”

The reception will not change the band's view on touring, however. Though he has gotten over his bout with stage fright, Partridge doesn't see any reason to try to re-create these songs on the road.

“I think it would undermine the recorded version,” he said. “As soon as we finish a song, I feel it's done. We laid the dirt and we don't need to poke around in it. To me, once it's finished, it's gone. I want to move on. I have to get these things out of my system.”

Now that XTC has part of the world's attention again, Partridge does not plan on letting go.

“I may be getting old and cantankerous, but I'm not delighted by a lot of modern music today,” he said. “I want to be saved by music. I don't hear surprise or joy or invention or emotion. That's what we need more of.”

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

February 1999


Apple Venus Volume 1

It's a bit of a sad reflection on the state of music today that by the end of February, you're already convinced you've heard the best thing you're likely to hear all year. Then again, not every band out there is in the position of having seven long years to kill before delivering the fruits of their labour. Apart from maybe the Blue Nile, but that's another story for another time.

The unusual title of this collection originates from a song ("Then She Appeared") found on their previous album, 1992's "Nonsuch". Seven long years have been spent with XTC trying to excise themselves from their contract with Virgin Records. Eventually, Virgin gave them the freedom they wanted (following 1996's contractual obligatory best-of release "Fossil Fuel") and they relocated to Cooking Vinyl, one of the few remaining genuine independents. The implication of the 'Volume 1' suffix serves to hint at quite how much material has built up in the interim. For the sake of consistency, the decision has been to allow each volume (a second is already planned) to be almost theme-based in approach; this release pulls together the "orchoustric" frame of mind that resulted from Andy Partridge's exhaustion in the use of electric guitar as his prime songwriting tool. Forsaking the aforementioned guitar in favour of a heavily orchestrated flavouring does much to enhance XTC's already pastoral sound canvas. And the effect? It's stunning. Stylistically, it runs off at a tangent somewhere between the Blue Nile's "A Walk Across The Rooftops" and elements of their own "English Settlement" with more than just a nod towards their 1986 masterpiece, "Skylarking". As a successor to "Nonsuch", "Apple Venus" sounds very much like a natural progression almost despite the seven year hiatus; it doesn't sound as though they've really been away. Personally, I find this kind of stuff exquisite to listen to, but it has to be said I spend my musically accompanied working day in close proximity to three other people who are gradually forming the opinion that XTC is, how shall I say, not their thing? Still, you can't please everyone no matter what you do. Put yourself in the musician's perspective - why make the effort to pander to others when you could concentrate on creating something that you find personally fulfilling?

The opening track, "River Of Orchids" has Partridge pitching himself as a postmodern Luddite, wishing a return to green fields, trees, streams and of course, the rivers of orchids mentioned in the title. The musical buildup commences with plucked strings and sounds of trickling water, supplemented with a counterpoint horn sequence - at times it almost bears more resemblance to a Schoenberg tone poems than it does to contemporary "rock" music (and I use that term reluctantly here!). The overall effect is, unexpectedly, a rather natural sounding cacophony. I'd like to imagine that there was a great deal of experimentation going on when this was 'in the works' that just, by chance, happened to gel in a pleasing manner but knowing something about his writing process would suggest that luck is not a word widely deployed with a writer as shrewd and calculating as Andy Partridge. When the vocals cut in, you suddenly know exactly what sort of animal you're dealing with. Welcome back, XTC. "I'd Like That" is up next, a beautiful acoustic stomper of a song that is underplayed nicely, very typical of the more familiar XTC sound and a reminder that they won't be straying from the path too far.

"Easter Theater" follows, and this is one of those songs that just gels perfectly; a horn & strings based underpinning, soaring vocal, euphoric chorus, melancholic twist at the end. Oddly, they've released this as the first single (at least in Europe) from "Apple Venus...", timed to coincide with, predictably, Easter. Not really the most intelligent decision from a commercially palpable perspective, it's still worth tracking down purely for the benefit of hearing the demo track to see how much detail was apparent even at that early stage. Oh yeah, and Partridge's storytelling behind "How Easter Theatre Came To Be" is both amusing and insightful; interesting to note that that elements of this could have surfaced as far back as 1986. Anyway, back to the album. "Knights In Shining Karma" is pleasant enough if not overly involving, almost a letdown considering the inspired title.

Colin Moulding's first of two efforts to be included, "Frivolous Tonight" provides the perfect contrast to Partridge's occasional excesses. Frivolous by name and frivolous by nature, it's 3 or so minutes of out-and-out naivety, a sing-a-long to put a smile on your face. No sooner does it end then you get the pivotal moment of the album and it hits you in the face like a brick. "Greenman" is one of the finest, most driving pieces that it could be possible to create with an acoustic train of thought and a session orchestra at your disposal. Slightly eastern in flavour with some dubious subject matter in the lyric and supreme melodic sensibilities provide the most cohesive balance of this album. This should have been the single, and if they choose to release another, they'd make a big mistake by overlooking this. I may be wrong (and I probably am) but "Greenman" is exactly the sort of quirky thing that once in a while, UK radio as a whole falls in right behind - take the Crash Test Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" a couple of years back as a prime example. I could imagine this getting airplay, and quite a lot of it.

Once in a while, Partridge pens a lyric of the calibre that should have the rest of us questioning our own aspirations towards perfection. "Your Dictionary" is one such moment, echoing the venom that engulfed 1986's track, "Dear God". It's quite plain that the seven years between 'then' and 'now' were stressful, particularly with close relationships; this song documents the failing of his marriage, encompassing such diatribes as, "S-H-I-T - is that how you spelled me in your dictionary?" Not a happy time by all accounts and, considering its vehement tone, thankfully the only song that elects to plunder those emotional depths. "Fruit Nut", Colin Moulding's other song on this collection, is another dose of light relief. It's almost overkill in this respect, extolling the simplistic joys of gardening to an almost music-hall pastiche backing. Something was needed to lighten the tone of the album at around this point but I'm not convinced that this was the most appropriate inclusion. From an emotional level, it heads in the right direction but the lyric is just slightly insipid. If this album had been released under XTC's alter-ego, The Dukes Of The Stratosphear, it would have fitted in perfectly.

"I Can't Own Her" is another lyrical standout track, positively brimming with visual metaphor: "I own this river / I own this town / All of its climbing / And its winos sliding down". Picture that? The man who has everything, good and bad, and the realisation that the one thing he truly wants from this life, he can never have. The orchestration that surrounds the arrangement of this piece is the strongest to feature on the album but where a song like this merely fits into its surroundings, it would shine like a beacon on anybody else's record.

The closing two songs on "Apple Venus" are very much mood pieces that serve to bring things to a satisfying close. "Harvest Festival" takes a rather blunt view on rural English life and its incongruity with much of modern life in general, while "The Last Balloon" talks of escape for those who feel they've had enough of the way things are. A beautiful production trick effortlessly drains the dying strains of Partridge's vocal into the swelling of guest musician Guy Barker's muted trumpet solo that sees "Apple Venus - Volume 1" conclude in a way that leaves you yearning for more.

I suspect another ten minutes of the same would have killed this album stone dead, so in that respect they've done it just right, electing to save the remainder of their backlog of material for another occasion. "Apple Venus - Volume 2" is expected in the early part of next year and is alleged to focus more on the electric guitar-based sound you'd normally expect to find with XTC. In the mean time, anyone who likes their music of choice to be a little more thoughtful and restrained than the norm could do a hell of a lot worse than pick this up, but don't just take my word for it; check out the write-ups at Chalkhills and, where you can hear part of it for yourself and purchase it on-line if you feel so inclined.

Mail on Sunday
Sunday, February 28, 1999
by Giles Smith


Apple Venus: Volume 1

Idea Records
* * * *

When a band doesn't release an album for seven years, one of two scenarios generally applies. Either they are involved in a legal battle of Dickensian complexity with their record company and/or manager; or they are Donald Fagen.

XTC's battle to be free of Virgin Records Ltd (with whom they had long since stopped seeing eye-to-eye) would have polished off many a weaker-willed act.

Maybe even Donald Fagen. Their tactic - an ambitious one - was to go on strike and bore Virgin into releasing them from their contract. All of which took a while and several lawyers.

It was a sorry end. When Mike Oldfield decided to go and bang his tubular bells somewhere else, XTC, the original English mavericks, became the longest-serving band on Virgin, a position which afforded them little in the way of respect, deference or luncheon vouchers. In this month's Mojo magazine, Andy Partridge recalls attending Virgin's 25th anniversary party - as the senior musical partner in the company, so to speak - and being refused entry to the drinks tent by a heavy.

XTC are free to record on their own label now, but the war was not without its casualties. Dave Gregory, a fluid guitarist and pianist (his piano-playing on 'I Remember the Sun' on 1984's album, The Big Express, is among the prettiest things XTC have recorded) seemed unshakeable, but he has decided, since contributing to this record, that there must be easier ways to earn a living than by sitting around for the best part of a decade and then not getting any royalty cheques. He was recently to be found playing guitar for Blondie.

Which leaves the songwriters, Partridge and Colin Moulding, who have, it must be said, not sounded so happy in each other's company for a long time.

These are men in their forties, who have children old enough to be interested in Wu Tang Clan and the Prodigy. To continue so unflinchingly with their own brand of English pastoral (two parts Samuel Palmer to one part Swindon town centre) is, at the very least, a feat of concentration.

When a band doesn't release an album for seven years, it had better be good.

And Apple Venus: Volume One is extraordinarily good. It's the best XTC album since Black Sea, though as far removed from that record's clattering and jumpy pop as one could imagine. True, the vocals still come fitted out with a luxury-size Wiltshire burr. (There are few pleasures in British music quite like that of hearing Partridge sing a word such as 'furs'.) But these 11 songs are made for flugel horns, trumpetsand mostly acoustic guitars. A second volume, making more substantial use of a drum kit and choruses, is promised later in the year. Meanwhile, this is XTC in orchestral mode.

It works. There are at least four songs here as good as anything Partridge has written, not least a tender piece of melancholia called 'The Last Balloon'. The high-calibre melodic invention of his vocal arrangements is particularly evident on a toe-curling moment in 'I'd Like That', when harmony voices come in from below, and the floor suddenly seems to drop out of the song.

For his part, Moulding contributes what must be one of rock 'n' roll's first entirely unmetaphorical tributes to the pleasures of gardening. 'A man must have a shed to keep him sane,' he sings. No detectable irony, no visible inverted commas; just a small hint in the wobbly reverb decorating Moulding's voice that, for him, gardening might be a more psychedelic joy than is suggested in the average edition of Gardener's Question Time.

There are no singles on this album - not even a sniff of a radio-friendly, sales-boosting, three-minute clip. There is little that Chris Evans could usefully deploy to break an early-morning phone conversation with someone in their car or on the lavatory. And there will be no tour. But like XTC could give a hoot. Their freedom from that sorry malarkey informs every note on this record. They never did care much, and now they couldn't care less.

Which is excellent news.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Sunday, February 28, 1999
Dave Ferman
Star-Telegram Writer

XTC ends seven-year glitch with sublime CD

For XTC founder and main songwriter Andy Partridge, the seven years between the band's last studio CD, Nonsuch, and the new Apple Venus Volume 1 were literally the best and worst of times.

Everything went wrong: The band refused to record for its English label, Virgin, due to what it felt was an unfair deal. Partridge's marriage sundered. He had severe hearing problems that included a burst, bleeding eardrum. Longtime lead guitarist Dave Gregory left because the songs Partridge was writing didn't lend themselves to electric guitar.

And then, suddenly, everything went right: Partridge discovered that, while he doesn't read music, he really could do what he'd been dreaming of for years - make an orchestral CD with the aid of a sampler bought near the end of making Nonsuch. He fell in love with a longtime friend, Erica Wexler, and the two were married. And, finally, the band signed with TVT in the States (they have their own label, Idea, in Europe) and released Apple, a sublime CD of songs that touch on all of the above, plus sweet childhood memories, his feeling of awe toward womankind, his hatred of cars, and sundry other subjects.

It has been a long, hard slog, and Partridge, speaking by phone from his home in England, feels "massive relief" now that it's over and the CD is finally out.

"It's like I've given birth to Frankenbaby - some alien seed pod," he says. "I feel vindicated, because for so long we were legally stuck in the fridge and couldn't work and I felt what I was doing was right and the material I was writing was good. I felt the goodness beat back the sea of cack we were floating on for such a long time."

Apple Venus is very good - smart acoustic/orchestral pop suffused with sheer idyllic visions of days gone by and the sort of savage venom only a dumped spouse can provide.

The former comes on tracks such as Harvest Festival (an English end-of-summer celebration) and River of Orchids, a fantasy about everyone abandoning their cars and flowers growing on motor ways. The latter comes on Your Dictionary, perhaps the angriest post-breakup song ever committed to tape. "H.A.T.E. - is that how you spell love in your dictionary?" he snarls, and much, much worse.

"I wrote it to alleviate pain - I had to let the song out to let go of the pressure," he says. "The CD was written at a time when I was all over the map emotionally - I don't ever want to go through that hell again.

"A lot of the dark stuff came out, and then I found myself in love with someone I've known since the 1980s and suddenly I'm stumbling around in love writing all this lighter, happy stuff. It was real roller-coaster stuff, but it was good acid for the battery, good therapy."

What ties it all together, though, is the music, which marries XTC's pop to soaring strings and horns. In this way, Apple Venus sounds both familiar and fresh, quite an accomplishment for a group that's been making records since 1978.

"People always ask me if I like classical music, and the truth is, not much," he says. "It leaves me a little cold. The reason I wanted to get into strings has more to do with show tunes and musicals and the type of cheesy light entertainment I had to sit through as a kid.

"English radio in the '50s was incredibly square - the best thing about it was novelty records, people claiming they were Martians or whatever. Waiting for that, I had to sit through a lot of orchestra leaders playing their hits, and it rubbed off on a very deep level."

And now that Apple is out, Partridge says the next CD will most definitely not be seven years down the road, and will sound more reminiscent of the quirky pop-rock fans know and love.

"It'll be much more in-your-face electric guitar," he says. "I'm craving that, like a vegetarian craving a big steak. I realize some people may be annoyed by the new CD - 'Oh, they've gotten all mature on us.' I quite like that. I feel a sense of mischief about this CD. If they consider us middle-of-the-road that's even more pleasing to me. Because it is."

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Chicago Sun-Times
Sunday, February 28, 1999
by Jim DeRogatis

Reasons for living

Barriers to ecstasy // Partridge's ego brings XTC down

XTC has never made it easy on its fans.

From the outset, during the English punk explosion of the mid-'70s, the notoriously eccentric Andy Partridge and his mates have delivered sophisticated and challenging pop music that requires real commitment on the part of listeners.

Since Partridge freaked out onstage in 1981, he has refused to tour, so the primary connection between fans and the band is on record. XTC albums never kick in instantly. But if you continue exploring their grooves, you're often rewarded with some of the finest songwriting that rock 'n' roll has witnessed since the Beatles.

Now the group has returned after a seven-year hiatus with one of its most difficult albums. And while "Apple Venus Volume 1" (TVT) finally began to grow on me after a dozen listens, I have to wonder if it was worth the effort.

The band hasn't had a permanent drummer since the hard-hitting Terry Chambers quit following the no-touring edict. On the new album XTC doesn't even bother with session players, foregoing percussion, except for the occasional thump on the side of an acoustic guitar.

That's the other problem: This is an unplugged album full of frilly acoustic textures and elaborate sampled orchestrations. But Partridge shut longtime lead guitarist and arranger Dave Gregory out of the process, and he quit in frustration. Gregory was always a low-key player, but his tasteful contributions shouldn't be underestimated; just check out his session work on Peter Gabriel's third solo album.

Since Partridge tangled with Todd Rundgren during the making of 1986's "Skylarking," he's been unwilling to work with a strong outside producer. That means XTC music is now the product of two people: Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding, who contributes his usual two songs out of 11.

Fans have always positioned Partridge as the Lennon of this team and Moulding and as the McCartney. Partridge is clearly the visionary leader, and the acerbic wit of his lyrics during the band's first decade recalls Lennon at his most probing. But he seems incapable of the self-awareness and painful honesty that marked Lennon's solo work.

In interviews promoting the new album, Partridge cites two reasons why we haven't heard from XTC in seven years: a protracted battle with his record company and a painful divorce from his wife following the discovery that she committed adultery. (There's also a third reason - the changing musical tides have clearly left XTC a cult taste at best - but Partridge isn't talking about that.)

Partridge accepts no blame in either the battle with Virgin Records - he's unwilling to admit that he churned out a lot of mediocre music after "Skylarking" - or with his ex-wife. In fact he blasts away at her in an embarrassingly bilious tune called "Your Dictionary," which opens: "H-A-T-E is that how you spell 'love' in your dictionary? . . . (Expletive) is that how you spell 'friend' in your dictionary?"

Where is the song about how difficult it is to live with a self-inflated genius who's spent the last 18 years sitting in his attic playing with his four-track and his collection of toy soldiers? Partridge could have looked in the mirror and written one, but instead, like the solo McCartney, he gives us a new batch of pleasant but ultimately empty tunes about the life of an English country squire: "Harvest Festival," "River of Orchids," "Greenman," "Easter Theatre."

The album's worst track is the single. "I wouldn't hector if you'd be my Helen of Troy," Partridge puns in the annoying romantic idyll, "I'd Like That." "We'd laugh because each drop would make me grow up really high, really high, like a really high thing/Say a sunflower."

Oh, please; even Swindon can't be that storybook sappy. And besides, Partridge has already covered this turf more effectively on the muted "Mummer."

By my count XTC has produced four indisputable masterpieces. "Drums and Wires" (1979) was the group's third effort and the one where its Beatlesque ambitions merged with its early punk energy, producing effervescent pop gems such as "Ten Feet Tall," "Life Begins at the Hop" and "Making Plans for Nigel."

"Black Sea" (1980) was a darker album that found Partridge dissecting social mores and political foibles via tunes such as "Respectable Street," "Generals and Majors" and "Living Through Another Cuba." He continued in this lyrical vein on "English Settlement" while the group made its most impressive musical breakthrough, honing a sound that was simultaneously futuristic (in the syncopated, tom-heavy world rhythms) and retro (thanks to the dominant acoustic 12-string).

XTC was close to being dropped by its U.S. and English labels when it scored a surprising hit with 1986's "Skylarking." Rundgren took control and dictated the choice and order of the songs, including the brilliant single "Dear God," which Partridge didn't even want to release. But XTC's auteur never got the hint. He still hasn't realized that collaborating with the likes of Rundgren, Gregory, and Chambers only makes his material stronger.

Why do we keep listening? Because there's always the hope that this will dawn on him. Because those four masterpieces demand it. And because even a flawed XTC is better than no XTC at all.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Indianapolis Star
Sunday, February 28, 1999
Record Picks


"Apple Venus (Volume One)," TVT/Idea.

Reviewed by staff writer Scott Bacon.

* * * 1/2

After a seven-year absence induced by a bitter battle with former label Virgin Records, British pop veterans XTC return with the first installment of the two-part Apple Venus (Volume 2, featuring electric-rock tracks, will be released late this year).

As one of the most enduring and inventive acts in pop, guitarist Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (a frustrated Dave Gregory has departed as guitarist) deserve a warm welcome with the 11 acoustic and orchestral tracks here. While melodically mature, these tracks are also complex, meshing incongruent tempos and a treasure trove of instruments (strings, chimes, bongos) that capture XTC's quirky, sometimes disjointed trademark sound. This is no more apparent than on River of Orchids, with its plucky scrap of refrain "You've got the whole world at your feet; the grass is always greener where it bursts up through concrete."

I'd Like That recalls the band's blissful best (such as Skylarking's Earn Enough For Us) and is this disc's pop high-water mark. However, the hardly subtle Your Dictionary, in which Partridge aims a verbal flamethrower in his ex-wife's direction, lets selfishness impede artistry.

Easter Theatre and the nice romantic Harvest Festival, on which Partridge's vocals never sounded more like McCartney's, are great spacious numbers. The pair of Moulding-penned tracks, Frivolous Nights and Fruit Nut, are lighthearted numbers that help offset the disc's lush, reflective stretches.

Apple Venus (Volume One) is scheduled to arrive in stores Tuesday.

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

New York Post
February 28, 1999



TVT Records

* * * * *

If you don't have the time to listen, don't bother with the latest XTC project, "Apple Venus Vol. 1."

Unlike the band's past guitar-oriented music, which has explored pop, rock and even folk, "Apple" finds XTC principal Andy Partridge immersed in modern orchestral arrangements with complex harmonies and symphonic sound.

It's been seven years since his last disc. In the interim, Partridge, by his own admission, had grown tired of working exclusively on the electric guitar. Stripped of the limitations of the six-string instrument, XTC experimented with brass-and-string sections to create music that can't be locked in time by fad or style.

"Greenman," one of the best cuts on the disc, illustrates the timeless quality of the music presented here. "Greenman" hints at exotic, arabesque strings and tropical drumming, accented by a pretty woodwind solo.

Another nice touch on an album filled with nice touches is the meld between Partridge's vocals and a trumpet solo on "Harvest Festival." The acid-tongued "Your Dictionary," another of the disc's highlights, spells out in four-letter words all the reasons to leave an uncaring lover.

With repeated spins, there's little not to like on "Apple Venus." Still, don't expect to hear the tunes on video TV or radio. None of it will fit into current formats.

That's too bad when you consider that this is ultimately an accessible album that is similar in vision to what Brian Wilson has been up to over the last few years.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Calgary Sun
More Showbiz headlines

Sunday, February 28, 1999

Worth seven-year wait

The Calgary Sun


The much-vaunted "orch-oustic" direction on XTC's first studio album in seven years is really nothing new, as the band has already blended orchestral and acoustic sounds with dazzling results on earlier songs such as Sacrificial Bonfire and Wrapped in Grey. But on Apple Venus Vol. 1, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (guitarist Dave Gregory left during the sessions) apply the approach over the course of a seamless, concise 50-minute song cycle and the result is a monumental accomplishment, an album that'll float alongside English Settlement and Skylarking at the creamy top of the XTC canon.

Like those aforementioned albums -- not to mention Pet Sounds and the second half of Abbey Road, from which the new album draws much inspiration -- Apple Venus Vol. 1 demands to be heard in one sitting in the order the songs are arranged.

The music takes you up and down life's Big Dipper, sometimes within the same song. The acrimonious Your Dictionary is a spiteful missive to the former Mrs. Partridge, but has a clever coda that ends the song on a vaguely upbeat note.

More romantic is the unabashed love song I'd Like That, a sprightly pop tune in the mould of Love on a Farmboy's Wages; while the lushly orchestrated I Can't Own Her is possibly the greatest song Brian Wilson never wrote.

Nature, of course, is another perennial Partridge topic and with Easter Theatre he has written a masterpiece -- the entire life-cycle played out in an idyllic, sun-toasted countryside, with a chorus of such splendour that your heart will skip a beat.

By contrast, Moulding's two songs focus on life's minutiae. The better of the two, Frivolous Tonight, visits a cocktail party and contains the sort of keen, witty social observation you'd expect from prime-period Ray Davies, though the playful melody is pure Cole Porter.

One can only hope Vol. 2, a set of electric-guitar songs due this fall, shows the sort of ambition, imagination and craftsmanship exhibited here.

Great, solid effort from XTC

* * * * *

[Thanks to and with permission of David Veitch]

Toronto Star
Arts Section
Pop Recordings
Feb. 27, 1999

Apple Venus - Volume One (TVT)

Much has happened to XTC since 1992's Nonesuch [sic], including the departure of lead guitarist Dave Gregory and the health problems of lead singer/songwriter Andy Partridge.

Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding are carrying on under their own imprint after leaving their longtime British label, Virgin. That's good news for their loyal fans and it gets better because a 4 CD box set, Transistor Blast, is due out soon along with an electric, Apple Venus - Vol. 2. But first up is the splendid Apple Venus - Vol. 1, the first XTC studio album in 7 years.

The tracks are primarily acoustic pop with subtle symphonic touches - syncopated horns, plucked violins, flute trills and water droplet sounds - anchoured to gorgeous orchestral arrangements. There are shimmering vocal harmonies ("Easter Theatre") and Beatles-esque/Brian Wilson pop ("I'd Like That", "Fruit Nut", "Knights in Shining Karma").

But if you think this is all sweetness and light, skip to "Your Dictionary", a screed Partridge penned about his ex-wife. "H-A-T-E, is that how you spell love in your dictionary?" he spits out over harshly strummed chords. Partridge, who "emphatically states" that he has no interest in touring with XTC, will meet fans today at Tower Records (Queen & Yonge) at 2pm.

- Betsy Powell

[Thanks to David Oh]

JAM, Florida's Music Magazine
Feb. 26 - Mar. 11, 1999

Throughout a two-decade career, XTC has been one of pop's most diverse and unpredictable bands. After several early albums that featured jagged, edgy New Wave pop, the group shifted into a more melodic, but still forceful, guitar rock sound (best represented on the 1980 album Black Sea). From there, the band has shifted between folkier efforts (English Settlement and Skylarking), to dense rock (The Big Express) and album that have reflected the impact of latter-era Beatles and the Beach Boys on the band (Oranges & Lemons and Nonsuch). But even long-time fans may be thrown — at least temporarily — for a loop by the latest CD from Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding, and Dave Gregory (the latter of whom left the group part way through the project). On the long-awaited new CD, Apple Venus: Volume 1, XTC has virtually dispensed with electric guitars and created an album of orchestral songs.

According to Partridge, the idea of working in an orchestral setting began to take root during the latter stages of recording on the band's previous studio CD, Nonsuch (1992). Indeed a few tracks on that CD, such as “Wrapped In Grey” and “Omnibus,” found the band beginning to weave orchestral elements into their music. “I suppose I was feeling a little trapped by electric guitars,” Partridge said in recent phone interview from his home in Swindon, England. “I wanted to hear the songs broader, more stereoscopic vision, a more Eastman color or whatever. Just before the making of Nonsuch, I bought a keyboard device with a lot of orchestral samples in it. I became familiar with these recordings of orchestral sounds. You get to know what oboes sound like, you get to know what cellos sound like, you get to know the difference between violas and violins. You get to hear effects of things together, flutes with glockenspiel maybe, and so on and so on. So I became a lot more familiar with those textures on the run up to Nonsuch. But most of the Nonsuch material was electric guitar material. But as soon as we finished Nonsuch, I was just gagging to leap in full, in the deep end.”

That said, Apple Venus was clearly one of XTC's more complex undertakings — although it should be noted that much of the seven-year gap between the band's studio albums occurred because the band refused to record for its previous British label, Virgin Records, while Virgin refused to let the band out of its contract. In fact, most of the music heard on Apple Venus was tracked in one marathon session at the legendary Abbey Road Studios.

“If you consider the album taking on and off, the best part of a year, the first few months were really taken up with plotting and mapping out what the hell we were going to do,” Partridge said. “Say for example with ‘Easter Theater,’ the woodwinds are going to be doing this, the strings are going to be doing this, and we would be plotting that out one note at a time and putting that in the computer and charting that out.

“I know it sounds perverse, but over the curse of a year of sort of fiddling at one end and fiddling at the other end, the big bit in the middle was one day at Abbey Road in which we actually recorded most of the album in one day,” Partridge continued. “I know that sounds perverse, but percentage wise that's probably true. We recorded all of the orchestral stuff and all of the orchestral solo players and so on in one enormous, extremely tiring day at Abbey Road. And then it was sort of downhill gently the other side of that where we put the vocals on and little touches of percussion and so on.”

Just how deeply Partridge and Moulding immersed themselves in the new sounds they could create with an orchestra is apparent from the outset of Apple Venus: Volume 1. “River of Orchids,” with its plucked strings, interlaced horns, and multi-layered voices provides an intriguing, idiosyncratic beginning to XTC's latest. It's easily the most unusual song on the CD, but also quite effective.

By and large, the CDs other songs use a more conventional pop framework, but even in these settings, Partridge has found inviting ways to incorporate strings and horns into tracks like “Easter Theater” (one of the CDs best songs) and “Greenman” (which has a distinct and highly appealing Eastern feel) and “Harvest Festival” (which wraps one of the CDs prettier vocal melodies around gentle strings). Moulding's two songwriting contributions to Apple Venus, meanwhile, inject an element of playful mirth. Both “Frivolous Tonight” and “Fruit Nut” are whimsical tunes that make fine use of cherry strings and horns.

Not all of the songs on Apple Venus work so well, however. The droning tones of “Knights In Shining Karma” never quite take hold and the CDs closing track, “The Last Balloon” is also a bit ponderous. Still, considering this is a n album that uses a strikingly different instrumentation vocabulary from the group's previous CDs, one can only consider the album a highly successful effort. But according to Partridge, Apple Venus: Volume 1 may be just a one-album foray, and not the start of any lasting musical direction. He and Moulding have written a full slate of songs for Apple Venus: Volume 2 but that CD promises to bring electric guitar back into the XTC sound — with a vengeance.

“All of the material that was written really between '92 and '94 was my desire to work in this orchestral vein,” Partridge said. “Seeing as we really still weren't legally allowed to make a record by '94, I think I started to want to hear cranked up guitars again. And all of the material that came out really between '94 and '96 was really quite basic in your face guitar material. That will be Volume 2.”

In other words, with Apple Venus: Volume 1 Partridge suspects he got his orchestral urges out of his system — at least for the foreseeable future.

“I think that's what it was, I think it was just a couple of years away (from guitar),” Partridge said, trying to explain why the electric guitar started sounding fresh again. “Having a diet of these orchestral textures, it was a bit like being a vegetarian for a couple of years. I guess I just wanted a big fat sausage. I wanted a t-bone or something at the end of it.”

3 stars

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

puls: cd

Apple venus

* * * *
pop (Cooking Vinyl)

Det har varit tyst alldeles för länge från Swindon-bandet XTC. Men äntligen ett livstecken från Andy Partridge och Colin Moulding - och så bra de fortfarande är.
  "Apple venus" är ett "Sgt Pepper..."-liknande album, sprängfullt med underfundigt orkestrerade stycken och små akustiska poppärlor om vartannat. Lekfullare och intelligentare än det mesta som släpps på skiva i dag, med geniala texter av Andy Partridge som ibland låter förvillande lik en ung Paul McCartney. Här finns som förr många passningar till Beatles ("Frivolous tonight") men också till Simon & Garfunkel ("Knights in shining karma").
  Men mest av allt låter det bara XTC.
  Ett helt underbart album.

Anders Hvidfeldt

BAM (California's Music Magazine)
February 26, 1999
By Dan Epstein

XTC - Apple Venus Volume 1 * * * *

The last time we heard from XTC, Kris Kross was topping the charts and Billy Ray Cyrus was making country music safe for mullet haircuts. Seven years, one guitarist (the lamentable and less-than-amicable departure of the great Dave Gregory), and a thousand pop cultural upheavals later, XTC are back with their first record since Nonsuch. The wait was worth it, to say the least.

XTC's extended, self-imposed hiatus (caused by a contractual dispute with Virgin, the band's former label) was actually probably a good thing, in that it gave Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding plenty of time to come up with an all-killer/no-filler record; there's no evidence here of the heavy-handed lyrics or empty complexity that marred Nonsuch and Oranges and Lemons, XTC's two previous albums. Partridge and Moulding have also done a remarkable job of sticking to their guns during the long layoff. While many other bands in their position might have attempted forays into trip-hop or drum-and-bass in a desperate attempt to sound current, Apple Venus Volume 1 finds XTC drawing upon the same pastoral, semi-psychedelic vibe that's marked every one of their records since 1982's English Settlement.

Apple Venus Volume 1 has been touted as an "orchestral" record (Volume 2, due out later in the year, is supposed to round up the more guitar-heavy songs written during the hiatus), but this is hardly just a bunch of sleepy string quartets: "Greenman" offers up psychedelia spiced with a Middle Eastern drone, "Frivolous Tonight" is a jaunty pub singalong and "Your Dictionary" is an acoustic breakup ballad with some of Partridge's most brutally direct lyrics in years. Then again, the orchestrations on "River of Orchids," the opening track, are so strange and lovely that you'll probably have to hit "repeat" three or four times before moving on to the rest of the record. A whimsical and extremely personal record, Apple Venus Volume 1 may not make many converts, but it's sure gonna make a lot of their fans ecstatically happy.

[Thanks to Randy Posynick]

Wall of Sound
February 26, 1999
CD Reviews

Apple Venus

Label: TVT
Genre: Alternative
File Under: Dazzling British orch-pop
Rating: 84

Sometimes personal struggles tear bands apart, other times they spur them to greater heights of creative expression. For XTC, which for more than 20 years has proudly thumbed its nose in the face of conventional pop-rock, the 1990s have not been a happy time. Not only did the band spend five years extricating itself from old label deals, but frontman Andy Partridge suffered through a harrowing divorce, and guitarist Dave Gregory, feeling that his role in the group was being severely reduced, quit during the making of Apple Venus.

Despite all this, Apple Venus, Vol. 1 is neither particularly angry nor bitter. Instead, it is an often-revelatory slice of orchestral pop; filled with signature XTC touches, it aims extremely high and hits its target. During the marathon Apple Venus sessions, the band wrote two albums worth of material, half of which was orchestral/acoustic (this CD), and the other half of which is guitar-driven/electric (Vol. 2, due later this year). The first single, "I'd Like That," with its goofy guitar-pop charms, pales next to the rhythmic thrust of "River of Orchids," with its pizzicato strings and Philip Glass-like trumpet parts. The album's centerpiece, "Greenman," whisks us into a land of Arabian funk, over which Partridge sings an elegant and cleverly veiled reminder that we and the world of nature are forever linked.

At times, the arrangements swamp the vocals, and occasionally Partridge is forced to sing in an overdriven manner that doesn't suit the tone of the songs. But most of Apple Venus 1 fascinates the ears and the mind. From the post-breakup indignation of "Your Dictionary" to Colin Moulding's bouncy, Beatles-ish "Frivolous Tonight" to the lovely, jazzy closer, "The Last Balloon," this aural feast will definitely have your senses working overtime.

- Bob Remstein

[Thanks to Ira Lieman]

Daily Pennsylvanian
February 25, 1999
34th Street Magazine: Music

XTC: 1, Adam Ant: 0

Kate Lee

After a long hiatus following the release of their last album, 1992's Nonsuch, XTC -- the British duo of Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge -- has returned to the lyrical pop scene with Apple Venus Volume I. This collection of carefully crafted gems both builds on the marginal indie success of Nonsuch's catchy "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" while diverging from its predecessor with a rich and complex orchestral arrangement. Despite the drawn-out studio sessions that resulted in the departure of their guitarist and producer, XTC has emerged from its self-imposed exile with a cohesive set of miniature symphonic compositions.

Seven long years have passed since Nonsuch, an album of easy-going, perky melodies that harks back to simpler times to soothe the soul. On the acoustically-flavored Apple Venus Volume I (which is soon to be followed by a plugged-in Volume 2), Partridge and Moulding are unafraid to display their music's dark underbelly as well as their very obvious love of the Beatles (Paul McCartney's tunes, particularly) while augmenting their sound with violins, woodwinds, brass and a noticeable scarcity of the usual percussion.

The album opens tentatively with "River of Orchids," featuring ominous, disembodied notes of plucked strings anchored by horns, over which lie Partridge's distinctive vocal harmonies. These darker textures are interspersed with the upbeat rhythm and lyrics of songs like "I'd Like That," while XTC's characteristic multi-layered vocals soar over a diverse arrangement of acoustic and electric guitars and a steady beat of horns on "Easter Theatre."

apple venus vol. 1

"Frivolous Tonight" bears the unmistakable stamp of the Sgt. Peppers's track "When I'm Sixty-Four." And as if that were not enough, a far-eastern influence -- perhaps another trace of the indelible mark of the Beatles -- is woven into several tracks, including (most noticeably in the title) the delicate and plaintive "Knights in Shining Karma" and the thoroughly sinuous melodies, cymbals and flute arrangements on "Greenman."

The apogee of Apple Venus, if only for its innovative lyrics, is "Your Dictionary," a caustic tirade against Partridge's ex-wife. The tone of the track is immediately established with Partridge strumming a guitar and half-spitting, half-singing, "H-A-T-E/Is that how you spell love in your dictionary?" The rest of the song, graced with a beautiful piano line, veers between seemingly carefree stanzas and obviously personal, stinging lyrics. The listener may not know what to make of such a testimony, but its cleverness is undeniable (One suspects that the object of such intense animosity is the same one invoked in "I Can't Own Her" several tracks later).

Clever is certainly one of the most appropriate adjectives to apply to XTC, although at times such canny inventiveness nears dangerously close to preciousness. Nonetheless, XTC has come a long way since "Dear God," the song for which they are perhaps best known. A lot can happen in seven years, and judging from the increased complexity of the new songs' structures, the personal nature of the lyrics and the overall maturity of sound, a lot in fact has.

The Columbus Dispatch
Thursday, February 25, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1, XTC (TVT Records): During the seven-year hiatus since its last studio album, XTC has experienced major upheaval, including record company woes, the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory and front man Andy Partridge's acrimonious divorce. Perhaps adversity inspires greatness because Apple Venus Volume 1 is a great record. Often lushly orchestral, this collection is a perfect blend of classical elements with the band's typically stellar pop songcraft. Quite an achievement, given that such things don't always fly. The opener, River of Orchids, begins with the sounds of water droplets and plucked strings. The horns come in, then the vocals and soon layers are swirling like a jester dancing in arabesque whorls. When Partridge sings "Just like a mad dog you're chasing your tail in a circle," the tone is set. We know we'll be treated to the yin and yang of tomfoolery and the profound, of gentle whimsy and biting sarcasm that is XTC's stock in trade. And sarcasm bites ferociously on Your Dictionary, Partridge's caustic volley fired at his ex-wife and inspired by their marital meltdown. Though the bile flows, the lyrics are crafty and clever instead of base and nasty. With its woodwinds, strings and Eastern flavor, Greenman feels like a flying carpet ride into some magical, exotic land. I'd Like That is a quirky, radio-ready love song with the same delightful catchiness that made Senses Working Overtime a hit. With this disc, XTC is back in the groove delivering pithy, fetchingly pretty pop.

- Heidi Johnson-Wright

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Thursday, February 25, 1999


XTC, "Apple Venus" (TVT Records)

Pure XTC.

That's one way to describe the band's new record, "Apple Venus," now the band has been whittled down to just bass player/singer Colin Moulding and guitarist/singer Andy Partridge. On its first collection of new material since '92's "Nonsuch," the band explores some new places but also keeps much of what it has been known for - clever lyrics with music to match. But don't go looking for "Peter Pumpkinhead," "The Mayor of Simpleton" or even "Nigel" on this record.

Opening with some rhythmic plucking strings, "River of Orchids" becomes a montage of overlapping vocals reminiscent of an 18th-century choral group. Some of the vocal lines display Partridge's wonderfully high nasal voice while others become deep and billowing.

The strumming acoustic guitar intro to "I'd Like That" is a little more in character. The little love song actually becomes vibrant and fun to listen to with its slightly '60s flowery lyrics flowing around hand claps.

The striking strings that begin "Easter Theatre" make way for a rather sexy song a little fuller than the previous one with more drums, guitars and a more defined bass guitar. Its various mood changes and bright horns and strings make this one of the major highlights of the album.

"Harvest Festival" takes the same approach, building slow into an ensemble not unlike something on "Sgt. Pepper."

Going full circle, "Knights in Shining Karma" shows Partridge's flair for soft ballads that aren't really ballads. The slow picking of the electric guitar goes along well with the smooth angelic vocals.

"Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut," Moulding's only two tracks on the album, offer some wonderfully poppy and very British diversions. "Tonight" is littered with Beatlesque horns and piano. "Fruit's" Mersey beat - that quirky jangly pop - almost disguises the darkly humorous lyrics.

The African-rhythm influenced "Green Man" bursts and pounds with drums and a funky bass line while Partridge and Moulding sing many different vocal melodies over top.

In "Your Dictionary," another guitar cut, Partridge takes a jab at some despicable person. The guitar makes way for some somber piano and strings and his vocals show more of his anger.

The magnificent "I Can't Own Her" pulls everything together that makes this album great - orchestration, meaningful lyrics and lush vocalization. The melancholy "The Last Balloon" closes out the album, plodding and then ending with a rich trumpet solo.

Since radio is going conservative again, "Apple Venus" probably won't get any airplay. But you can still pick it up if you're into something different. It is sure to keep at least one of the five senses working overtime. And if you like this, there is a Vol. 2 on the way. B+

- Alex Bridges

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

New Times L.A.
Music | Revolver

Modified Rapture
Apple Venus, Volume One

No, XTC didn't break up--its two remaining members have just been on strike from recording for the last seven years, locked in a dispute with their former record label; thanks to Andy Partridge's celebrated stage-fright, they couldn't make up the difference by touring. There was a no-big-news compilation of old album tracks, Upsy Daisy Assortment, in 1997, then an also-no-big-news boxed set of radio performances, Transistor Blast, last year. And now, finally, there's Apple Venus, Volume One, a legitimately new album. The volume designation in the title is because there's a Vol. Two expected later this year: guitarist/singer Partridge didn't give up songwriting during the break, apparently. Of course, the audience for alt-rock pretty much turns over in a seven-year period, so XTC has a lot to prove. Imagine falling asleep right after "Love Me Do" and waking up just in time for "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Or, more to the point, skipping ahead from then to Wings Over America. So the question is, what of the XTC we love is still here, and what has fallen to time?

For one thing, the band's curious sense of rhythm is history--not just the tension of the White Music/Go 2 period, but the odd, asymmetrical phrasing they've used to keep things interesting through their 20-year career, or rather the first 13 years of it. (The departure of guitarist/keyboardist Dave Gregory midway through the making of AV1 can't have helped that.) And, though they've always let songs drag on a bit longer than necessary, it's a real problem here--nearly every song could easily lose a minute. Bassist/singer Colin Moulding has fallen entirely into the upper-class-twit-of-the-year songwriting mode of XTC's alter-ego band the Dukes of Stratosphear, conscious of how close his parodies are getting to self-parody but venturing forth in his moth-eaten Sgt. Pepper jacket anyway. He only contributes two songs here: "Fruit Nut," which appears to be an answer to the Beach Boys' "Vegetables," and "Frivolous Tonight," whose title tells you all you need to know.

That's the bad stuff, and honestly, there isn't much of it here. The good things that endure about XTC, it turns out, are Partridge's sweet, tart songwriting and love of beautiful sounds. AV1 was recorded with a full orchestra until, in the tradition of ambitious pop albums from Neu 2 onward, the money ran out. What there is of such arrangements, though, sounds amazing--you can hear how Partridge must have been mulling over these ideas during the years he spent away from the studio. The opener, "River of Orchids," is a lavishly braided mix of polyphonic Partridge-voices and regal pizzicato strings, like a much cooler cousin of "Orinoco Flow," and the rest of the album uses the orchestra not just to flesh out the songs but to drive them, with Michael Nyman-ish woodwind patterns and "Penny Lane" horn obbligatos and "Strawberry Fields Forever" flutes occupying the spaces where you'd expect guitars. Partridge's lyrical wit is undimmed, too--first-rate lines like "Grow up high, really high/Like a really high thing/Say, a sunflower" fly by so blithely that their jokes barely graze the ear. He's made the riskiest album of his career and one of the prettiest. If it's missing part of what once made his band greater and more complete than it is now, he's also learned to work with what he's still got. That's called aging gracefully. (Douglas Wolk)

©1999 New Times. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Karl Witter]

The Cleveland Free Times
Vol. 7, Issue 23 -- February 24 - March 3, 1999


Apple Venus Volume 1

TVT Records

Forget about Michael Jackson, Andy Partridge is the real King of Pop. Born from the British scene of the late '70s which also spawned Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Joe Jackson, Partridge's XTC created some of the catchiest tunes this side of Paul McCartney, circa 1967. But something happened on XTC's road to pop stardom; they never became stars. Part of that comes from Partridge's refusal to perform live, but it also stems from his increasing boredom with the conventions of his music. So with Apple Venus Volume 1, Partridge reaches his destiny as the obscure creator of very pretty, non-commercial music.

XTC's pure pop sound was also molded by fellow bandmate Colin Moulding, but it's Partridge's sly songcrafting and intelligently satirical lyrics that define the band. On Apple Venus, it's apparent that Partridge is trying to evolve, album sales be damned, beyond the formula that made him a cult hero on both sides of the Atlantic.

For most of Apple Venus, Partridge employs intricate orchestration, with strings, horns and woodwinds filling the soundscape where electric guitars once tread. The initial song, "River of Orchids," builds an amazing hypnotic maze of harmonized orchestral sounds that's quite unlike anything XTC's ever recorded. It'll never make it to radio, but it proves how far Partridge has developed as a composer. The remainder of Apple Venus balances this new orchestral style with some of Partridge's most introspective songwriting, mostly accompanied by an acoustic guitar. While "Your Dictionary" bitterly addresses his painful divorce, the remaining acoustic songs beautifully weave together deeply felt ideals and musical passages that vaguely remind a listener of Skylarking, XTC's great album of the early '80s.

Apple Venus sounds as if Partridge has quit trying to appease the marketplace and only cares about exploring his own vision. Pity there isn't an audience for it. But for fans of what Partridge calls his "basic, idiotic electric stuff," look for it on Apple Venus Volume 2, which will be released late this year.

- Tom Vasich

[Thanks to Harold Freshour]

February 23, 1999
New & Noteworthy

Apple Venus Volume 1 (TVT)
* * * *
Apple Venus Volume 1 Don't criticize the always underrated XTC for not releasing any new material since 1992's Nonsuch. It's not that they haven't wanted to; rather, a bitter dispute with their previous record company, Virgin, has held them hostage. With Apple Venus Volume 1, the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (longtime guitarist Dave Gregory recently left the band) pick up exactly where they left off seven years ago, resuming the orchestral pop constructions that graced much of their later work. It's surprising to see XTC have spared no expense for their first indie effort, utilizing the London Session Symphony to grand effect. "River of Orchids" leads Venus with cutting strings plucked in a manic time signature underneath a muted storm of brass, until Partridge and Moulding kick in with a looping and familiar harmonic swoon. From there, "I'd Like That," a gorgeous slice of Skylarking pop, the exotic Middle Eastern buzz of "Greenman" and "Your Dictionary," Partridge's biting ode to divorce, show that XTC's melodies remain refreshingly offbeat. These songs also prove that Partridge and Moulding can make strings, horns and woodwinds pack the punch of the band's early new wave fireworks. Those who still prefer their XTC plugged in, fear not. The rumored-to-be-electric Volume 2 is due later this year. - Jason Kaufman, Sidewalk

[No thanks to Sidewalk]

E! Online
February 23, 1999
New This Week

Apple Venus (Volume One)

our grade: A-

XTC returns, finally, after having weathered a lawsuit with their former label, the departure of longtime guitarist Dave Gregory and frontman Andy Partridge's passage from matrimony to acrimony and divorce. The breakup of Partridge's marriage fuels much of this album's lyrical content, particularly "Your Dictionary," which starts out angry and hurt and then takes a dreamy, Beach Boys-like spin, ending with calm resignation. Musically, Partridge and Colin Moulding have created an extremely ambitious work, layering their acoustic guitar pop with all sorts of orchestral elements. From the trumpets and pizzicato strings that percolate throughout "River of Orchids" to the Middle Eastern funkiness of "Greenman," the CD's finest track, this is XTC on a whole new level.

© 1999 E! Online, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Neil Oliver]

The Wiseacre
February 22, 1999
The Music

Apple Venus XTC (Cooking Vinyl)

Swindon's premier pop group have been away so long that there are undoubtedly a few younger readers out there who've seen the name of the band at the top of this review and assumed it's a record by a hyperactive dance duo from, I don't know, Belgium or somewhere. Fashion works that way. A name that began as a pronunciation conundrum for thick DJs has, over the years, picked up an entirely new allegorical twist thanks to nothing more than a few drum machines, some samplers and an all-conquering party drug.

Not that XTC have ever cared a great deal about fashion, though I guess that's what coming from Swindon does for you. It hasn't done them any commercial favours (even if by some fluke of nature, 1989's Oranges & Lemons did sell half a million in the States), but it's resulted in an enviably ace back-catalogue. It's just Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding now, but even after seven years away, Apple Venus is still unmistakeably XTC.

It's also - and it's been said a thousand times before about them, but it's still relevant - unmistakeably English. And it's not just the lyrics, though it's hard to imagine an American band opening an album with the lines "I'd like that, if we could cycle down some lane. I'd like that, if we could ride into the rain: your mac's getting wet..." (I'd Like That). Similarly, you'd never catch an Aussie outfit writing about a harvest festival (er, Harvest Festival); or, in fact, anyone but XTC singing about the joys of growing your own fruit (Fruit Nut).

But aside from the lyrical googlies, not to mention the odd rubbish pun - Knights In Shining Karma indeed - the very sound is deliberately, unashamedly English. Cyclical chord sequences, tumbling sixties harmonies, chopping string arrangements, trumpet fanfares, and even a psychedelic groove based around a bassoon riff. Lest this all sound frightening, the whole thing is hung together on some good old-fashioned melodies, always XTC's raison d'etre. A bunch of pop songs, then, but packed with more invention than most bands manage in a lifetime.

Fashion, of course, has long since left the building, which is why XTC now find themselves on an indie label (albeit a good one, Cooking Vinyl) rather than on Virgin, where they spent over 15 years and with whom they released ten albums. But as long as people listen to the Beach Boys, or The Kinks, or English folksong, there'll be room for XTC. So, on I'd Like That, when Andy Partridge sings "Each drop would make me grow up really high, really high, like a really high thing: say, a sunflower," you just feel glad for him, and glad that he's all right. Apple Venus is that sort of an album.

The Dallas Morning News
Sunday, February 21, 1999

Super Tuesday
After a typically slow first month, the record industry times its first salvo of new releases to coincide with Wednesday's Grammy Awards.

Apple Venus Volume I TVT
* * *

XTC has been on a forced holiday of sorts due to one of those record-company tiffs. Seven years later, it's finally over; now the band - just Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, since guitarist Dave Gregory bowed out - returns with Apple Venus Volume I.

It sounds like XTC has grown up. Mr. Partridge's vocals retain their boyishness but the music has a real maturity. The band still has its trademark veneration for the Beatles, but there's also Beach Boys, Moody Blues, jazz and clownish waltzes.

"Greenman" would've fit nicely on the soundtrack to Out of Africa, if it had been written in time. The disc's opulent closer, "The Last Balloon," begins with harpsichord and ends with a softly fading trumpet.

Neither rock nor pop nor anything in between, Apple Venus is like cabaret music, but good cabaret - not, say, the soundtrack to a Fellini film, but music that's coming from guys who've been places and seen things.

- Teresa Gubbins / Staff Critic of The Dallas Morning News

Copyright 1999
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Orange County Register
February 21, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1, TVT
* * * * 1/2

It takes guts to come back after a seven-year absence with an all acoustic and orchestral album of deeply confessional songs. Of course, the British group XTC has never done anything as it should.

When it was at its popular peak in the early '80s, thanks to the bouncy hit "Senses Working Overtime," it was forced into retirement from touring because of leader Andy Partridge's dubious stage fright. When it needed to hang on to what fans it had to boost sales in the murky years that followed, the band became even more enigmatic and inscrutable, releasing moody and often stridently political albums in place of hit machines.

More strange developments followed. Before XTC scored a left-field alternative hit with the atheistic "Dear God" in 1986, thus returning it to the spotlight, the group had originally left the track on the cutting-room floor and had relegated it to a B-side at the last minute. When it had restored a college-age fan base with jangly, Beatlesque tunes such as "Earn Enough for Us" and "The Mayor of Simpleton," it conveniently ditched it in favor of the more expansive and experimental Nonsuch in 1992.

Then the group lay dormant, seemingly dead, trapped in legal battles with its British label, unable to enter a studio for fear anything it did would be released against its will.

Naturally, that created a stockpile of material. Apple Venus Volume 1 (in stores Tuesday) roughly consists of the most intensely emotional songs written during the down time, many of them centering on Partridge's recent, quite nasty divorce and the less-than-amicable departure of guitarist Dave Gregory. (The group is now a duo of songwriting chief Partridge and longtime compatriot-bassist Colin Moulding.)

Surprisingly, though, it's as if XTC had never gone away, with Apple Venus acting as both an extension of the darker strains of Nonsuch and a revisit to the English-countryside grandeur of 1984's Mummer.

The opening "River of Orchids," engulfed in layer upon layer of crescendo-laden, syncopated strings, and the next cut, "I'd Like That," almost too reminiscent of the earlier "Love on a Farmboy's Wages," sets the stage for the two approaches Partridge and Moulding take most here. Apple Venus almost alternates between the styles from that point on, with "Easter Theatre" achieving a wild Beach-Boys-at-the-carny chamber feel, followed closely by the more lighthearted "Knights in Shining Karma" and "Frivolous Tonight."

Like the best XTC albums, this one is vaguely conceptual, mostly centered around life and death and rebirth (of some kind), and builds considerable lyrical bite and melodic momentum as it goes along. (Case in point: "Your Dictionary," a vicious kiss-off to a former lover, played over a stirring Lennon-esque strum; "H-A-T-E / Is that how you spell 'love' in your dictionary?' Partridge asks. "K-I-C-K / Pronounced as 'kind.' ")

It all reaches a heady, sorrowful climax, and it's as stunning as it was on Skylarking, with the languid "I Can't Own Her," in which Partridge comes to terms with himself, blending seamlessly into the bittersweet marriage-in-miniature portrait of "Harvest Festival."

It's all moving and masterfully written, a brand of pop miles beyond anything most tunesmiths since Brian Wilson have been able to achieve. And it's a most welcome return from a band we need desperately. Volume 2 is planned for fall, and it's supposed to rock as hard as this one soothes. Two XTC albums in one year? Who would've guessed?

You might enjoy if you like: the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, the quieter moments of XTC's Nonsuch and Mummer, the High Llamas

By BEN WENER/The Register

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Hartford Courant
Sunday Feb. 21, 1999
by Roger Catlin

Not Too Old to Rock: Three '80s Stars Make Superb New Albums

If the musicologists at VH1 had their way, each decade's music would be neatly wrapped in 10-year packages, and once the calendars turned, be wrapped forever in "Where are they now?" features.

Musicians do not cease to exist just because they've exhausted their initial run in the limelight. Nor do their fans dispose of them so readily.

It's easy to make fun of reunions as meticulously planned and commercially motivated as those by the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and Black Sabbath. But it's hard to deny the fans who still embrace their music as if it never went away.

This week, three key acts from the original punk and new wave uprisings of 20 years go emerge with new work: Blondie, XTC and Paul Westerberg.

All three ought to be cheered by longtime fans, especially since they've gone beyond mere nostalgia and, unlike the '70s bands, have not simply made live recordings of their old hits for release as a "new" comeback product.

. . .

Unlike Blondie, XTC never really broke up.

Instead, they got angry at their record company and withheld any albums for most of the decade until they were released from their contract. The British band, led by Andy Partridge, continued to write an album's worth of material every couple of years, as if it was still putting them out, but nothing ever came.

Finally free and able to issue what it wants, the cream of its past work rises to the top on the surprising Apple Venus, Volume One (TVT). Written with acoustic guitars and orchestra in mind, XTC moves to a new level with the work, all but leaving behind the jagged guitar of its past pop.

With hooks aplenty and surprising musical turns on every cut, "Apple Venus," at times sounds like the best album Paul McCartney never made, especially with the sublime single, "I Like That". (sic!) Of course, XTC is expert in replicating sounds of the '60s. But with the sparingly used strings, there's no question of the freshness of the sound throughout--and the delightfulness of the writing.

Guitarist Dave Gregory split halfway through recording this album, leaving just Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding (not that the band operated much outside of the studio since 1982 anyway). Already finished is Volume 2, a more hard-edged electric attack. Welcome back.

[Thanks to Karl Witter]

Wednesday, February 24, 1999
Edited by Michael Goldberg

Apple Venus Volume I, XTC (TVT/Idea Records)

We've Been Itching For Seven Long Years ...
More transporting songs from the brilliantly quirky band.

By Ben Auburn

Only a band as rewarding as XTC can also be so infuriating. For every "Making Plans for Nigel" there's a "Grass." While main songwriter Andy Partridge can often pull a song like "The Mayor of Simpleton" right out of the treacle, he's almost as often incapable of avoiding preachy numbers like "Books are Burning."

Sometimes you just want to throttle them. Right after you want to kiss them.

Seven years since Nonesuch [sic] and freed from contract hell, XTC have returned with their own label (distributed in the United States by TVT) and a new record, Apple Venus Volume 1. Guitarist Dave Gregory has split, leaving just Partridge and Colin Moulding, and you can feel the loss -- throughout the record there is a pronounced lack of the kind of musical kicks in the pants Gregory could have provided. But while there are small holes, there aren't any huge gaps: in writing an album of largely acoustic and orchestral songs, they've managed to write their way around Gregory's absence.

Apple Venus volume 1 is the welcome return of the cranky, sometimes exasperating, and almost always worthwhile XTC.

The memory of Elvis Costello's disastrous collaboration with Burt Bacharach looms largely over XTC's "orchoustic" record -- would they write an album of easy-listening tunes? A batch of soupy ballads? The thought of watching another hero of the new wave of the 1970s slide so gracelessly into middle age wasn't too appealing, but Apple Venus isn't at all awful. In fact, it's pretty good.

It's pretty good in the way that almost all XTC albums -- save their really great records like Black Sea -- are pretty good: there are flashes of incredible, almost transcendent pop moments followed by half-baked or overwrought saccharine.

Venus gets off to a rousing start. "River of Orchids" flows around polyrhythms played on strings and brass, with Partridge's trippy, almost frantic vocal avoiding almost all of them. It will no doubt cause many a rock critic to invoke Phillip Glass, but Partridge had far too much fun putting all the messy pieces together to warrant the comparison. You end up thinking, if this is what "orchoustic" means, sign me up.

Next up, though, is "I'd Like That," melodically as lush but sparely recorded, with just guitars, bass and slapped-thighs for percussion. It'd be a jarring transition if the song wasn't so, well, nice, though given how gentle it is, it's an odd choice for the first single. And it's also Partridge's first misstep on the record: in both this and "Your Dictionary," he can't decide how to connect the end of the chorus with the beginning of the verse -- so he just inserts a little pause, leaving the songs transition-less. It's a lazy tactic, but not a song-killer: you're not mad, you're just disappointed.

"Easter Theatre" and "Harvest Festival" are two more bright stars (the former includes a neat tip of the hat to "She's Leaving Home"), and Moulding's two contributions, "Fruit Nut" and "Frivolous Tonight," while slight, are fun and disarming, recalling Noel Coward more than anything else.

Later, though, Partridge is up to his mean old tricks, hoisting soggy numbers like "Knights in Shining Karma" and well-duh sentiments like "I Can't Own Her." You wonder if these were the songs the other members voted against and Partridge insisted on including.

Near the end of the record come two of its most powerful statements. "Your Dictionary" is the album's one bitter break-up song. (Partridge divorced during XTC's hiatus.) It's really quite nasty, but for all its vitriol ("F. U. C. K./ Is that how you spell 'friend' in your dictionary ... black on black a guidebook for the blind"), you wish Partridge had taken a page from Costello's book and really pushed his metaphor as far as it could go -- see "Everyday I Write the Book," which for all its faults never breaks the bounds of its lyrical concept while exploring every last bit.

Finally, there's "The Last Balloon," which will probably stay with you the longest. To invoke Costello for the third time, it's XTC's "Shipbuilding," and you feel like they've been trying for years to do it. Lush without being overarranged and emotional without being sentimental, it's probably the least catchy song on Apple Venus and the most effective.

Pop radio has moved so far from this band that they're likely to be a kind of curio from now on, the quaint, crazy uncles who didn't so much get left behind as just took a different road. Apple Venus volume 1 -- which will shortly be followed by the electric and "moronic" (Partridge's word) volume 2 -- is the welcome return of the cranky, sometimes exasperating, and almost always worthwhile XTC.

[Wed., February 24, 12:59 AM EST]

Copyright © 1999 SonicNet, Inc. All rights reserved.

Het Nieuwsblad
20 februari 1999


Zeven jaar. Zo lang heeft XTC moeten wachten om deze plaat te kunnen uitbrengen. Het Britse trio ging na Nonsuch (1992) in staking tegen het wurgende contract met hun vorige platenfirma. Ze kregen hun vrijheid terug maar moeten voortaan wel zelf hun spaargeld samenleggen om platen uit te brengen. Vandaar het Volume 1 in de titel van Apple Venus: dit zijn alleen de zachtere songs die Andy Partridge en Colin Moulding in tussentijd hebben gepend. Op Volume 2, dat verschoven is naar 2000, komen de „gitaarsongs”.

Bij de eerste beluistering missen we precies dat: een stevige rocksong à la Making plans for Nigel. We horen wel strijkers, blazers en akoestische gitaren. Maar zoals elke XTC-plaat moet je ook deze Apple Venus even laten rijpen, en dan hoor je in de vrolijke dijenkletser I'd like that de beste Beatlessong die Lennon en McCartney nooit schreven, en in het exotische Greenman een melodie waar Björk haar fortuin voor zou schenken. Aanstekelijke deuntjes over milieuverloedering wisselen af met onderwerpen als behaarde ruggen en de geneugten van tuinieren. Ja, de heren zijn wat ouder, maar daarom niet slomer. Omdat elke appel een bitter klokhuis heeft, rekent Partridge in Your dictionary af met zijn ex-vrouw. Of hoe uit een echtscheiding toch iets moois kan bloeien.

Als je iets tegen deze plaat kan inbrengen, is het dat ze niet echt verrast. Maar na meer dan twintig jaar kwaliteitspop nog altijd beter worden in je eigen ding, en ons een warm lentegevoel geven in februari: het is niet iedereen gegeven. (TDC)

XTC „Apple Venus Volume 1” (Cooking Vinyl/Bertus) 8

The Daily Telegraph, London
February 20, 1999, Saturday
The Arts: Pop CDs
by Alexis Petridis

Apple Venus Volume One (Cooking Vinyl)

IT'S 17 years since XTC troubled the Top 10, with Senses Working Overtime, and seven years since they released an album. Embroiled in a financial row with former label Virgin, the band went "on strike". Remarkably, for a record written under such beleaguered circumstances, Apple Venus is a joyful, Technicolor return.

XTC's declining success in this country is no reflection on songwriter Andy Partridge's ability to craft exquisite pop. The resolute Englishness of songs such as Easter Theatre and Harvest Festival is out of step with anything currently considered commercial in the UK, but in the US, XTC are hailed as alt.rock heroes.

Their worst excess may be whimsy - I'd Like That and Fruit Nut err on the cloying - but with songs as lusciously string- and harmony-laden as Green Man and the vocal charm of Partridge's unreconstructed Swindon twang, it's a minor quibble.

Copyright 1999 Telegraph Group Limited
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Chicago Tribune
Friday, February 19, 1999

Greg Kot

Next week marks the first "Super Tuesday" of the new year, with a flood of new albums hitting the racks. Among the most notable:

XTC, Apple Venus: Vol. 1 (TVT): The British cult band's first album in six years is an ambitiously orchestrated, mostly acoustic affair; Vol. 2, scheduled for release later this year, is said to contain more traditionally rock-oriented XTC fare. Beautiful as Vol. 1 is, it may strike some longtime fans as a perhaps too radical departure. The rhythms are decidedly muted, with delicate vocals cushioned by lavish string and horn arrangements. The lack of punch is at first disconcerting -- it led guitarist Dave Gregory to quit the band during the sessions. But if listeners allow their ears to sink into these plush cushions of sound, they may find plenty of delights: the knee-slapping rhythms of "I'd Like That," the symphonic ebb and flow of the wondrous "Easter Theatre." And in the bilious "Your Dictionary" and conflicted "I Can't Own Her," Andy Partridge puts some bite into his bucolic reveries, while "The Last Balloon" is a bittersweet tone poem that manages to juggle disgust and hope.

Copyright 1999 by the Chicago Tribune
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Daily Mail, London
February 19, 1999

XTC: Apple Venus Volume 1 (Cooking Vinyl) XTC employ strings, trumpets and flugelhorns on their first album in seven years and on Knights In Shining Karma, attempt vocal harmonies more suited to the Beach Boys. For all their studio trickery, this diverse, ambitious record lacks the hooks that characterised their best work. The McCartney-esque I'd Like That and Fruit Nut are, however, reminders of poppier times.

Copyright 1999 Associated Newspapers Ltd.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA
February 19, 1999, Friday, FINAL EDITION

XTC Apple Venus, Vol. I
(TVT Records)

After a five-year “strike” against former label Virgin, the lauded Brit-pop outfit XTC - guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding - is back with its first recording of new material since the highly acclaimed Nonsuch.

Instead of the layoff stifling its creativity, the band has blossomed during its self-imposed timeout.

The quirky clang and electric buzz of earlier efforts have replaced by a lush, string-driven orchustic work in a shimmering acoustic setting. Think Pet Sounds meets Philip Glass: The sounds are modern, classical and music hall with vocals that are sometimes coy, other times sardonic, all sweetened with ringing harmonies.

It's music that feeds the brain and delights the emotions - and would make a Beatle maniac swoon. Let's hope we won't have to wait as long for Vol. II.

- Eric Feber, The Pilot

Copyright 1999 Landmark Communications, Inc.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Los Angeles Times
February 18, 1999

XTC Apple Venus Volume 1 (TVT) * * * 1/2

After a seven-year hiatus, English pop eccentrics Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding return with an acoustic-orchestral collection (due Tuesday) that recalls XTC's many pastoral moments. Lush, complex melodies color moods ranging from giddy (“I'd Like That”) to pensive (“I Can't Own Her”), but Partridge's wicked wordplay fails him on the sour “Your Dictionary.” Coming from the author of such double-edged pop gems as “Dear God,” this pointed rebuke of an unfaithful wife is surprisingly flat-footed.

-- Natalie Nichols

[Thanks to Bill Peschel]

Boston Herald
Arts & Entertainment
Thursday, February 18, 1999

From agony to XTC: After years of personal and career detours, British group releases 'Apple Venus Volume I'
by Dean Johnson

Seven years have elapsed since the acclaimed British pop-rock group XTC released its last studio album, “Nonesuch” [sic]. Since then, XTC frontman Andy Partridge has lived a horror show that would spook hardened delta bluesmen.

“We found ourselves on strike to get out of our agreement with Virgin Records,” Partridge, 45, said, “so we had to sit it out for nearly five years. If we made any music, they owned it as soon as we stopped into the studio.

“In the meantime,” he added, “I woke up one morning and found myself divorced. It was extremely unpleasant, hurtful and damaging, though it was probably great for the songwriting muscle.”

There's more. “My prostate decided to stop functioning for a while, and I had a middle ear infection that was kind of scary.”

When XTC finally began recording a new album - in studios belonging to Squeeze's Chris Difford - a misunderstanding about fees, according to Partridge, led Difford to take the tapes.

So, Partridge and fellow XTC-er Colin Moulding started all over again in a hastily set up home studio.

Amid all those career and personal detours, Partridge had a major falling out with guitarist Dave Gregory, who'd been with the band since the late '70s. Gregory quit halfway through making the new album, and the two haven't spoken since. The group also parted with their manager.

“The last five years have really been a roller coaster,” Partridge said, “but during all that time, we were storing up songs.”

The album resulting from that mess - “Apple Venus Volume I,” due out Tuesday on TVT Records - should be a disaster, the ideal soundtrack for manic depressives.

Instead, the 11-track disc actually has a light, upbeat flavor - with the exception of a couple of tracks - dominated by acoustic guitar and layered, subtle orchestral arrangements. It's a typical XTC disc full of rich melodies, pastoral arrangements, quick and sometimes acidic wit, and Beatlesque pop.

It is called “Apple Venus” for a reason. The Fab Four has been a reference point for XTC almost since XTC's beginnings in 1975.

“I won't deny it,” Partridge said. “They were massive for me as a kid. They really set the yardstick and made slices of musical magic.”

“Apple Venus Volume I” isn't the new “Sgt. Pepper,” but advance reviews already have critics falling over themselves in praise of the long-awaited project.

“People said, ‘Oh, if you wait that long between albums you'll destroy yourselves and no one will remember you,’ ” Partridge said. “Nope. Not true. I had faith that it would turn out OK.

“We'd virtually run out of money, lost a guitarist, a producer, our initial tapes,” he said. “I was really in despair for a while. But despite the hell and high water we went through, I'm happy with this album . . . even though I can't play it right now because I'm so sick of it.

“I knew I wanted this to have an orchestral acoustic sound as its bones and flesh,” he said. “You could see that coming on ‘Nonesuch’ [sic]. It was beginning to stir in the loins even then.

“I'd grown tired of electric guitar by the end of making the last album,” he said. “I was bored with it and wanted to embrace other textures. I couldn't suppress it.”

By mid-decade, Partridge had rediscovered the joys of the electric guitar, so there is a mix of that with orchestral sounds on “Apple Venus Volume I,” and he expects Volume II, possibly ready by year's end, to be more “electric and in-your-face simple and direct.”

Along with pop treasures such as “I'd Like That” and “Frivolous Tonight” on the new album, there is the innocent sounding but lyrically brutal “Your Dictionary,” a seething indictment of Partridge's ex-wife.

“My 13-year-old daughter heard it and said, ‘You can't let mummy hear it; you'll destroy her,’ ” Partridge said. “But I couldn't stop that song from coming out. I just had to take the cork out of the top of the head and let the bile spill over.”

XTC hasn't toured since 1982, when Partridge's stage fright and panic attacks took on epic proportions and resulted in a nervous breakdown. He doesn't intend to tour in support of the new album.

“I love making records,” he said. “That, to me, is the art. The filmmaker makes the film and doesn't stand onstage and say, ‘This is how I shot scenes four through six.’ The art is the film.

“For me,” he said, “the art is the record, like the scene of a film and chapters of a book. I feel no more attraction to standing onstage and having people see my flab. I'd much rather have a slice of my soul to put on their record player.”

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

San Antonio Express-News
Wednesday, Feb 17, 1999

Apple Venus Volume 1
TVT 3250
Reviewed by Robert Johnson

What hasn't happened to XTC lately? In the last seven years, the quirky British pop band has had to deal with just about everything that can go wrong in the music business - an intransigent record label, bitter splits, health problems and financial woes.

All of this contributed to the void between 1992's Nonsuch and the new CD. Not surprisingly, XTC didn't emerge intact - guitarist Dave Gregory departed (unhappily) and front man Andy Partridge was buffeted by a nasty divorce and an infection that ruptured an eardrum. The money also ran short; Apple Venus Volume I was finished in bassist Colin Moulding's living room.

About the only thing that didn't desert the band was its popcraft. The band's first album for TVT after a split with Virgin Records (which wouldn't rework XTC's deal), Apple Venus alternates between lush orchestral sounds and simple acoustic guitars as its follows Partridge's melodies.

Inspired as much by musicals and pre-rock pop as the Beatles and Beach Boys, Apple Venus begins with "River of Orchids," which starts and ends with a single drop of water and builds upon a single melodic phrase in between. "I'd Like That" promptly shifts to a warm acoustic guitar and a not-so-silly love song.

Not that this is all pastoral bliss. "Your Dictionary," Partridge's heartfelt kiss-off to his ex-wife, marries low-key music to words acidic enough to melt concrete.

Yes, the rockin' side of XTC is sorely missed. But that's coming - Volume 2 should be here before the year's out. * * * 1/4

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

March 1999

XTC - Apple Venus volume 1

Orchestrally-based first album in seven years from Swindon's pop eggheads. The rockier volume 2 is due later in the year.

TO BEGIN: a little ripple of water, a pause, another pause and a softly plucked double-bass; like one of those ECM ambient jazz pieces entitled Awakening or Tranquil Fjord. As random-sounding pizzicato violins enter the picture, followed by parping, Young-Composer-Of-The-Year brass, one's eyebrows can't help but assume the skeptical position. But as the six minutes of River Of Orchids unfold - Andy Partridge's bold first song on this very of-its-own-world album - more and more recognition and pleasure seep into the listening experience and various strands start to link up until, when Miles Davis/Gil Evans trumpets commence to swing low a la Porgy And Bess, the whole thing becomes an impossible triumph and you're willing to accept just about everything that XTC in 1999 can throw at you.

While there's nowt so queer as that opening track, Apple Venus Volume 1 finds Partridge and Moulding - far from attempting to catch up with the pop world they left in 1992 - quite significantly advanced from it all, abundantly inspired and willing to experiment with (often dazzling) orchestral arrangements. This 11th album of theirs is a truly engrossing and surprising 50-minute song suite - a fully realised, brilliantly sustained flight of aural fantasy.

As on Skylarking (1986), the XTC album to which it most compares, the colours here are green and brown and russet, and the songwriters' lexicon (slacks, sheds, braziers) paints a picture of a singular England. With not much drums and only occasional 'rock' guitar, the prevailing style is adorable chamber-pop suffused with a rustic glow: Eleanor Rigby meets Fairport's Angel Delight with mystical tinges of Kate Bush (on the tour de force Green Man) and Common One-era Van Morrison.

The mood is, with the exception of one song, quite gorgeous. Moulding's two tracks are among his best ever, one a charming West Country drinking song, the other a McCartney-on-the-farm tribute to happy domesticity. With Partridge, the ageing process is not so clear-cut. There are songs about mad love and pairs of breasts; strange local rites ("Please to bend down for the one called the Green Man"); and hated bypasses and hard hats ("I want to see a river of orchids where we had a motorway"). But there's also the album's odd-lyric-out, Your Dictionary, which suggests that his seven-year hiatus hasn't just been spent writing tunes and taking the air: "F-U-C-K, is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?"

But what's really noticeable, and this has been a sticking point on one or two XTC albums, is how effortlessly pleasurable the work is as a whole. It's difficult to imagine any singles being taken from it, such is its long and winding spell. Skipping tracks is simply out of the question. And while the ratio of Partridge songs to Moulding songs (9-2) will probably never be anyone's idea of democratic, musically the two of them seem untied here as never before, watching the world go by from some elevated gantry, a pair of fortysomething March hares who could show many a 25-year-old how a great album ought to be constructed.

[Thanks to Adrian Ogden]

USA Today
February 1999
Capsule music reviews by USA TODAY critic Edna Gundersen

XTC, Apple Venus Volume 1 (* * * ): On their first album since 1992's Nonsuch, guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding plumb influences as disparate as Broadway and Captain Beefheart in this rich orchestral venture (a second, electric volume is due later this year). The U.K. pop duo has retained a devoted following, despite a thin output and its retirement from touring in 1982, the result of Partridge's stage fright and panic disorder. This time, the cult's loyalty is rewarded with a sumptuous banquet of symphonic and acoustic pop. Middle Eastern strains waft through Greenman, and water droplets plunk against the violins, vocal harmonies and brass on the exotic River of Orchids. The textural heft is countered by charming melodies and bloat-free arrangements, especially in the witty and upbeat I'd Like That and proudly Beatlesque Fruit Nut and Knights in Shining Karma. Partridge, in the aftermath of divorce, candidly yet elegantly unveils emotional conflicts in the biting, vengeful Your Dictionary and bittersweet I Can't Own Her.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Toledo Blade
February 16, 1999
Audio Reviews
by Joshua Benton


On 1980s albums like Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons, XTC made sugary pop confections that sounded classic without being stereotypically New Wave. After 1992's Nonsuch, though, the band went on strike against its label and didn't record anything for almost seven years until it finally was released from its record deal. Apple Venus, Volume 1 is the result of a decade's worth of songs finally reaching disc.

XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding were left alone for this album after lead guitarist Dave Gregory departed the band. He isn't missed much here, because his best contributions were always electric, and Volume 1 is almost entirely acoustic and orchestral. (Volume 2, scheduled for a fall release, is more standard electric XTC, and Gregory's absence might be more obvious there.)

From most aging bands, an all acoustic-and-strings disc is a scary thought, but on Volume 1, it makes sense. Partridge is really a Baroque songwriter who created detailed, intricate tunes as a craftsman might build a dollhouse. All the pieces fit right into place.

So when he gets the chance to work with new materials, like a large string section, he responds with an almost giddily perfect album. Songs such as "Greenman" and "River of Orchids" utilize the medium well, using the strings to psychedelic effect, crossing cyclical plucking-runs over one another. The acoustic numbers, like "I'd Like That," have XTC's standard intelligence and quick wit working for them.

The band has rarely been more biting than it is in "Your Dictionary," Partridge's angry diatribe about his divorce, with its calm, reasoned recitation of choice four-letter words. And for those fans seeking a Beatles fix, Moulding provides it with his two tracks, "Fruit Nut" and "Frivolous Tonight" (which would have fit on side one of Sgt. Pepper's).

It's remarkable how well Apple Venus, Volume 1 works, considering all it has working against it: the lengthy break, the loss of Gregory. But XTC always made timeless pop songs that would work in any decade, and they've done it again.

[Thanks to Bill Peschel]

Vancouver Province
Tuesday, February 9, 1999
by Tom Harrison

XTC Apple Venus Vol.1 (TVT) * * * *

Volume One? After a struggle to free itself from Virgin Records, during which time the trio was reduced to Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, XTC no doubt has a vault of material for release.

As it is, Apple Venus Volume One heralds the return of one of pop music's best groups by entering quietly through the back door.

Airy and wistful, the album maps out its own landscape in which Partridge and Moulding, like fools on the hill, are its most prominent inhabitants. They've created a pastoral but elegant kind of pop-rock chamber music that owes a debt to Brian Wilson's old soundscapes and Paul McCartney's more fruitful collaborations with producer George Martin.

In fact, Apple Venus might be a new vision of Pepperland.

[Thanks to John Greaves]

March 1999

Cooking Vinyl
* * * * * -- Album of the Month

Swindon pop boffins' triumphant return after a six-year lay-off.

It starts with a single plucked violin string, like a solitary drop of rain and builds to a pizzicato symphony, punctuated by the occasional parp of a trumpet. After a couple of minutes, a reassuringly familiar Wiltshire burr enters the frame with the joyous cry of "Heyyy!!!!" This is "River Of Orchids". This is the sound of XTC, the first sounds anyone's heard them make for nigh on six years, and it's overwhelming.

Having gone to ground after 1992's Nonsuch, a lengthy legal wrangle with Virgin (their paymasters since 1977) kept them off the record racks. Rumours that they'd knocked it on the head for good were rife; indeed, Virgin's press bumph accompanying the 1996 Fossil Fuel compilation almost gleefully referred to the group time and again in the past tense.

But back they come, now just the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (Dave Gregory bowed out a year or so ago, last seen strumming for Blondie on live shows), and beyond the reduction in personnel there's seemingly been little building work at Planet Pop, Swindon branch. Holed away in the studio that's been their sole workplace since Partridge's much-documented stage-fright removed them from the touring treadmill in 1982, XTC's flights of fancy are not limited by worries of how to reproduce their songs in a concert hall. Accordingly, Andy and Colin have all but abandoned the "group" concept and excitedly dabble in orchestral arrangements, complex vocal overdubs and "difficult" song structures.


What have you been up to for the last six years?

"We actually went on strike after Nonsuch was released, praying that Virgin would drop us which they eventually did. I was just about at the end of my tether. I just knew we were never going to make any money on that label. We had the world's worst deal - we'd call up lawyers for advice and they'd laugh when they read our contract.

"We became a standing joke among the legal profession. Whenever Virgin rang us to find out what we were working on, we'd just tell them we were on strike.

"We actually had been doing stuff, but we'd never tell them that. They finally came to their senses in 1996 and let us go."

You were once quoted as saying XTC leaving Virgin would be like the ravens leaving the Tower Of London.

"Yeah, but I tell you, if we were ravens, we'd have circled overhead and shat mightily on them before finally flying the coop. By the time we were free we'd amassed about four albums' worth of material, and we got cracking on some more songs. We trimmed it down to about to albums' worth, the first of which is Apple Venus Volume One. We'll probably have Volume Two out before the end of the year."

It would be silly to expect any live shows, presumably?

"I wish people would stop all this nonsense. We make fine pop records and that should be enough. Why is the music profession the only art form where you're pressurised to duplicate what you do in front of people? No one asks artists to go up on stage and paint something again, do they?"

Anyone au fair with Nonsuch or its two predecessors Oranges & Lemons, and, especially, Skylarking will find much to make them smile: intricately plotted pocket symphonies, bursting with heart-wrenching harmonies, guitar hooks to die for, and barrels of wit and charm. A lot of work has gone into making this album, but it's a breeze to listen to.

One of the most immediately striking parallels with the group's recent past is in Partridge's lyrical concerns, as once more he gives vent to both his disdain for organised religion and his love for Mother Earth. The afore-mentioned "River Of Orchids" sets the mood, as Partridge dreams of England's motorways being replaced by six lances of delicate flowers, an obvious progression from the likes of "Season Cycle", "Grass" or "Garden Of Earthly Delights". Similarly, "Green Man" offers a cod-Eastern mysticism vibe, Partridge urging us to turn away from false idols and give thanks for the ground we walk on.

If all this makes him sounds like the president of some po-faced brown rice brigade, fear not, for light relief comes in the shape of "I'd Like That", a disarmingly straight-forward love song packed with ringing Everlysesque acoustic guitars, a slightly smutty penis / sunflower metaphor, and some of the worst gags involving famous lovers throughout history that you'll ever hear. And there aren't many people who can sing about cycling down a country lane in the pouring rain with a straight face and get away with it.

Humour is still a big part of XTC's world, although both Colin Moulding's contributions as writer perhaps stray a little too far into the novelty camp, sounding like companion pieces in a musical about English eccentricity. The intention of "Frivolous Tonight" may have been to merge Ray Davies with Noel Coward, but it comes across as bad Paul McCartney redeemed by a touch of the John Shuttleworths, while "Fruit Nut" is a baffling ditty about one man's gardening obsession.

That's not to say they don't deserve inclusion here, but it's the scope and imagination of Partridge's songs that make Apple Venus Volume One (as for Volume Two - see inside track) such a fascinatingly eclectic delight. It's like Beck on scrumpy. "Your Dictionary" is a case in point. What starts off as a minimally acoustic, general plea for tolerance and understanding in a politically correct world unexpectedly kicks into a Brian Wilson harmonyfest about a couple in the death throes of their marriage.

But for all the clever wordplay ("Knights In Shining Karma" - I ask you!) and the almost scientific formulae of many of the string arrangements, the most effecting song on Apple Venus is arguably the most simplistic, the stunningly honest ballad, "I Can't Own Her" - brilliantly-crafted blue-eyed soul that Daryl Hall would sacrifice a testicle to have written.

So, where do XTC stand in the 1999 scheme of things? Do Andy and Colin even care? The semi-reclusive nature of the band has meant that they've never really been part of the music industry, per se, although their influence on British pop, as opposed to Britpop, has never been in doubt (Blur's Parklife album was very influenced by XTC). Virgin couldn't sell them to the masses, and it's unlikely that Cooking Vinyl have the cash for a big promotional push. That's a shame because Apple Venus is possible the most thoughtful, inventive and repeat-playable British album I've heard since the early part of the decade.

Since the last XTC album, in fact.

Terry Staunton

[Thanks to Simon Coward]

February 1, 1999

allstar rating: 6

Apple Venus Vol. 1
(TVT Records)

No one can ever accuse XTC of lacking ambition, and Apple Venus Vol. 1 is further testament to the pop band's adventurousness. The album that marks the return of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (guitarist Dave Gregory's 1997 departure has left them a duo) after a seven-year hiatus is an almost purely symphonic opus, backed by chamber strings, occasional flugel horns, and the odd triangles and timpani. Does it work? Sometimes. If anyone can write a pop song capable of transcendence in this medium, it's Partridge. Yet his artistic voice uncustomarily lacks the bite of his usual confidence here. "Your Dictionary" is the most gripping exception, full of vindictive spellouts ("F-u-c-k, is that how you spell friend in your dictionary?") sung in an ascending, haunting melody that recalls the Skylarking era; and "I'd Like That" is a hummable throwaway, but its schoolboy-crush naivete seems oddly out of place in the context of Partridge's angry post-divorce songs (see also: "I Can't Own Her"). Still, no matter how awkwardly they dress up their ideas, Partridge and Moulding just won't allow themselves to write uncatchy songs. And that may be enough for now.

-- John Bitzer

Copyright © 1999 CDNOW, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Bob O'Bannon]

February 1999

Are you ready for girls with Kaleidoscope eyes? XTC is back with its first album in seven years. [Apple Venus Vol. 1] (TVT) finds the group picking up where it left off-right in the middle of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. The bands Beatlemanic tendencies have begun to grate, not because the Fab Four weren't fab, but because XTC and leader Andy Partridge are so fixated on the more baroque side: Can we not move on from our collective love of "Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite"? Despite this, Partridge et al. remain enormously talented and generally expert-texpert. Hence the fine symphonic drip of "River of Orchids" and the verbal taunts of "Your Dictionary." (F-U-C-K. Is that how you spell "friend" in your dictionary?. . . S-H-I-T. Is that how you spell me?) The latter is pure fun, a nursery rhyme dipped in arsenic - and a reminder of what the band can do when it is not mimicking about.

[Thanks to Jamie Lowe]

Stereo Review's Sound & Vision
February / March 1999

Apple Venus, Vol. 1
TVT/Idea * * * *

It has been seven long years since the release of Nonsuch, after which XTC literally went on strike against their former British label, Virgin, fed up with what they saw as a debilitating lack of support. For much of that time, the band could only write and record unofficially at home. Then, with their legal troubles finally behind them last year and with the founding of their own imprint, Idea (distributed in the U.S. by TVT), guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding were faced with the departure of lead guitarist Dave Gregory.

None of the setbacks should be worrisome to XTC's fans-in-waiting, however, because the band is back in a very big way. TVT has already released Transistor Blast, a four-CD box of live recordings from the BBC Radio archives. The band collaborated with Neville Farmer on an excellent new book, XTC: Song Stories (Hyperion), a track-by-track discussion of their entire career. And, after recording enough new material to fill a two-CD set, Partridge and Moulding decided to split the double album into two installments of Apple Venus, the "orchustic" Vol. 1 (early February) and the electric Vol. 2 (late 1999). Judging from the first batch, the self-imposed exile did XTC no creative harm.

It's "orchustic" because the tracks are primarily orchestral and acoustic. Oh, dear -- are we talking symphonic bloat? And, because Gregory handled the band's previous string arrangements and then left XTC partly because Partridge decided to do all the Apple Venus arrangements himself (leaving the non-writing and pro-electric Gregory with little to contribute to the sessions), are we talking amateurish symphonic bloat? No and no. One listen to the plucked strings and round-robin vocals of the opening "River of Orchids" and you'll share Partridge's giddiness in exploring new sounds and textures within a tableau that remains utterly XTC. There's also the catchy drone of "Green Man", which seems like a Middle Eastern sojourn but is actually, according to Partridge in Song Stories, more "pagan/Vaughn Williams" than Page and Plant. And from the subtleties of "Harvest Festival" and "The Last Balloon" to the lusher backdrops of "I Can't Own Her" and especially the wide-as-all-outdoors "Easter Theatre", the orchestral parts are sympathetic to Partridge's beautiful melodies.

For those who favor the band's more Beatlesque material, there's plenty to cherish as well. Moulding serves up a pair of his trademark treats in "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut", both reminiscent of Cole Porter and Ray Davies strolling down "Penny Lane". Partridge's "Knights in Shining Karma", a change of pace on solo electric guitar, was inspired by the chords of Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" but also recalls John Lennon's "Julia". Most compelling, Partridge is capable of both the purest pop in "I'd Like That" -- celebrating a new love in harmonies, acoustic guitars, and thigh slaps -- and the bitterest indictment in "Your Dictionary", written in the throes of his divorce. I won't give away the contents of this dictionary, but you'll be struck by how Partridge, in our lackadaisically profane age, reinvests certain words with what must have been their original, disturbing meaning. K.R.

epulse 5.08 [presence]
CONTENT / February 19, 1999


The Lennon and McCartney of Swindon are back. Arguably the most influential pop figures to emerge from post-punk England, XTC mainmen Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have spent the last half-decade out in a shed, crafting wonderful songs for no one to hear (thanks to a long strike against their creaky old Virgin U.K. contract). Finally back in the bins with a new label, the lads have served up their most consistently pleasurable album since 1982's 'English Settlement.' Fusing pop and experimentalism in refreshingly unexpected ways, 'APPLE VENUS VOLUME ONE' (TVT, Feb. 23) employs a largely orchestral/acoustic "spine" to support the duo's highly evolved pop craftsmanship. And it works beautifully: from lyrically and sonically sumptuous songs like "Easter Theater" and "Green Man" to the more incisive tones of "Your Dictionary," Partridge's brilliant ode to post-breakup bitterness. This first of two volumes (a second, slated for fall release, will be all electric) manages to evoke and occasionally transcend the musical genius of its apparent influences: Philip Glass, Brian Wilson, Vaughan Williams and, of course, the Beatles. And through it all, XTC never lose sight of the pop smarts which have earned them the pop world's most dedicated cult audience. Long may they reign. (Bill Forman)

copyright (c) 1999 MTS, Inc.

February 1999

Apple Venus, Volume 1

Pigeonholing the skewed composing genius of stage-shy XTC maestro Andy Partridge is a bit like riding the Tilt-O-Whirl with a drunken, sadistic carney at full throttle. Spin one of his discs -- especially this new accoustic/orchestral experiment, and prepare yourself for some heady vertigo. Two decades on, Partridge's voice is still lovably loopy and acrobatic, his hooks still astoundingly oblique and original. His approach is epitomized in the opening track, which combines tip-toed symphonics, puncy brass exclamations, and nutty-professor observations such as, "the grass is always greener when it bursts up through the concrete." A must-hear for non-fans and fans alike.

[Thanks to WillJ4comm]

Chicago Daily Herald
January 01, 1999, Friday, Cook/Fox Valley/Lake
Time Out
by Mark Guarino, Daily Herald Music Critic

Listen up! The new year brings new faces, old favorites

You partied like it's 1999, it finally is 1999, so what's new in music?


The new year releases will mark the reawakening of several icons as well as the introduction of new artists who should well make an impact by December.

Among the upcoming thousands, here are 9 in '99 to look out for. After you sober up, of course.

XTC, Apple Venus Volume I (TVT) spring, 1999

British pop wits XTC haven't recorded a new album since 1992's Nonsuch (Geffen), due to legalities with their record company. Newly free, the band landed on TVT, which began the XTC express in December with a four-disc set of early BBC recordings. Founding member Dave Gregory has left the band, leaving Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding to prepare their 15th album, which is reported to center around a 120-member orchestra. And since the band had so much time in the '90s to write and record without releasing anything, expect a follow-up, non-orchestra album to arrive this fall.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

December 1998

XTC, APPLE VENUS (TVT). Rockers dabbling in classical music is nothing new - just ask Paul McCartney or Billy Joel. Not being pretentious or feeble, however, is an entirely different matter. On their first album since 1992's NONSUCH, Andy Partridge and pals masterfully mine more "serious" compositional territory without forsaking the pop simplicity of signature recordings like "Dear God" or "The Mayor of Simpleton". In fact, the subtle symphonic underpinnings of "River of Orchids" and "Your Dictionary" illuminate the beauty of Partridge's concise, Beatlesque tunesmithing far better than any traditional rock arrangement could.

Larry Flick


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