Reviews: XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
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Artesanos del pop de alto octanaje llevaban siete años en dique seco, pero la espera ha merecido la pena. Lo primero que llama la atención es que es el disco más guitarrero de su carrera, lo que se traduce en temas más duros, pero eso sí, sin olvidar sus melodías pop; estos chicos han mamado Beatles y Beach Boys.
“Artesanos De Pop”, Pascual Hernández de Tejada, Presencia7, April 2001

And then there were two.... Dave Gregory departed between the recording of Apple Venus Volume 1 and Wasp Star. But Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding were always the main writers and voices and it definitely sounds like them. There's quite a bit more Colin on this album than the past few. Anyway, it's worth the price of admission, presuming you like tightly constructed, carefully produced, somewhat quirky pop songs that is :). The sound's more stripped down than past efforts, much closer to a small rock band without all the extra horns and textures that were on, say Oranges and Lemons, though there are plenty of of strings, horns, and lots and lots of vocal harmony. Highlights: We're All Light (just plain old cool), Church of Women (nice guitar solo), You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful, The Wheel and the Maypole. ***** Album Reviews by the Cigarette Smoking Man, March 2001

Another disgustingly crafty set of tunes springs from the throbbing brow of Mr. Partridge. These guys are a TOTAL BRAINIACS, like, for REAL- they're even smart enough to hire Prairie Prince to play the drums!
— Capt. Morgan, POPLUST, 2001

This was the follow up to 1999's Apple Venus, which marked the beginning of XTC's renaissance, having finally escaped from the purgatory of being under contract to the deeply unsympathetic and occasionally hostile Virgin Records. The tone of Wasp Star is best described as irrepressably chirpy, but that's no bad thing, especially in the "Year of the Coldplay". The feel of their older records (once described as "a cross between The Archies and Captain Beefheart") is successfully recaptured, but the songs still sound fresh and full of life. There are some very amusing lyrics (particularly "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love"!). If you don't already own a copy, buy it now and rock to the sound of Swindon!
— Alex Williams, The Psychøtic Reactiøn, January 2001

The way forward is always backwards. Geddit? Trust two fortysomething "has-been" singer-songwriters to teach the pop world a few lessons about what's important - love, sex, big guitars and melodies that slow burn onto your memory banks till they make a permanent impression. Sure, there are albums better than this (many of 'em) - but only a precious few are this real and um COOL?
— Kevin Mathews, The Power of Pop, 2001

Demonstrating, yet again, that if anybody was the heir apparent to the band from Liverpool, it's this band from Swindon. The key is that each deceptively simple song is, in fact, a tiny clockwork of clever hooks, references, and the poetry of pure fun (or the pure fun of poetry).
— Jowi Taylor, Moontaxi, 2000's Best of 2000
Who's the Brian Wilson of tomorrow? If this elector's vote counts, it'll be XTC's Andy Partridge, whose studio genius and crafty pop prowess is unparalleled over a career spanning four decades and 13 studio albums (XTC even does an impressive Beach Boys impression as their alter egos, the Dukes of Stratosphear). Wasp Star: Apple Venus, Vol. 2 does the first volume one better, adding XTC's penchant for perplexing pop to their gorgeous pastoral inclinations.
— Tod Nelson,, December 2000

Another serving of clever British pop music for the colonies.
— Mike Bell, The Calgary Sun, December 29, 2000

Andy Partridge finally answers all the questions he's been asking for 20 years now, with school-yard metaphors and emotional resolution such as "Stupidly Happy."
— Mark Brown, Scripps Howard News Service, December 21, 2000

* * * * *
XTC in a playful mood, which means more guitars, fewer strings, simpler melodies, and hooks galore. Do what you will, but harm none.
— Music: Reviews, Blue Dog Press, December 20, 2000

XTC's follow-up to the pastoral “Apple Venus Vol. I,” is hands-down the year's best with crisp execution and memorable songs that further the Lennon-McCartney legacy.
— Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot, December 20, 2000

XTC, Britain's reigning kings of Beatles-esque pop, released "Wasp Star," a shimmering set of three-minute gems full of wit and invention.
— Nick Tate, The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, December 17, 2000

Making up for lost time with second gem in 12 months.
— Brett Milano, The Boston Herald, December 1, 2000

This is the XTC album that could have followed English Settlement. It's their classic style, twisted pop with hooks that won't leave you alone.
— Steve Pick, Vintage Vinyl, November 2000

The return of Swindon's finest, XTC, has been a strange one, and therefore totally fitting with the band. Last year's much-acclaimed Apple Venus Vol 1 came after XTC, or rather the remaining and core duo Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, decided to break their recording silence of seven years, and put out albums on their own label. Vol 1 was a typically whimsical collection of lushly orchestrated melodies, Beatles steals, and quirky pop wonderment. Vol 2 is the promised harder edge, which simply means the songs are more direct and stripped back. The result is a perfect companion piece to the blissful Vol 1. Jagged pop gems, psychedelic moments, oh-so-sweet ballads XTC-style, and a jerky majesty that will have fans misty-eyed. Bless 'em.
— Chris Mooar, The Press (Christchurch), August 11, 2000

Contre vents et marées, XTC persiste dans la construction d'une oeuvre pop de plus en plus importante. On préférait l'album précédent. *
— Epok, Issue 10, July/August 2000

Yes, they are still around. After a seven-year drought, XTC, the eccentric and fairly obscure, but still lovely, English band who brought us Making Plans For Nigel in 1979 is back. They've not lost the talent for melodic quality pop songs in the vein of Elvis Costello, Ray Davies, Lennon and McCartney. Not one for cooking up mainstream pop, main man Andy Partridge follows his own path, regardless of what's hot in the music scene. Wasp Star is the second of two albums, with women predominating as a central theme in both. It's defined by rock and electric guitar where the first, Apple Venus, is dubbed "aucoustic", a mix of orchestral and acoustic melodies soaked in old England.
— Ceinwen Parrish, The Evening Post (Wellington), July 20, 2000

England's legendary XTC are most beloved for their quirky-yet-catchy charm (past hits include "Dear God" and "The Mayor of Simpleton". After a seven-year hiatus, the band came back last year with an experimental album that strayed off the pop path, but this disc displays XTC in their happy, hooky best. This is sonic sunshine cool guitars, pretty harmonies, blissfully offbeat lyrics ("Don't you know about a zillion years ago? some star sneezed, now they're paging you in reception" from "We're All Light"). So put the top down, slather on the SPF and let the good sounds roll.
— Nina Malkin, Mademoiselle, July 2000

La seconda puntata di Apple Venus, ovvero il ritorno in grande stile dei due geni inglesi. La prima aveva del miracoloso: pop orchestrato di una finezza incomparabile. In Wasp star gli XTC vanno meno per il sottile, e partono in quarta con le chitarre. Però sono sempre gli XTC, ed in ogni canzone arriva sempre, prima o dopo, lo scarto genialoide dalla norma del classico guitar-pop britannico. C'è del già sentito, è vero: ma nel caso di Partridge e Moulding è una garanzia. I baronetti di Swindon sono di nuovo tra noi: sempre servi vostri, messeri.
— Carlo "Charly" Bordone, Babajaga's Farm, June 2006

XTC have been pruning their off-kilter tunesmithery now for 25 years. If they'd carried on 'Making Plans For Nigel' Andy Partridge might be better known in Sydney than in Swindon. Instead they preferred the quieter English way of harmony, humour, and slighty loopy psychedelics. With last year's Vol 1 they indulged themselves in the latter, whilst Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea) * * * *  sees them donning their brightly coloured pop/rock hats. Cleverly arranged ditties like 'The Man Who Murdered Love', set beside the slightly deranged 'Stupidly Happy' and village green thigh slappers like 'The Wheel And The Maypole.' Perfect for the dizzy summer day out.
— Will Johnson, TOP Magazine, June 2000

Part two, and another proof that XTC are back in shape again. This album is more easy than volume 1, but that doesn't mean that it's not as good. A bunch of brilliant songs, and a must to all lovers of progressive pop, and lovers of good music for that matter. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The Missing Piece, June 2000

If there were a hall of fame just for pop song writers, Andy Partridge would have to be a shoo-in. For 20-something years, Partridge has been churning out clever, incisive, hip and hilarious songs. "Wasp Star" follows 1999's double orchestral release of "Apple Venus Vol. 1." Partner Colin Moulding can crank clever himself but Partridge remains the soul of XTC whatever the lineup (longtime guitarist Dave Gregory departed before "Apple Venus Vol. 1"). Who else can wax poetic about being "stupidly happy" or proclaim himself "the man who murdered love?" It doesn't hurt that the Partridge/Moulding partnership consistently produces pure pop melodies to carry the lyrics. This time they do it to the sound of electric guitars and a harder edge than volume one. Hmmm ... versatilely happy?
— James Reindl, AP Writer, The Associated Press, June 27, 2000

XTC + Wasp Star Apple Venus Vol. 2 (2000) Try if you like: XTC.
Back for another round in 2000, these '80s icons of "Dear God" fame pump out another great and overlooked album. More of a crowd pleaser than last year's good but kind of "out there" Apple Venus Vol. 1. Song you'll love: "Stupidly Happy."
— StyleQueen, 6/20/00

Best of May: A sparkling rumination on the creeping tug-of-war between urban life and the great outdoors and a stellar follow-up to last year's “Volume I.” “Stupidly Happy” is the smartest commentary on comfortable numbness I've heard in a long time, so much so that it deserves to be piped into malls and theme parks everywhere. On the other hand, when they sing, “Don't you know in this new Dark Age, we're all light,” you actually believe them.
— Jim Walsh, Pioneer Press, June 1, 2000

It's been a long time since any new music from the XTC camp has reached the ears of the listening public. Finally ending a self-imposed, 10-year hiatus, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding return with the sunny tunes that fill Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. II). Opening with the slightly trippy tones of 'Playground,' XTC quickly show that their time out of the spotlight didn't curb their stylistic development. The chugging guitar strums of 'In Another Life' and the minimalist melancholy of 'Boarded Up' also display a supreme pop polish. These guys have obviously been putting in the work, 'cause there's no rust at all on this comeback release., May 2000

XTC disappeared for seven years, buried under a record-label legal entanglement, before reemerging with 1999's supremely orchestral pop release "Apple Venus Volume One." Now it seems there's no obstacle that can stop the group's creative energy. "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)" stays true to XTC's intellectualized pop for grownups, and followers will be surprised and delighted by the extraordinary rhythmic strides they've made here.
— Music: Pop, Skali, Monday, 29th May 2000

Det känns uppenbart att Alan Partridge plockade med sina bästa låtar från de senaste åren på förra årets toppskiva Apple venus Vol 1. Ett nytt XTC-album är ändå en händelse. Playground, Stupidly happy och The wheel and the maypole är tre av halvdussinet utmärkta popsånger som kommer att få glasögonormar som undertecknad att rabbla skivnummer i några dygn.
— PM JÖNSSON, Göteborgs-Posten, 26/5-00

Betyg: * * * *

XTC rocks a little more on "Wasp Star" (Apple Venus Volume 2).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 26, 2000

After the over-refined Apple Venus Volume 1, it's a relief to discover that XTC's seven years in the wilderness - well, at home in Swindon anyway - didn't see them entirely forget that, in the words of their own song, this is pop. With its beefy guitars, and harmonies and hooks to die for, Wasp Star could easily be Big Star in their prime. The stupidly catchy Stupidly Happy captures the musical mood of the album, give or take an occasional detour such as the bluesy Boarded Up (lamenting the fate of a local concert hall now that "groups don't come down from London way"). The band's usual wilful whimsy aside, though, there's nothing stupid about the lyrics and I'm The Man Who Murdered Love is as darkly intelligent a song as Andy Partridge has ever written.
— Guy Somerset, Metro (London), May 23, 2000

IN BRIEF: Prefer your bile with a spoonful of sugar? Then feel the candied sting of this more rocking companion to 1999's acoustic-orchestral "Volume 1." As always, English pop veterans Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding craft lush, catchy tunes with careful detail and wry wit, capturing the simultaneous wonders and horrors of romance, from the goofy bliss of fresh passion ("Stupidly Happy") to the brutal cynicism of disillusionment ("I'm the Man Who Murdered Love"). * * * 1/2
— Natalie Nichols, Los Angeles Times, May 21, 2000

XTC Are Back
After an extended silence, XTC returned with last year's magnificent Apple Venus, Vol. 1. Fans won't have to wait a decade for the follow-up: Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Vol. 2) comes out Tuesday.
— Michael Senft, The Arizona Republic, May 18, 2000

The Brit-pop band behind the crafty '80s singles Generals and Majors and Mayor of Simpleton all but disappeared in the '90s, sidelined by a feud with a previous record label. The freeze has given way to a welcome burst of activity. XTC follows last year's enchanting, orchestral Apple Venus Vol. 1 with fewer strings, more guitars and, as always, big melodies.
— Sean Piccoli, Sun-Sentinel Music Writer, Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale), May 17, 2000

What Goes ON

XTC, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea/TVT). Song for song, not as winning as volume 1. But this re-electrified, slightly funky collection is notable for such songs as "We're All Light" and "Stupidly Happy," the duo's first Cameo homage.
Mark Jenkins, Washington City Paper, May 12, 2000

XTC's rawer, electric counterpart to last year's orchestral "Apple Venus Volume 1" is "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)," a fuzzy and peppy batch of 12 songs. Typical of Andy Partridge's upbeat assertions on the album is: Don't you know in this new Dark Age we're all light?
— Kyle Munson, Music Critic, The Des Moines Register, May 4, 2000

Oasis and Supergrass are good. But the very best British retro-pop rock band (yet still their own guys) remains XTC, in top form on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). Check out "Stupidly Happy," "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," "Standing in For Joe" and "Church of Women." Amen!
— Jonathan Takiff, Philadelphia Daily News, May 3, 2000

Andy & Colin are back with the follow up to last years exquisite Apple Venus Volume 1, and this time they've got their dicks in one hand & their electric guitar (turned up to 11) in the other. This bastard child of Black Sea & Oranges and Lemons is a marvel to behold. This record makes you remember why you love them so much: great hooks, clever lyrics and choruses that you can't shake out of your brain. Standout tracks include "Playground", "We're All Light" and "The Wheel & The Maypole" Since this is a guitar based record, you have to wonder what Dave Gregory would have brought to the table - but it's pretty hard to improve on perfection. It may be too early to name it Album Of The Year, but that's never stopped me before...
— theLEEpage, April 2000

The Godfathers of Brit-pop are back with their most lyrical and focused work since Oasis were toddlers.
— Vic Gabarini, Playboy, April 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is a true XTC record -- bright as sunshine and crisp as rain with a wide range of textures. Top to bottom this is a pop masterpiece that will stagger fans and signal the return of the XTC we all know and love.
TVT Records

< Rock >
XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol II)
por Gabriel Pérez, 2002

Cumpliendo su promesa, Andy Partridge y Colin Moulding nos traen la continuación de su excelente trabajo "Apple Venus Volume 1", editado en 1999 luego de un largo y forzado receso de la banda. En esta ocasión, luego de un año, el esperado lado eléctrico de "Apple Venus", titulado "Wasp Star", comprende 12 nuevas piezas que son puro XTC.

Cristalinas armonias vocales, brillantes guitarras, imaginativos arreglos y el acostumbrado sentido pop que siempre esperamos de Partridge y Moulding estan presentes a los largo de este extraordinario trabajo.

Como es costumbre, el grueso de las composiciones son firmadas por Partridge, con Moulding aportando 3 piezas. Colaboran tambien Nick Davis (en las partes de teclados difíciles de tocar, como indican en los créditos, además de ser uno de los ingenieros de grabación), Kate St. John en el Oboe, Chuck Sabo en la batería, y Gavin Wright en el primer violin, entre otros.

Los puntos altos de "Wasp Star" se encuentran en la parte central del CD (pistas 6,7 y 8): I'm the man who murdered love", "We're all right" y "Standing in for Joe" recuerdan los mejores momentos de XTC en "Skylarkin" o "English Settlemen" por mencionar mis dos trabajos favoritos. Pegajosas melodias, que se quedan en nuestra cabeza, con arreglos variados, y ensambladas con la maestria de un experimentado artesano.

Hacia el final del CD nos conseguimos con otro par de piezas que redondean una extraordinaria labor: "You and the clouds will still be beautiful", con un ritmo sincopado marcado por la guitarra y un arreglo con aires de jazz que recuerda levemente los coqueteos iniciales con el género de los dos primeros trabajos como solista de Sting. A esta pieza le sigue el track 11: "Church of Women" que tiene uno de esos coros que solo gente como Paul Mc Cartney y Andy Partridge dominan a la perfección.

"Wasp Star" es una producción muy pulida y profesional, con cuidado en todos los detalles, y que no defraudará a los fieles seguidores de XTC. Igualmente debería satisfacer a cualquier aficionado que disfruta de música elaborada y de composiciones sólidamente construidas.


David Arnold
Review No. 11 - June 8, 2001

Artist: XTC

Titles: Apple Venus Volume 1 and Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Fans of Britain's XTC are an obsessively dedicated bunch. I thought I was up there with the best of them until I subscribed to an e-mail list run by XTC's most ardent followers. Although I had been a fan of the band's bravely adventurous art-pop for 20 years, I quickly learned that my fanaticism could be ranked as mild or moderate at best.

While many of my fellow fans chased after tapes of unreleased demos of new material by XTC songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding while the band labored in record-label litigation hell from 1993 to 1998, I patiently waited for an official release. Apple Venus Volume 1 broke XTC's official silence in early 1999. (Yes, darn it, I remember the exact release date.) A superb collection dominated by ambitious, orchestrally-enhanced art songs by Partridge, the album stands out as one of the band's finest.

Despite having been starved for new XTC material for seven years, I listened to the opening track, "River of Orchids," twice before moving on to the rest of the disc. An avant-classical anti-automobile tirade penned by a man who has never driven a car, "River of Orchids" is truly one-of-a-kind. Clearly, the album would prove to be much more than just a collection of well-crafted pop songs with classy strings.

Partridge's remaining offerings are no less stunning, ranging from the joyful love-romp "I'd Like That" to the dense Middle Easternisms of "Greenman." Additional highlights include the scathing divorce rant "Your Dictionary," the almost unsettlingly nostalgic "Harvest Festival," the eloquent and moving "I Can't Own Her," and the epic-scale "Easter Theatre." By the way, that's Easter as sultry maiden of universal rebirth, not the religious holiday. Mr. Partridge and organized religion are reportedly not on cordial terms.

The weaker links are Colin Moulding's cute observations of life's little trivialities, "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut." Their workaday simplicity pales in comparison to Partridge's loftier triumphs. Still, these tracks display Moulding's characteristic melodic charm, and they also serve as relaxing respites from Partridge's more ambitious exercises in sonic craftsmanship.

In all, Apple Venus Volume 1 rivals 1986's Skylarking, the Todd Rundgren-produced XTC album that is widely viewed as a retro-psychedelic pop landmark. Actually, the newer album is more consistent than Skylarking. The only sad note that clouds the album is the departure of longtime XTC guitarist Dave Gregory shortly before the album's release. His multi-instrumental skills, including guitar chops that easily outflank those of Partridge, will be missed.

Last year, XTC released Apple Venus Volume 1's more electrically-charged counterpart, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). At one point, the band had planned to release both volumes in a two-CD set.

Bursting with power-pop glory, Wasp Star boasts a truckload of worthy Partridge rockers, including the catchy singalong single "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," the soaring and witty "We're All Light," and the touching and rhythmically inventive "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful." Although Partridge has dismissed the comparison off-handedly, the lead vocals on the latter track bear a striking resemblance to Sting at his jazzy best.

This time, Moulding's songs fit in better, perhaps due to their earthier surroundings. "In Another Life" strikes an amiable chord of wistful wit, "Boarded Up" creatively evokes urban emptiness and decay, and "Standing in for Joe" sounds like a tasty 1984 synth-pop trifle that woke up 16 years too late to be a hit.

A couple of sluggish Partridge tracks weigh down the proceedings, namely "My Brown Guitar" and the scorned lover's bluesbuster "Wounded Horse." In fact, Wasp Star doesn't consistently reach the artistic heights attained by Apple Venus Volume 1. Still, if meticulously crafted orchestral pop is not your thing, you might prefer Wasp Star's more direct and driving offerings to Volume 1's relative bombast.

For the fans (who, me?), XTC indulged in an unprecedented vanity project: releasing a collection of demos for each Apple Venus volume. Homespun covers Volume 1, while Homegrown - released just last month - covers Wasp Star. Of course, I bought each one as quickly as possible, finding both to be enjoyable and informative for the longtime fan. Homespun reveals that Moulding's "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut" sound better with guitar-based backing instead of the bouncy keyboard work that dominates the "official" versions. Meanwhile, Homegrown shows that several Wasp Star tracks underwent interesting stages of evolution. In particular, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" negotiated a particularly roundabout path to pop perfection.

Who would have thought that collections of demos by a commercially modest (to say the least) duo whose first collaborations predate the "new wave" of the late '70s would find their way to mainstream record stores all across the USA? I can't think of any other band that has attempted something so audacious. But I'm not complaining. Maybe enough mad fanatics are out there to keep XTC's latest record contract in effect for a while longer. In my opinion, distribution of such high-quality quality music should be a public-service tax write-off.

[Thanks to David Arnold]

Thump City
January 2001
The Best of 2000 by Jeffrey Hender


A funny thing happened to me in 2000. I became an XTC fan. These guys have seemingly been around since the dawn of creation and I treated most of their previously heard works ("Dear God," "Mayor of Simpleton") with total and utter ambivalence. But WASP STAR not only turned me on to Andy Partridge's latter day jangle, but back to the early stuff as well. Ironically, many die-hard XTC fans are not big fans of WASP STAR, perhaps because some of the cynicism of the earlier works is missing. But make no mistake about it, this is an excellent alt-pop record. Partridge is a studio genius; despite being produced by Nick Davis, WASP STAR has Andy's stamp all over it. Still present is the underrated, clean guitar work, the identifiable vocals and the occasional lavish arrangement. Beginning with a bit of a rocker, "Playground," XTC manages to immediately hook the listener with inexplicable audio bait. There is nothing stunning or earth-shattering here, but you get this feeling that the songs are wonderfully written and the musicianship, impressive, from the opening notes. Bassist Colin Moulding also contributes here, penning the toe-tapping, head-bobbing acoustic shuffle of "Another Life" and "Boarding Up," which ironically, is guitar-centered, with a cool melody. Partridge explores some different avenues here. The country-tinged "Wounded Horse" is a strange but satisfying treat and the Beatle-esque "My Brown Guitar" harkens you back to the SGT. PEPPER-era experimentation. "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" may sound a little pretentious, but it succeeds in sounding like a more vocally soothing Big Audio Dynamite song, which is far from a bad thing. There are a few weaker tracks. The single "Stupidly Happy" and "Church of Women" aren't the strongest points on the disc, but even when Partridge errs (like when he channels Sting on "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful"), you don't mind so much because the music (in this case, Moulding's great bass line) saves the tune. Jangly pop hasn't sounded this good since the last great REM record. When was that again?


Staff review:

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Staff rating: 3.5 out of 5

Hot on the heels of XTC's first album in seven years, the gorgeous and orchestral-flavored 1999 release "Apple Venus Volume 1," the veteran English band returns with the more familiar electric pop of "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)." Powered by guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding, who serve as XTC's singers and songwriters, "Wasp Star" opens with the jaunty electric-guitar riff of "Playground," which immediately introduces this album's simple setup of mostly guitar, bass and drums. But the album's final song, "The Wheel and the Maypole," which features a string quartet along with former Dream Academy member Kate St. John on oboe, echoes the orchestral, more complex sound of "Volume 1." The Calypso-tinged number "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is a sunny remembrance of a past relationship. Despite its punchy fanfare, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" is a cynical ditty that ponders the hypothetical question of whether anyone in this self-centered, uncharitable world would really miss love if it were to be killed off entirely. But optimism wins out on the incredibly bouncy "Stupidly Happy." The slow-hand blues of "Wounded Horse" has Partridge smarting at being dumped, echoing the bitterness of "Your Dictionary" on "Vol. 1," but comically slurring his words like a drunk and this time having fun with his misery. (TVT)

Also check out: "Nonsuch" (1992, Geffen)

American Mule Entertainment

the hitman's hq
My Favorite Albums of 2000, Part 1

by Roy Opochinski

Thousands of albums are released every year. And while my CD collection grows accordingly, there are only a handful of those discs that remain with you long after their compadres are forgotten. This is a list of my favorite albums of 2000. Are they the best? I think so. But I know that I haven't heard everything. And I know that my best list will be significantly different from others' best lists.

  1. John Wesley Harding, The Confessions of St. Ace.
  2. Travis, The Man Who.
  3. U2, All That You Can't Leave Behind.
  4. Coldplay, Parachutes.
  5. Badly Drawn Boy, The Hour of Bewilderbeast.
  6. High Fidelity Soundtrack.
  7. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers L.P.
  8. XTC, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). Hooray for Peter Pumpkinhead. While 1999's Volume 1 - Apple Venus was an enthralling experiment and a critical favorite, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) was an undiscovered pop gem, one that reminded fans of the band's earlier gems Nonsuch and Oranges and Lemons. Wasp Star is reminiscent of John Wesley Harding's album in that both are comprised of a series of catchy pop songs ("Playground," "Stupidly Happy," and "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" are three examples) that would have been pop hits 15 years ago. Don't interpret that to mean that the songs sound dated or retread. They are not. Unfortunately, this album is the victim of a musical climate that favors menace over melody.
  9. Steve Earle, Transcendental Blues.
  10. Radiohead, Kid A.
  11. David Gray, White Ladder.
  12. Aimee Mann, Bachelor No. 2
  13. Sade, Lovers Rock.

© 2000 American Mule Entertainment
All Rights Reserved

El Foco

Wasp Star

Brillante retorno de XTC y su pop inteligente
Claudio Kleiman
4 out of 5

Nombre: Wasp star
Compañía: TVT
Año: 2000

Los XTC son continuadores de los Beatles en varios sentidos: no sólo se han dedicado a refinar el difícil arte de la canción pop y sus infinitas posibilidades, sino que -a partir de 1982, y a causa de los ataques de pánico de su líder Andy Partridge- se convirtieron en una banda exclusivamente de estudio. Tal como los Beatles (excepto McCartney) visualizaban su futuro, si las circunstancias conocidas no hubieran determinado su separación.

Y es quizás su aislamiento -en la pequeña ciudad inglesa de Swindon- del impiadoso mundo de las giras y el show business, lo que ha posibilitado que sigan construyendo una obra llena de magia, independiente de las modas, imbuída de cierta fascinante inocencia. Y les permite seguir imaginando historias como la de I'm The Man Who Murdered Love, donde Partridge cuenta que encontró el amor y éste "me pidió de rodillas que pusiera fin a sus miserias/dijo que no había trabajado en todo este siglo/y que yo le haría un favor a toda la humanidad / Sí, yo soy el hombre que asesinó el amor". O la deliciosa ironía de In Another Life (uno de los tres temas del bajista Colin Moulding), donde éste le dice a su amada que "yo seré tu Burton / si tu serás mi Liz / quizás haya cerdos voladores / en otra vida". Un mundo de pequeñas anécdotas cotidianas que toman dimensiones surreales.

Wasp Star llega menos de un año después de Apple Venus Volume I. Los XTC parecen dispuestos a recuperar el tiempo perdido, después que una disputa con su antigua grabadora los obligó a una ausencia discográfica de siete años. Los dos discos constituyen una especie de álbum doble, siendo el primer volumen un trabajo barroco con abundantes arreglos orquestales, y Wasp Star como el complemento de aquél, pletórico de canciones de un pop más directo y guitarrero, que nos retrotrae a su etapa de fines de los 70 y álbumes como Black Sea. Aunque reducidos ahora al dúo Partridge-Moulding (el guitarrista Dave Gregory se alejó durante las sesiones del Volume I), Wasp Star no muestra diferencias esenciales en su sonido; Andy se hizo cargo esta vez de todas las guitarras, lo que aporta cierta crudeza, bienvenida dentro del obsesivo perfeccionismo de estudio que los caracteriza.

Las joyas abundan: la infantil inocencia de Playground (con coros de Holly Partridge, la hija de Andy); el infeccioso Stupidly Happy, donde sobre el mismo riff superponen tres melodías diferentes; el psicodélico (ecos de Revolver) My Brown Guitar; el ganchero estribillo de I'm The Man Who Murdered Love; el ritmo sincopado y los disonantes arreglos vocales de You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful; la estupendamente ambiciosa Church Of Women, con cuerdas a lo George Martin y un coro a cappella al final; The Wheel And The Maypole, que intrincadamente mezcla dos canciones enteramente diferentes.

Los XTC continúan siendo exquisitos proveedores de un género que -entre tanto ídolo adolescente manufacturado- parecería en vías de extinción: pop inteligente, que se remonta a la mejor tradición de (nuevamente) los Beatles, emocional y divertido, sofisticado lírica y musicalmente, pero igualmente capaz de dejarnos silbando un alegre estribillo.

Derechos Reservados. El Foco.Com, S.A. de C.V. 2000


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)

(Cooking Vinyl/M10)

Aujourd'hui réduit à la formule duo, le binoclard Andy Partridge et le débonnaire Colin Moulding gardent encore les clés du temple sacré de la parfaite pop song. Alors que certains voudraient leur délivrer d'urgence une carte vermeille, les deux hommes subliment par ce nouvel album leur magnifique Apple Venus Vol.1. Pour ce faire, la paire a rebranché les guitares électriques et redonné vie à de radieuses mélodies que l'on croyait enfermées à tout jamais dans les grimoires de l'histoire de la pop. Alchimistes des harmonies vocales, les deux hommes déposent sur un plateau doré les compositions les plus rares (We're All Light, You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful, The Wheel And The Maypole). Une chorale d'angelots reprend le sublime Playground d'ouverture, et s'ensuit le faussement stupide Stupidly Happy. Si le titre prête à sourire, il n'en reste pas moins aussi alerte que des gamins en culotte courte. Entre les Kinks (In Another Life) et les Beatles (My Brown Guitar), le coeur d'Andy et Colin balance ostensiblement. À ce niveau-là, ce n'est pas de l'amour mais de l'adoration. Les délicats arpèges acoustiques de Boarded Up soufflent une légère brise de béatitude. Généreux, XTC veille sur la destinée pop d'un certain Joe (Standing In For Joe), après avoir fait des plans pour Nigel. Avec son compère, Andy chante I'm The Man Who Murdered Love. Nul doute qu'il est d'ores est déjà pardonné de son geste dans la Church Of Woman. XTC reste pour l'éternité un groupe XXL.

Jean-Noël Dastugue 4/6 - bon

album reviews

XTC: "Wasp Star (apple venus volume 2)"
ak47's review
by wetair member ak47 ///
ak47's rating: A+

XTC: "Wasp Star (apple venus volume 2)"

Ashley Proffitt: Well it's no secret that XTC is sited as a major influence on most of the really good pop music writers of today. And there's good reason for this. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding write some catchy-ass songs. "Skylarking" was the record that first turned me onto this band. An old boyfriend played it for me about six years ago, and apparently I was the last to know about XTC. Since then, "Skylarking" has been one of the most important records I own.

Now I have to say that "Wasp Star," their newest album, is no "Skylarking." But it's still a record worth the $14.99. There may be some relatively boring moments, but there are a few very sweet moments to make up for them. Per usual, the best songs are the Andy Partridge numbers. #1-"Playground" starts with this pretty cool rock guitar riff. Then it melts into that XTC sound we know and love. Kinda quirky and 80s. #2 is called, "Stupidly Happy" and has a Beautiful South type of vibe to it. #3 is one of Colin's called, "In Another Life." It sounds like a bad rip-off of a Robin Hitchcock song. Generally Colin's songs are the disappointing ones on this record. #4 "Brown Guitar" is the best song on here. Andy's genius really comes through. The lyrics are super interesting... "You want some lovely, I got some lovely in my field. There be green grass. There be pink skies. There be blue birds." #5 is another Colin number. It's called, "Boarded Up" and is somewhat more interesting, as well as pretty bluesy. Unfortunately the rest of the CD basically dissolves into boredom at this point and there's really nothing left worth mentioning.

The thing about it is this: I hate to speak ill of XTC, because this isn't a bad record. I just think it's not quite up to the XTC par. Apple Venus Volume 1 was a gorgeous record full of beautiful, orchestral songs. I guess this Volume 2 is supposed to be like the other side of the coin or something. It's over-produced and has all these cheesey 80s rock moments. And it's almost like our old friends Andy and Colin are beginning to show their age and get a little out of touch.

Fright X

Eclectic / Masterfully written alternative rock

XTC / Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Every once in a great while, one of THOSE records comes along. Yeah, you know the kind I mean. Like an incredible summer fling, it sneaks up on you with little notice. It intoxicates you, consumes you, and doesn't leave your player for a month. You forsake all others for The One, without even the slightest hint of guilt, and, in your memory, it becomes the zeitgeist marker of the calendar time that you spent together. XTC's Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume 2] is truly one of those CDs. And don't quote me on this, but I think I may even be falling in love.

Since their inception twenty-five years ago, XTC have been regarded as the band to whom THE BEATLES torch has passed. An example of songwriting in its most clever form, their tunes are impeccably constructed with nooks and crannies of sheer brilliance that surprise and delight like the twist at the end of a good mystery novel. The lyrics are witty and wry, and Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume 2] lives up to XTC's long tradition of intelligent, thoughtful, and perfectly-crafted British pop.

The overall feeling of Wasp Star is incredibly upbeat, with the band plugging their guitars back in after the mostly orchestral preceding album, Apple Venus Volume 1. Strong -Sir Keef- Richards-esque guitar riffs lay the foundation of a number of tracks, including the infectious "Stupidly Happy." "In Another Life" is a jaunty, brass-tinged open letter from Colin Moulding to his agoraphobic wife. - I'll play the Hollywood hunk, You can dye your roots, - he sings, - Well, I'll be your Burton, If you'll be my Liz... - But the glistening crown jewel of the album is Andy Partridge's "Playground,"in which he ruefully equates the ups and downs of adult life with the traumas of childhood. Bankruptcy, divorce... it's all just another form of being - Marked by the masters, And bruised by the bullies. - He goes on to sing that - School is out but never over, That's the only lesson you can learn... - and, oh, how right he is. Freud was never this catchy.

Once again, XTC have not only shown that they are pop master craftsmen - they have proven that they are the art form's Sir Christopher Wren.

Reviewed By Michelle Arnold, FRIGHT X Contributing Writer

El Foco

La estrella de la avispa o el segundo volúmen de la manzana venusina.

Gerardo De la Garza

XTC, grupo inglés saca a la venta su mas reciente producción titulada "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)", en donde vuelven a demostrar porque siguen teniendo éxito en el ambiente musical desde hace más de 20 años...¿quieres saber más?....sigue leyendo.

El grupo originario del pueblo ferrocarrilero inglés de Swindon, XTC, inició su odisea a través del mundo de la música en el año de 1977, ofreciendo su muy particular estilo sobre la vida diaria a través de la música. Cuando este grupo llegó a la escena musical londinense, lo hizo durante el apogeo del movimiento Punk, y por su nombre compuesto por siglas, eran confundidos hasta la saciedad como miembros del Punk o del naciente New Wave...dos estilos musicales que no tenían nada que ver con ellos, siendo sus principales influencias los Beatles, Los Beach Boys y The Kinks.

Los años pasaron y al llegar los glamorosos ochentas, XTC decidió aventurarse por el terreno poco recorrido del "Underground" usando el pseudónimo algo psicodélico de "Dukes Of Stratosphear", con su producción "25 O´Clock", desde ese entonces XTC ha tenido un enorme exito en los Estados Unidos, canciones como "Dear God", (escrita como una carta de un niño a su creador, la cual ayudó a que el álbum de donde se desprende: "Skylarking", se convirtiera en todo un clásico entre su legión de fans) y su canción de anti-fama "The Mayor Of Simpleton", de su doble LP de 1989 "Oranges And Lemons"...

Ahora, este grupo que en la actualidad se transformó en un dúo, formado por Andy Partridge y Colin Moulding, regresa a las andadas con "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume)", marcando el egreso al sonido eléctrico de esta agrupación, siendo catalogado por Partridge como "Eclectric".

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), (llamado así por la manera en que los antiguos mayas conocían al planeta Venus), la más reciente producción del grupo creador de la excelente "Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead", es la continuación de su disco de 1999 de "Apple Venus Volume 1" (¡lógico!) y algunos críticos temían porque "Wasp Star" fuera inferior a su predecesor, pero estos temores desaparecieron, ya que el primer volumen con sus texturas orquestales construidas alrededor de metales y cuerdas, demostró ser igual de ambicioso que el segundo volumen en el punto de vista de la composición de las letras, poniendo a ambos LP´s en un digno empate.

La producción comienza con "Playground", la cual no pierde tiempo en adornos banales y se centra en un requinto circular que da pie a un coro tintineante, la canción sirve como un contrapunto muy al estilo de los Beatles para "Stupidly Happy", una canción algo desgarbada que nos recuerda a los Stones, de esas dos aperturas, el dúo dinámico de Partridge y Moulding nos llevan por territorios no expolorados por ellos pero esto nos mantiene a la expectativa gracias a su maestría en el pop. En "Boarded Up", Moulding utiliza solo una guitarra acústica y algo de percusión para crear un ambiente que nos recuerda a Buffalo Springsfield y en "Wounded Horse", Partridge empleo un requinto oscuro con vocales algo arrastrada, creando un equivalente brit-pop del lamento del country blues.

En la mayor parte, "Wasp Star", se adhiere al rebote melodioso y humor torcido que ha sido la marca registrada de XTC por 25 años. Como sus predecesores los Beatles y los Beach Boys, Partridge y Moulding se deleitan en poner de cabeza la construcción del pop, proporcionando algo fresco y familiar al mismo tiempo.

Luxuria Music

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)
Cooking Vinyl/Hoanzl

Die englische Kultband greift beim zweiten Teil von "Apple Venus" wieder auf bewährte Mittel zurück

Beinahe die ganzen 90er Jahre hindurch herrschte Funkstille, nachdem sich XTC endgültig mit ihrer ursprünglichen Plattenfirma Virgin überworfen hatten und für eine Weile in Streik getreten waren. Endlich aus dem Knebelvertrag entlassen, veröffentlichten sie auf Cooking Vinyl mit "Apple Venus Vol. 1" ein orchestral-akustisches Kleinod, mit dem das Duo aus Swindon (vom einstigen Band-Line-up blieben nur die beiden Songwriter Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding über) neue Wege beschritt. "Wasp Star" ist nun die versprochene Fortsetzung des "Apple Venus"-Zweiteilers, und, wie angekündigt, haben XTC bei dieser Gelegenheit wieder ihre elektrischen Gitarren ausgepackt. Diese klingen für ihre Verhältnisse teils ungewohnt schroff, aber grundsätzlich markiert "Wasp Star" eine Rückkehr in konventionellere Fahrwasser, bei der einmal mehr und in gewohnt fachkundiger Manier auf langbewährte Einflüsse (Beatles und andere typisch englische Songschmiede) zurückgegriffen wird.


CD Reviews: The U.K. Scene

XTC Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2 (Idea) There was a bit of hoopla around XTC's comeback disc a couple years back, Apple Venus Vol. 1, a collection of pop tunes mostly in the acoustic, eclectic vein. While last year's release of a demos disc from these sessions did little to impress, Apple Venus Vol. 2 does. This is more of an electric pop release represented well by the radio singles "Stupidly Happy" and my vote for one of the songs of the year, the Costello-ish "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love." Vocalist Andy Partridge is in fine smart-pop form with great tongue-in-cheek lyrics delivered with a unique pop voice with that distinguishable English accent. Simple melodies and song structures are enhanced with minimal samples, keys, violins, horns, et al when needed. You may not get where the band is coming from on the first listen but the songs will quickly grow on you. Other notable tracks to check out are "Playground," "Standing In For Joe" and "The Wheel And The Maypole." - GC

© 2000 Extreme Visual Productions. All Rights Reserved.


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

by chad beck

Andy Partridge is in love with melody the same way his idol, Paul McCartney, is. Throughout XTC's 20+ year career Partridge has compiled song after song woven together by bouncing bass lines, playful guitar licks and vocal harmonies reminiscent of the most fab four. On their last disc, XTC chose to take their music in a more classical direction; fooling around with massive string and horn arrangements with heavenly results. Like Apple Venus Volume 1, Volume 2 is massively over-produced, allowing the listener no chance to lose track of the percolating instruments and their vocal counterparts. To the chagrin of many of their longtime fans, Volume 1 could hardly be declared a "rock and roll record." Volume 2 puts the complex XTC back in the pop/rock genre that they are so well respected for, and they walk into it like kings returning to their thrones.

Opening with "Playground," (replete with a handful of young kids chiming in on vocals) Volume 2 generally gives off a positive, life-affirming vibe. Even when the lyrics deal with grown up issues such as adultery ("Standing In For Joe"), XTC put a playful sonic spin on everything they do. After hearing these tunes a few times it's nearly impossible not to sing along with the transcendently joyous Partridge. Other highlights include "Stupidly Happy," "My Brown Guitar" and "The Wheel and the Maypole." All of these songs are good enough to be considered classic XTC, so longtime fans shouldn't worry that the band is "over the hill." Not at all. If anything, XTC are better than they've ever been, applying their wise and weathered minds to their craft like the greatest of artists from any medium. Maturity rocks.

The most amazing thing about this group is that their lyrics almost always match the brilliance of their music. On the bluesy "Wounded Horse," for example, Partridge belts out genius lyrics sharp enough to puncture the listener's eardrum. "I Stumbled and I fell / Like a wounded horse / When I found out / You'd been riding another man." Other lyrical nuggets unveil themselves in the anti-misogynous "Church of Women" as well as "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" (a track that could easily be my favorite single of the year). If well-crafted Beatlesque rock is what you're after, it doesn't get much better than this. XTC are the first group to make maturity such an appealing aspect of music usually generated for kids. Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is a grand testament to quality song writing, something none of us should ever forget.

[Thanks to Jackiefly]

Akers Mic
Musikk omtale

av Frode Nikolaisen (planB)

Vi er inne i det fjerde tiåret med gruppa XTC. Allerede i 1976 ble den første versjonen forma, og med årene så har man både skiftet medlemmer, navn og også litt stil enkelte ganger.

Her er det snakk om en av tidenes beste popgrupper, og fremdeles har de ingen problemer med å fange oss lyttere i sitt univers av geniale låter.

Gutta gav ut flere utrolige album på 80- tallet, og etter deres store comeback for et år siden med Apple Venus, er de igjen klare for å kapre nye fans.

Det skulle ikke by på problemer, for det kryr av kvalitetsbevisste platekjøpere der ute.

Grunnen til at XTC aldri helt har nådd opp blant den store mengden, kan vel kanskje skyldes at de dessverre enkelte ganger bommer litt med når de gir ut musikken sin, mens kvaliteten på deres plater skulle absolutt tilsi noe annet.

Wasp Star har potensiale til å bli intet mindre enn en XTC- klassiker.

(med forbehold om trykkfeil/skrivefeil)

The Scoop

Wasp Star

It's amazing how a band can disappear for seven years, then release the best album it has ever done, Apple Venus Vol. 1. What's more amazing is when the band follows up about a year later with an album that's even better. While XTC's hiatus wasn't exactly by choice, (there was a contract dispute), the two remaining members of the band, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, used the time off wisely. Like I said before, the last album was great, but Wasp Star Apple Venus Vol. 2, is that much better.
One of the things that made Vol. 1 so good was the use of symphonic instruments, which gave the songs a different sound that XTC has done before. Vol. 2, however, returns to the pop roots that the band had used for the past three decades. The only difference between the old and the new is the new found bitterness that Partridge puts into a lot of his songs. In "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," the first single, Partridge writes about putting a bullet through "Loves" head. This song fits in perfectly with other songs from this album as well as from the last one, about his wife divorcing him.
The best songs on the album are, surprisingly enough, the three written by Moulding. Not taking anything away from Partridge, but Moulding's songs are just happier and make the listener feel tingly all over, (at least they made me feel that way). The best of the lot is "In Another Life," Moulding's voice sounds cool with the guitar and drums backing him up.
This album is great, but unfortunately, it will probably get lost in the mix of new albums by Eminem, Britney Spears, just to name a few. It's a shame really, because this very well could be one of the best albums put out all year.

- Aaron Bell

Album Rating

Based on a scale of 1-5 Tony Danza's, one being the worst.

The Scoop 1999-2000

The Sunday Oregonian
December 31, 2000
Arts and Living

. . . the album . . . a form worth keeping, an expression [at least ideally] of a cohesive artistic statement. Whether the statement is about the detailed crafting of that vital sub-unit the song, about the expansive possibilities of sound or about some larger thematic concerns, a great album has a character all its own. . .
"Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume 2]," XTC [TVT]: Although he hasn't gone on to mainstream superstardom like Sting or art music respectability like Elvis Costello, XTC's Andy Partridge arguably is the most gifted writer to have emerged from England's late-'70s new wave scene. Despite years of commercial struggle and a dwindling band [it's down to him and bassist/second writer Colin Moulding], he's created his most inspired album yet. Moving back from acoustic pastoralism toward a nervy electric energy, Partridge's gleeful melodic architecture houses an optimistic song cycle in which the themes [love, sex, nature, cosmos] fit together in a continually regenerating chain. Death and decay -- whether of a dinosaur, a flower or a romance -- are hailed cheerfully, because they clear the way for a new round of life and love. And sometimes in this cycle, we get a bloom as brilliant as "Wasp Star."

Copyright 2000 The Sunday Oregonian
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Living Abroad Magazine
Album Reviews




After years of inactivity due to basically going on strike, so as to silently and stubbornly serve out their Virgin contract until dropping them would be the only option, XTC have been issuing albums in an absolute flurry of late.

Much like London buses is the apt cliché to apply here, because until '99s Apple Venus Volume 1, the last XTC album to be issued was 1992's Nonsuch. Then two come along in less than a year.

Much like its very immediate predecessor, Wasp Star finds XTC at the absolute pinnacle of their craft. This is a band who in by now typical manner stubbornly refuse to conform to any stereotypes. Most musical artists lose the spark that made them special, but with XTC the albums have only got better. Drums And Wires along with English Settlement may have seen them hitting their initial high-tide marks, but these have since been superseded by an astonishing run of albums that runs (despite the gap), Skylarking, Oranges And Lemons, Nonsuch and the current apple blossoms.

You can add to that, the resoundingly psychedelic affair that was their Dukes Of Stratosphere [sic] project - even when they're joking around, they still sound better than most bands, particularly bands like Kula Shaker whose second album sounds blindingly similar to the Dukes, but was actually meant as a serious career statement.

Wasp Star in some strange sort of sense that can only exist in XTC-land is a bit of a meeting ground for XTC of old and their more recent affairs. While Volume One may have had plenty of dense orchestrations, this one is a largely sparky affair which sounds like it should be played by young, skinny men twitching and stomping around on stage with dodgy, yet appealing haircuts.

Because of its very nature Wasp Star may not be as heart-renderingly endearing or effective as its predecessor, but you'll still have to travel a mighty long way to find a better collection of tunes assembled for your delectation.

Ton um Ton
News - Indies

ARTIST Titel Label
XTC Wasp Star
(Apple Venus Vol. 2)
Cooking Vinyl/Hoanzl
Die englische Kultband greift beim zweiten Teil von "Apple Venus" wieder auf bewährte Mittel zurück
Beinahe die ganzen 90er Jahre hindurch herrschte Funkstille, nachdem sich XTC endgültig mit ihrer ursprünglichen Plattenfirma Virgin überworfen hatten und für eine Weile in Streik getreten waren. Endlich aus dem Knebelvertrag entlassen, veröffentlichten sie auf Cooking Vinyl mit "Apple Venus Vol. 1" ein orchestral-akustisches Kleinod, mit dem das Duo aus Swindon (vom einstigen Band-Line-up blieben nur die beiden Songwriter Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding über) neue Wege beschritt. "Wasp Star" ist nun die versprochene Fortsetzung des "Apple Venus"-Zweiteilers, und, wie angekündigt, haben XTC bei dieser Gelegenheit wieder ihre elektrischen Gitarren ausgepackt. Diese klingen für ihre Verhältnisse teils ungewohnt schroff, aber grundsätzlich markiert "Wasp Star" eine Rückkehr in konventionellere Fahrwasser, bei der einmal mehr und in gewohnt fachkundiger Manier auf langbewährte Einflüsse (Beatles und andere typisch englische Songschmiede) zurückgegriffen wird. (chd - Chris Duller)

The Contentment Gang

Interpret: XTC
Titel: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)
Label/Vertrieb: Cooking Vinyl/Hoanzl
* * * *

Das Nachfolgealbum von "Apple Venus Vol. 1" beweist (eigentlich unnötigerweise) einmal mehr, daß die gute, alte Popmusik noch so einiges zu bieten hat. Die beiden Briten Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding versetzen den geneigten Hörer mit ihrer fröhlich-sorglosen Auffassung von Musik ein paar Jährchen in die Vergangenheit zurück - in eine Zeit, als natürlich alles besser und schöner war. Man setzt unweigerlich ein schuldfrei-idiotisches Grinsen auf und fühlt sich "stupidly happy", denn es muß ja Gott sei dank nicht immer Tiefgang sein.

veja - CG

DJ Ginsters Volume Control

XTC Wasp Star

Life can deal a bad set of cards and I was dealt a mother fucker! XTC was one of those cards. Till my dying day I will like them but I'm not an obsessive, if they do something crap I won't defend it.

After an eight years strike which put any past Industrial action in Britan to shame they came back with two albums in just over a year. The Experimental "Apple Venus 1" was a great comeback and to be honest the first XTC album with great continuity - a virtual concept album. Violins to the fore truely mind blowing.

A year later Wasp Star I must admit it came as a shock. Guitars up front and a clean clean production. I thought oh shit Oranges and Lemons (to me unlistenable apart from two great songs at the end). So an intitial wave of disappointment swept over me. Slapping the CD on again I perservered.

Gradually the melodies started creaping into my concious, I don't know if it will convert anybody but You and the clouds, Church of women and Maypole are one hell of a way to end an album - pure class. (I felt a pun coming on but resisted)

In every town there is a closet XTC fan if you spy Wasp Star on the shelf just borrow it and listen.

The Clarion Call
December 7, 2000


Music Review
Top ten albums of the year 2000

by Keith Gwillim
Clarion Call Lifestyles Editor

8) XTC - Wasp Star (4 out of 5 stars)

XTC's latest, Wasp Star, has a heart that pumps pure, exhilarating pop with every beat. XTC turns in a wonderfully nuanced set of nervy, new-wavish geek-boy rock that is arguably their best since 1986's Skylarking. Reggae, blues, and traditional English folk are woven into the tracks, resulting in a seamless fusion. Other bands would try and make this into an arty form, but XTC never lets their influences be the meat and potatoes of the songs - just the parsley sprig on the side. So if you need an antidote to all the rap-rock and boy-bands, look no further than Wasp Star.

Copyright © 2001 The Clarion Call

The Clarion Call
November 2, 2000


Music Review

XTC shows us what pop music is all about

by Keith Gwillim
Clarion Call Lifestyles Editor

What makes a good pop song? What elements separate a lasting piece of music from, say, Britney Spears? Is it lyrics? Instrumentation? The beat? I don't have the answer, but XTC sure does. Their new disc, Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2, has a heart that pumps pure, exhilarating pop with every beat.

Wasp Star is a return to form for XTC, after last year's lush, orchestrated Apple Venus Vol. 1. While the string-soaked album was impressive, it alienated many fans. On Wasp Star, XTC come back to their nervy, new-wavish geek-boy rock, producing a startlingly fresh album for guys that have been doing this for over 20 years. The result is their best album since 1986's Skylarking.

Filling up an entire album with first-rate songs has always been a problem for frontman Andy Partridge. While that is still a hurdle he needs to overcome (witness the lumbering "Wounded Horse," and the sappy "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful") the remaining ten songs are so well-crafted that those two are easily overlooked.

While most of the songs follow their "What would the Beatles sound like in the 80's" mold, their eclecticism from Apple Venus carries over into many tracks, infusing them with zest. Reggae, blues, and traditional English folk (among others) are woven into the tracks, resulting in a seamless fusion of the familiar and foreign. Other bands (including early XTC) would try and make this into an arty form, but XTC never lets their genius get to their head. And that's why this is pure pop - the influences are never the meat and potatoes of the music, just the parsley sprig on the side.

Songs like "We're All Light" and "Church Of Women" boast reggae beats that are reminiscent of Sting's Dream Of The Blue Turtles, though nowhere near as dour. In fact, this in an incredibly upbeat and just plain "happy" album. Look no further than "Stupidly Happy" to discover that.

An endlessly looped guitar riff, practically drooling in its own idiocy, draws you in against your will, as Partridge declares "My heart pumping wine / With idiot grin - I'm stupidly happy." It's so sweet you might have cavities by the end, but "Stupidly Happy" is like hot fudge sundaes - completely irresistible.

"I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" is Wasp Star's best track. Guitar-pop at its finest, "...Who Murdered Love" combines Partridge's best lyric of the album with XTC's signature sound. A hilarious fable of - you guessed it - a man who kills love itself, "...Who Murdered Love" is the next in a long line of Partridge songs dealing with being a geek who can't get any. It's bizarrly touching and endlessly funny. Sure, at the end you realize it's only Beatles worship, but when the results are almost as good as their idols, who cares?

While the music will draw you in at first, it's Partridge's lyrics that'll have you coming back for more. Partridge dances through the album with his trademark wit and mastery of the English language. He's like Morrissey on Prozac, commenting on everything from existentialism ("We're All Light") to decaying relationships ("The Wheel & The Maypole"). Funny but never trite, smart but never snobbish, Partridge will have a great job as an English teacher when he's done being a rock star.

Other highlights of the album include the social class commentary of "Playground," the Beatles tribute of "In Another Life," and the affair song "Standing In For Joe." Also check out "The Wheel & The Maypole," a song that makes a breakup sound positively jubilant. I've never heard lines like "Empires crumble in / Wedding cake begins to must and moulder / And what made me think we're any better" sound so happy.

So if you need an antidote to all the rap-rock and boy-bands (the musical equivalent of cheese from a spray-can), check out XTC's Wasp Star. Being a bespectacled, geeky Brit was never this fun. 4 out of 5 stars.

Copyright © 2000 The Clarion Call

John Gill's Web Pages
October 2000
In The CD Player

So, what's in permanent residence in my CD Player at the moment, what album is titilating my eardrums as we speak? Read on.....

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

After last year's triumphant return, Apple Venus Volume 1, the band's first new album in seven years, XTC are back again with the follow up Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). And whereas Volume 1 was somewhat experimental in its use of orchestra and acoustic instruments, Volume 2 features the XTC we know and love, with electric guitars plugged back in.

The opening three cuts are all potential singles to these ears, the first two, Andy Partridge's "Playground" and "Stupidly Happy" both featuring simple but infectious guitar riffs backed by superb drumming and Colin Moulding's melodic bass playing which echoes Sir Paul McCartney in style. Track 3, Moulding's "In Another Life", is very McCartneyesque in places but a great song nontheless. This is the man who wrote the band's biggest hit, "Making Plans For Nigel", after all. "My Brown Guitar" is a typical Partridge pop song while Moulding's "Boarded Up" is very sparse and bluesy. Track 6, "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love", is the first single from the album and in an ideal world would be a smash hit and bring the band the recognition they deserve, but I'm not holding my breath. "Standing In For Joe" has Moulding singing about looking after his mate's woman in more ways than one while "Wounded Horse" has Partridge lamenting his woman "riding another man".

Lyrically it's a superb album with Partridge playing an acidic Lennon to Moulding's McCartney and in the absence of any new material from Squeeze this will more than suffice. The musicianship is excellent with Partridge and Moulding being augmented by various drummers and keyboard players although the basic duo play most of the instruments themselves with the former doing a surprisingly good job on lead guitar duties in the absence of former guitarist Dave Gregory.

In short, you won't hear a better album this year, go out and buy it. And when you have, then go and buy Volume 1......

October 2000

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)
Cooking Vinyl / Indigo
War "Apple Venus Volume 1" noch ein rein orchestral-akustisches Werk, kehren XTC hier wieder zu ihrem elektrischen Pop zurück. Bisweilen lassen sie die Gitarren recht rockig krachen - das Grundgerüst bleibt aber immer noch dieser dermaßen Beatles-infizierte Psychedelicpop, der die Band von Anfang an auszeichnete und unverwechselbar machte.
Die Herren Partridge und Moulding gründeten XTC 1977 und nahmen seitdem mehr als zwei Hände voll Platten auf. Nebenher gab es bis heute unzählige Seitenprojekte. Beide sind jetzt Mitte vierzig, arbeiten an der konsequenten Umsetzung iherer Vision, der Weg ist das Ziel und "Wasp Star" der aktuelle Beweis dafür. Sie beherrschen das Handwerk des Songwriting meisterhaft.
Uns liegt ein bunt schillerndes harmonisches Album vor, das abwechslungsreich und durchaus auch spannungsgeladen ist. Die zwölf Titel sättigen nicht, sie machen hungrig nach mehr...... der Workaholic Andy Partridge wird wohl nicht lange auf sich warten lassen; sein Output war bisher unerschöpflich.
Doch zunächst gibt's "Wasp Star" ab dem 22.Mai im Handel.



Another life from XTC - prim8 @ 10:20 pm EST
OK, it's time for a record review. Wasp Star is the second half of a two-volume set by XTC. The first half of the Apple Venus set was released last year; I never even heard about it. Prior to that, their most recent album was in 1992. XTC is back!

With remarkable clarity, XTC balances complex and abstract compositions with melodies that are straightforward and catchy. The result is engaging and accessible music that always seems to unfold in a new way and stands up to years of listening.

The word I keep thinking of is snappy... though if XTC wasn't part of your upbringing you might take the leisurely rhythms and melancholy vocals for something other than snappy. This CD, like many of their others, brilliantly melds wry cynicism with lugubrious optimism, pragmatic humor with soulful sadness, virile underpinnings with sparky virtuosity. This is keen musicianship on par with XTC's best work; despite being technically perfect, it's alive and real.

The sluts among us are pleased to note that the intrepid Pink Thing makes an alarming appearance, in Standing in for Joe. The song's dubious hero is asked to look after his best friend's girlfriend... and you can guess the rest. Just in time, though, our little hussy gets his come-uppance. Wounded Horse casts the conqueror in the victim's role. What XTC album would be complete without a pity party?

For those of us who never get enough of XTC's romantic raving about sex, love, and jealousy, there's the rest of the CD. Behold beauty in the upper atmosphere, attend mass at the Church of Women, and party round the Wheel and the Maypole. Once again, XTC has left me Stupidly Happy.

Rating: five snowballs (packed with rocks and clay)

Hist-Web 2000



L'album Wasp Star se présente comme la suite du précédent enregistrement du groupe XTC ; il est en effet désigné, par référence à Apple Venus, comme étant Apple Venus volume 2. Le groupe est désormais réduit officiellement à Andy Partridge, qui signe 9 chansons et joue des guitares, et à Colin Moulding (basse et composition de 3 chansons). Comme à l'habitude, l'auteur-compositeur chante ses propres chansons. L'album est produit par Nick Davis qui joue des claviers. Deux batteurs, Chuck Sabo et Prairie Prince, se partagent la rythmique. Matt Vaughn a programmé les synthés, tandis qu'un section de cordes est présente sur plusieurs titres.
Comme à l'habitude dans les chansons d'XTC, les textes d'Andy Partridge sont particulièrement percutants et corrosifs. Les chansons parlent de l'amour, mais toàujours de façon décalée (par exemple dans I'm the man who murdered love dont le côté rythmé contraste avec les paroles).

(c) Saiguède productions 2000


Wasp Star
(Apple Venus Volume 2)
(reviewed by Doug O'Roark)

The opening riff on XTC's latest sounds promising, but it's all downhill from there. The album ends up going nowhere fast. Sure, the production is pristine, as we've come to expect, and Andy Partridge has a vocal style and quality that is satisfyingly unique. Unfortunately, "What we've come to expect," is what gets delivered, and that's the problem.

A nifty guitar line sets off a song, but then the idea isn't sufficiently developed. Once a novelty or two wears off, we start to notice that almost all of the tracks are lazily mid-tempo. The backup vocals harmonize in exactly the same way they have a hundred times before.

A few moments pass muster: "Standing in for Joe," the first half of "The Wheel and the Maypole," the aforementioned riffs. But nothing approaches the inspiration the band found earlier in its career. It's all reminiscent of Oranges and Lemons and Nonesuch [sic], where good tracks are few and far between.

Much has been made of XTC's decade long problems with record companies and personnel, and Partridge's stage fright. At this point it all seems irrelevant, as XTC to be just another band that has run out of ideas. Given Partridge's unquestionable talent, it's disappointing, but it's what we've come to expect.

Copyright © 2000 by dowellMedia. All rights reserved.


"Wasp Star (Apple Venus vol. 2)" (CD)
Idea Records/Cooking Vinyl/Kommunikation skivor

Jag gillar inte när band gör comebacks.

Man blir alltid besviken, det spelar liksom ingen roll vilken artist det är, det blir aldrig bra. Jag kan självklart ändra mig om jag någon gång upptäcker ett band som verkligen gör en bra comeback, men hittills har jag verkligen inte upptäckt några sådana.

Varken David Bowie eller Beatles har klarat det. Efter att ha läst min inledning förstår nog de allra flesta att XTC är ett band med sin storhetstid långt bakom sig. Denna skiva är en fortsättning på den påbörjade comebacken från -99, "Apple Venus Volume 1".

Det känns som att när band gör comebacks så rättar de sig ofta efter hur dagens musik låter, "för att slå bland ungdomarna". Det känns också som att det är precis det XTC försökt med.

Efter att lyssnat lite på skivan är det enda jag tänker på melodifestivalvinnarna Bröderna Olsen, med deras "Fly On The Wings Of Love". Det enda som saknas är "Cher-effekten" på rösten.

Den dag ett band gör en bra comeback kommer jag inte vara sen att hylla dem, tills dess kommer jag fortsätta lyssna på all bra musik som finns, jag måste tyvärr konstatera att jag klarar mig helt och hållet utan XTC:s "Wasp Star".

Anja Dahlstedt

XTC "Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2"

It would be easy for me just to blow this one off as “XTC Chapter 902”. To those who already love the band, it's unfair to them to suggest that they know exactly what they're getting when they pop the sequel to last year's “Apple Venus” into their stereo: Quirky, very English (“painfully so”, it's been remarked), pastoral pop delivered by the two chaps who brought you “Senses Working Overtime”. Since their 1978 debut “White Music”, and even through their detour as “The Dukes of Stratosphear”, and their experiments thereon with psychedelic rock, “Dear God” and “Senses…” are the closest they've gotten to making their peculiar brand of pop, uh, popular. In today's climate, “Wasp Star” seems even more likely to have an uphill swim ahead of it. Standout track: “My Brown Guitar”. My prediction is that, unfortunately, this won't do a whole lot better than “Apple Venus Volume One”. They just don't have the right choreographer. Or make-up man. Or gargoyle tattoos. Who really wants to see those guys bare stomachs anyways?

By Jason Thornberry,

Smiffy's Marvellous Electronic Gamezine
Issue 15 - September 2000

Music - XTC - Wasp Star

No cover shot as it's almost entirely black (bye bye toner!) which one would certainly not describe this jolly pop record as. Down to only the two "core" members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, they go for simpler guitar pop than the previous Apple Venus Vol.1 which was a bit more like their "Dukes of the Stratosphere" stuff.

The songs are expertly presented - well Andy Partridge's are, Colin Moulding's 3 efforts are a bit knob with lyrics like "We're boarded up, two-by-fourded up" - and mostly happy and bouncy. "Playground" sets the mood, then the excellent "Stupidly Happy" can't fail to bring a smile to your face. Other particlularly jollifying tracks are "In another life" - a sentimental song that stops just sort of sickliness with lines like "Beer tastes good from tins, Test Matches we might win", and the overtly suggestive "Wheel and the Maypole".

There is a feeling that old farts should be doing more sophisticated music than this simple fare. But what the heck? It proves that simple pop music doesn't have to be shite - a la most of the current charts.

Rock Viu
Setembre 2000

'Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)' (Cooking Vinyl)

Quan a l'any 98 XTC van tornar amb el disc Apple Venus després de cinc anys de silenci, va ser tota una alegria pels fans d'aquest mestres de la new wave. Aquest mateixos seguidors ara tenen la sort de poder gaudir de Wasp Star, la segona part d'Apple Venus. En aquest CD ens retrobem amb la obra d'aquest dos orfebres del pop amb cançons perfectament construïdes a sobre d'una estructura pop ferma i segura. Andy Partridge i Colin Moulding (els supervivents del trio inicial) han tornat a fer un disc d'aquells que s'enganxen des de la primera cançó i que creen la addicció que tenen les coses senzilles i fetes amb el cor amb una dotzena de cançons que transmeten sensacions i sentiments a cada acord. I si no ho creus prova a quedar-te impassible amb una cançó com 'My Brown Guitar', et serà impossible.

Plásticos y Decibelios
| Reseña 18/09/2000 |

Discográfica: TVT
Títulos de las canciones: Playground; Stupidly Happy; In Another Life; My Brown Guitar; Boarded Up; I´m The Man Who Murdered Love; We´re All Light; Standing In For Joe; Wounded Horse; You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful.
Otros Datos de Interés: Se trata del siguiente capítulo a la serie Apple Venus, que estuvo precedida de un silencio de 7 años sin disco.

Tras 25 años depurando el arte de la canción pop, XTC han alcanzado lo que se considera un status de culto: buenas críticas para la mayoría de sus lanzamientos y una minoría de seguidores fieles, pero sin alcanzar el éxito masivo en ningún caso.

La temporada pasada, tras un paréntesis de 7 años sin disco, motivado por problemas con Virgin, su antigua compañía, regresaron con Apple Venus Vol. 1, uno de los mejores del año, a pesar de que casi nadie le prestó atención, con arreglos de cuerda embelleciendo la mayor parte de las canciones, y dando una lección de neoclasicismo pop, en una vena similar a otros discos contemporáneos, como el de Mercury Rev.

Supuestamente, de manera casi simultánea debiera haberse editado el volumen 2 de Apple Venus, con una aproximación más espontánea y guitarrera. Ese lanzamiento se pospuso, pero ha aparecido por fin, con el nombre de Wasp Star, y es... casi mejor que el anterior. Otra lección de pop que, tal y como se anunció, pone el acento en la formación clásica del rock (guitarras y batería), pero sin perder de vista los detalles (no, éste no es un disco de punk rock).

La mayoría de las canciones vienen firmadas por Andy Partridge, que despliega ingenio (conviene echar un vistazo a las letras) e intuición melódica a placer, destacando "The Man Who Murdered Love", "Stupidly Happy", la inicial "Playground", y la que cierra el disco, "The Wheel and The Maypole". El otro componente, Colin Moulding, aporta su granito de arena con tres composiciones, de las que llama la atención "Standing In For Joe", que parece haberse inspirado en una vieja canción de Steely Dan, "Barrytown".

Rafael Ramírez

© EL CORTADOR PLASTICO, S.L. Todos los derechos reservados.

The Real Groove, New Zealand
September 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Idea Records

After the contemplative, acoustic/orchestral tones of last year's superb Apple Venus (Volume 1), Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) marks XTC's promised return to a largely up-beat, electric guitar-based format - an electric Yin to the acoustic Yang of Volume 1. The intentions are clear from the opening moment, as Andy Partridge straps on his guitar, turns up the amp and belts out the catchy riff to 'Playground'. A pity then that the track descends into the embarrassingly gauche, as Partridge lays on the 'life as school' metaphor so thick that the track has suffocated by the half-way point. Elsewhere Partridge proves he knows how to work a lyric, particularly if the subject matter is closer to home (i.e., sex or his penis). The guitar as penis metaphor of 'My Brown Guitar' is lustfully hilarious, (and the tune, like some long-lost slice of prime McCartney, is superb). Meanwhile his paean to womankind 'Church Of Women' finds Partridge worshipping "on my knees, but dancing" (ooo-er) and "on my mount and preaching" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). It's great stuff, but probably the best two tracks are 'Stupidly Happy', which is built around a fantastically simple, shit-kicking guitar riff that Keith Richards would have been proud to have written. In a fairer world this track would launch XTC back into the music-buying public's consciousness. Fat chance. The closing 'The Wheel and the Maypole' is quite possibly the album's finest moment - almost indescribable, yet quintessentially XTC. Partridge's take on birth, life, death, decay and our place in the universe (never let it be said that he's afraid to tackle the big issues), the song is a minor miracle - two songs somehow welded into a cohesive whole. It starts out sounding like the Verlaines on a pagan, medieval, west-country pilgrimage before veering sharply left into a closing section that recalls the Beatles, The Who and The Beach Boys all at once.

When it's good, Wasp Star is very, VERY good - so good that I'm prepared to forgive XTC for a few aberrations - the naff 'Playground', the completely edge-free 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love', the inconsequential 'In Another Life' and the faux Plastic Ono Band Lennon-isms of 'Wounded Horse'. Forgive them these indescretions and marvel instead at the rest of this fine album.


[Thanks to Martin Bell]

Rotterdams Dagblad Uitjournaal
1 september 2000

  Onverminderd creatief  
Door Gert Meijer  

'Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)' Cooking Vinyl Records/Bertus 51.01 min.
Het komt niet zo vaak voor dat een band bij z'n comeback nog minstens zo interessant klinkt als daarvoor. En het komt vrijwel helemaal niet voor dat een band z'n terugkeer viert met cd's die tot het beste werk behoren.

Dus mogen we hier vaststellen dat XTC een unieke groep is. De door problemen met het vorige label noodgedwongen ingelaste pauze van liefst zeven jaar werd vorig jaar beëindigd met het uitstekende 'Apple Venus Volume One', maar naar mijn smaak nog beter is opvolger Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2).

Waar het eerste deel vooral de orkestrale kant van XTC benadrukte is het nu tijd voor het pasklare popliedje. De catchy gitaartunes. 'Senses Working Overtime anno 2000', zeg maar. Veel upbeatliedjes, waaronder de sterke opener 'Playground' en 'Stupidly Happy', dat ook op het repertoire van een band als R.E.M. niet zou hebben misstaan.

Maar ook is er ruimte voor wat langzamere liedjes waarbij het intrigerende 'Wounded Horse' uitgroeit tot een van de hoogtepunten van dit album. Als de twee XTC leden Andy Partridge en Colin Moulding iets bewijzen is het wel dat ze na 25 jaar nog steeds een ongekend creatief brein bezitten.

Het Uitjournaal is een uitgave van het Rotterdams Dagblad.



XTC and


Wasp Star

(TVT Records)

Sometime after the release of the single "Peter Pumpkin Head" (Nonsuch / Geffen) XTC started to fade into the realm of compilations and the box set. But last year they broke their long silence with the release of Apple Venus vol. I (TVT Records). Although the album brought back the masters of clever pop it lacked a certain enthusiasm found in an earlier XTC library. Now Partridge and Moulding have returned once again with "Wasp Star" (TVT Records) - the most striking XTC album in a long time.

Andy Partridge's gift as a songwriter has always been observing the world with a boyish optimism and adding a clever twist. With "Playground" he takes the everyday childhood playtime as a rehearsal for the "big square world." It's a dose of pinstripe reality as seen from the swing set. Some memorable tracks include the gleefully repetitive (two, maybe three chords) "Stupidly Happy," and Partridge cheerfully confessing to rolling up his sleeves and taking Cupid to the chopping block in "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love."

If you can't get enough of Moulding and his distinct care for English manners there's "In Another Life" - "I'll be the master you'll be the maid but don't you get those headaches." As well as his soulful (can we say blues?) "Boarded Up." Well done Collin.

For fans who know XTC "Wasp Star" is a welcome return. For those who've only heard the name and a few songs "Wasp Star" is a good way to begin your introduction to one of greatest pop-rock bands of all-time. Tim Holt

Copyright © 2000 Laundranet Publishing.
[Thanks to Tim Holt]

agosto - settembre 2000
Canali - Pop music cd


Apple Venus vol.2 Wasp star

Cooking Vinyl

Ecco una band, dal grande genio tutto english, capace ultimamente di rovinare parte di quanto seminato con produzioni troppo accentuate di basi che già solo allo stato di demo acustici rappresentano veri e propri gioiellini come anche provato dagli stessi Partridge e Moulding con la recente pubblicazione di Homespun (la versione appunto demo di Apple Venus vol.1). Wasp star, doveva essere la faccia più rock del progetto Apple Venus.
Questo è vero solo in parte: i brani migliori sono quelli nella tradizione XTC dei quali non possiamo non segnalare Church of women che davvero si fa fatica a non riprodurre in continuazione sul proprio compact come la Books are burning di Nonsuch.

copyright © NonSoloLibri Tutti i diritti riservati

August 2000


Its subtitle is 'Apple Venus Vol. 2' though this volume is likelier to be under the influence of Mars rather than of Venus. Sgt. Rock is helping out again, no doubt. However, there is some restraint from the well-balanced and orchestrated touch on Volume 1. The feeling is one of hard sarcasm, like in 'Wounded Horse'. XTC will never let you down, this time they will not lift your spirits either. The overall feel is very down to earth. In songs such as 'Stupidly Happy' and 'The Wheel and the Maypole' Andy Partridge is the Mayor of Simpleton at his best. "Wasp Star" offers hilarious moments in "I'm the man who murdered love" (now released as a single) or "Standing In For Joe" but it's not enough. Not enough for XTC standards. One or two cheeky ballads would have made a huge difference. This is pop and no skylarking. An excellent XTC album should take up at least two summers of songwriting. And actually, Volume 1 had not worn out already.


Megalomaniac Productions
August 2000

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea/Cooking Vinyl)
Bereits seit den Tagen der Punk-Ära, erfreuen uns XTC mit nonkonformen Juwelen, die sich stets dem Zeitgeist entziehen, doch mit ihrer Innovation und Unberechenbarkeit überraschen. Andy Partridge, vorlauter Frontmann und Mastermind, hat ein Album hervorgezaubert, dass die frühen Tage der Guitar-Songs in neuem Gewande heraufbeschwört. Das Lied "Stupidly happy" beschreibt mit seinen sommerlich prickelnden Riffs wunderbar die Stimmung auf diesem Album. Dazwischen streut er einige seiner romantisch-sentimentalen Reisen, wie "I'm the man who murdered love" und "You and the clouds will still be beautiful". Wasp Star, dem im Rahmen des "Apple Venus Projectes" ein ebenfalls wunderbarer, wenn auch spröderer Vorgänger voranging, ist ein exzellentes Album in gewohnter Partridge-Tradition. (wh)

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea/Cooking Vinyl)
Since the long-gone-by days of punk XTC warm our hearts with nonconformistic jewels that always escape Zeitgeist yet surprise with their innovation and unpredictableness. Andy Partridge, cheeky frontman and mastermind, has produced a new album that recalls the early days of guitar-songs in a new coat. The track "Stupidly happy" beautifully describes with its summerlike tingling riffs the album's athmosphere. In between he scatters some of his romantic and sentimental journeys like "I'm the man who murdered love" and "You and the clouds will still be beautiful". Wasp Star, the follow-up within the "Apple Venus Project" of a likewise beautiful but brittle predeccessor is an excellent album in the acknowledged Partridge way. (wh)

Well Rounded Entertainment   August 2008

WASP Star (Apple Venus Vol. II)
(TVT Records)

Odd but accessible art rockers with the emphasis on the rock, 80's bands still hanging in there, quirky class acts...

WASP Star -- the first guitar-laden album from seminal and quirky (but in a good way) 80s stalwarts, XTC, in almost a decade -- announces itself immediately. "Playground," a smart, funny, caustic observation about how, even in adult life, school never really ends, opens the album with one of those crunching power riffs Andy Partridge has reliably come up with throughout his career, going back to their 1979 near-hit "Making Plans for Nigel."

A four-minute rock nugget, "Playground" is a killer kickoff. Then Partridge stunningly tops it with the instant pop miracle, "Stupidly Happy," a wonderful, seemingly impossible mixture of the Stones' "Start Me Up" crossed with a Barney the Purple Dinosaur song. A grungy guitar riff-driven sing-a-long that builds instrument by instrument until it's rolling along like a classic stone, "Stupidly Happy" is made even better by silly, love-besotted lyrics that belie the grunge and end in a joyous harmony payoff with the duo's bassist Colin Moulding.

Moulding takes over for the third song, one of three he has on Wasp Star (about his average): "In Another Life," an upbeat and amusing suggestion by husband to wife about the fantasies they can concoct to keep their marriage alive. It's decent, but more than equaled by his other offering, "Standing in for Joe," a funny gimmick song with a simple but catchy beat about a guy who's supposed to stay close to his best friend's girlfriend and ends up doing too good a job.

But most of the songs are Partridge's, as usual, and there's not a single throwaway. Besides "Playground" and "Stupidly Happy," the consistently pleasing album offers "The Man Who Murdered Love," a recent alternative radio hit that opens the CD's second half: a clean guitar-powered pop song with a twisted optimism and an exultant, instantly unforgettable chorus.

Partridge next changes the band's gears for the herky-jerky rhythms of "We're All Light." It's a great move for arguably the disc's best song, one of those unique XTC tracks that sounds like the band and no one else and uses that distinctive quality in its best execution. Driving drums with nicely timed cymbals and intelligent observations offered lovingly to Partridge's kid bless the song an added emotional resonance, but the music and the beat could do it all by itself.

After three solid but not especially noteworthy songs, including one of Moulding's, Partridge closes Wasp Star with a final instant classic, the time-is-triumphant epic in two parts, "The Plow [sic] and the Maypole." This six-minute wow brings back The London Session Orchestra, which ruled the musical landscape of last year's acoustic and orchestral comeback (after 8 years of silence), "Apple Venus, Volume One." Looking ruefully over eons of human evolution, Partridge offers some of his most thoughtful lyrics as the song builds and builds, almost to portentous self-parody, when suddenly, effortlessly, it changes gears and become a jubilant and exhilarating race to the finish line.

While perhaps not up to their top-notch standards of Black Sea and Skylarking, XTC has proven with two nearly two hours of new music in less than a year that the band is still at the top of its game. Word is XTC built up a healthy cache of songs while locked into its dispute with Virgin, before getting loose and signing with TVT Records. Let's hope for an album a year, all as good as this one.

T.W. Siebert

Le Monde
lundi 28 août 2000
Sélection disques


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

1 CD Idea Records/Cooking Vinyl COOKCD 194. Distribué par Musidisc.

Réduit à son binôme fondateur, Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding, XTC a signé en 1999 avec Apple Venus Volume 1 un chef-d'oeuvre d'orfèvrerie pop. On attendait avec gourmandise sa suite annoncée mais, surprise, seule la parenthèse du titre de ce nouveau disque relie les deux albums. Le duo a troqué cordes et bois (ne subsiste qu'une ligne de violoncelle ici ou de hautbois là) pour des guitares et branché à nouveau ses amplis. Electrifié à défaut d'être électrisé, XTC retrouve de vieux réflexes : clins d'oil à sa propre discographie (notamment les albums Black Sea et Oranges & Lemons), évocation des Kinks de l'áge d'or autour de riffs acérés - Partridge est sans conteste le plus digne héritier de Ray Davies -, sucreries comme McCartney n'en fournit plus (My Brown Guitar). En conséquence, Wasp Star déçoit, mais agréablement, parce que peu de groupes dans le royaume (et surtout pas les braillards pillards de la britpop) approchent cette subtilité mélodique. A leur dernière livraison, les paysagistes de Swindon avaient composé un bouquet capiteux. Ici, ils se sont contentés de tailler quelques roses d'Angleterre, belles à défaut d'être originales.

Bruno Lesprit

© Le Monde 2000

Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
August 22, 2000, Tuesday


XTC: Apple Venus 2 (TVT Records).

After going orchestral on 1999's Apple Venus, the lads from XTC plug in their amps again and churn out a collection that ranks among their best.

The leading practitioners of thinking man's pop have rarely disappointed in 24 years. They remain brilliant at balancing accessibility with art. Take You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful: In the hands of an amateur such a line would be clumsy; singer-guitarist Andy Partridge handles it gracefully in this island-flavored piece.

Partridge dominates the songwriting credits, but his longtime cohort, bassist Colin Moulding, asserts himself anew. Moulding's voice, once virtually indistinguishable from Partridge's, now stands out. What hasn't changed is XTC's exceptional popcraft, demonstrated by Moulding on the sparse, acoustic Boarded Up.

Partridge's sardonic wit is still sharp, bearing homicidal retribution for the heartbroken in The Man Who Murdered Love: "So dear, I'm here to confess/I'm the one who freed us from this mess." The light-hearted bounce of Standing in For Joe makes you forget the song's adulterous overtones.


[Thanks to Wes Hanks]


XTC Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2

(TVT Records)

Going electric after 1999's mostly orchestral Apple Venus, Wasp Star proves that jangling guitars and stinging words never fall out of favor. Remaining band members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding continue to graft dysfunctional lyrical themes (wife swapping, the death of a hometown) onto gorgeous hooks. In the past, XTC's bile could choke its musical strengths (Nonsuch comes screaming to mind), but on Wasp Star, songs like Partridge's wholehearted "Stupidly Happy" recognize that wit and irony only take you so far. Instead, the Apple Venus series finds these Limeys fully embracing sentiment and affection -- and not a moment too soon.

-- Tim Grierson

August 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)

Idea/TVT * * * 1/2
To paraphrase my colleague Robert Christgau: ho hum, another great XTC record. . . . Perhaps I should explain. Christgau was reviewing Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band that released five great albums in a mere two years. Then came Pendulum, and although it had what he called "subpar" moments, it had enough "superpar" songs that it seemed like just another walk in the bayou for John Fogerty and company.

So it is with XTC. Despite a seven-year hiatus and the loss of guitarist Dave Gregory, the band has been on an incredible musical roll since 1984: The Big Express, Skylarking, Oranges & Lemons, Nonsuch, and last year's S&V Entertainment Award-winning Apple Venus Vol. 1 (see "Random Play," page 18). Now, as Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding follow up the "orchustic" Apple Venus Vol. 1 with the electric Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2), it's tempting to take the new album for granted and stamp it with multiple stars - certainly four or more.

But whereas the inventive AV1 seemed effortless, the more straight-ahead AV2 occasionally sounds like XTC found it hard to be easy. Two of Moulding's three numbers here, "In Another Life" and "Standing In for Joe," lean heavily on a two-note keyboard figure. Partridge's "Stupidly Happy" relies entirely on a simplistic guitar riff in a one-chord setting. All of this repetition can get, well, repetitive. Gregory, who was still credited for guitar and various keyboard instruments on AV1, is long gone, and he's missed. And most of this "new" material has been slow-stewing in the studio for years. Time for some fresh vegetables!

On the other hand, what's my problem? "Standing In for Joe" is perfectly jaunty, while Moulding's third contribution, "Boarded Up," is a marvel of wooden-floor percussion, razor-sharp acoustic guitar, and haunted vocals in a lament for XTC's hometown. "Stupidly Happy" welcomes a fine countermelody halfway through and builds to a Brian Wilson climax. What's more, several of Partridge's other songs are customarily superpar. "We're All Light" percolates madly. "Wounded Horse" clomps about dramatically in hoofs and wires. The album's clarion call, "Playground," relies not only on a killer riff but also on Moulding's daring bass. And in "The Wheel and the Maypole," the multipart classic that closes the disc, Partridge fleshes out a similar riff with strings before launching into an upbeat finale, where he revels in a beautiful cascade of chords.

There are little things, too, like Partridge's sigh at the end of "Wounded Horse" and his announcement in the middle of a song that "it's the middle of the song." Then there's his daughter, Holly, all grown up since her rocking-horse days in the 1988 song "Holly Up on Poppy," sweetly taunting her Dad in "Playground." Shiver time! Overall, Wasp Star gives fewer goosebumps than its predecessor, but it still earns a "very good" rating of 3.5 stars. And it's still proof that XTC remains our single best hope for intelligent pop - the one band that has successfully carried the weight of the Beatles into the 21st century.
Ken Richardson

Copyright © 2001, Hachette Filipacchi Magazines
[Thanks to Peter Nau]
July 2000
A and E CD Reviews

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Universal Records

Reviewed by Jonny Flint

Andy Partridge and his partner Colin Moulding who have molded XTC for over twenty years are back in fine form with an "upbeat" record called "Wasp Star- Apple Venus Volume 2". This volume is not a collection of tracks left over from last year's acoustic collection "Apple Venus Volume 1", but a much stronger effort that is truer to their post-pop-punk roots which began in 1979 with the band's debut "Drums and Wires".

The band often compares its songs to buildings, children, coins, pigs or sheep or whatever imagery happens to be dancing around in their heads. "I think architecture and music are pretty closely related" replies Andy P., "I like songs that have hidden corners......structures that surprise."

Tracks like ‘Stupidly Happy’, ‘I'm The Man Who Murdered Love’, and ‘Standing In For Joe’ are full of that unassuming, clever and eloquent pop that is valued most by true XTCites and casual followers. With "Wasp Star" there's more lying beneath the surface. This album is a great distillation of the band's current feeling, combined with a tongue in cheek point of view.

Gallery of Sound
July 2000

Wasp Star

Andy Partridge is a cyclical creature. Anyone who has followed the fortunes and foibles of XTC with any regularity over the years will tell you that Partridge routinely follows periods of pastoral bliss with energetic rock explorations. So it is with the double themed sword of Apple Venus Vol. 1 and Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2). The first Apple Venus was steeped in melancholy and hushed velvet tones, a slightly odd direction to take with the band's first release in nearly eight years. But given that much of the disc's direction took its cue from Partridge's marital and professional strife during that forced sabbatical, the dreary spin on Apple Venus is appropriate and therapeutically necessary.

Wasp Star was actually intended to come out as a bookend piece a mere nine months after Apple Venus Vol. 1. That strategy was replaced by releasing the Apple Venus demos late last year, a slavish fan acquisition at best, as Partridge's demos are notoriously finished pieces of music. For fans of propulsive and effusive XTC pop, all was stopgap until the release of Wasp Star. From the angular guitar phrases that punctuate "Playground" to the giddy offbeat rhythms that inhabit "Stupidly Happy" to the stratospheric emotional impact of "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," it's clear that the tone of this album is determined by the beginning of his new relationship, just as Apple Venus chronicled the end of his marriage.

Some of the tracks have been around for awhile. "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" didn't make the cut on Nonsuch in 1991, and "My Brown Guitar" was originally a submission to John Flansburgh's Hello Recording Club. Veteran sidekick Colin Moulding makes a great showing for himself here, as he gets the opportunity to kick in the stall a bit. His three compositions, the gorgeous Beatle-esque "In Another Life," the quietly syncopated "Boarded Up," and the appealingly goofy "Standing in for Joe," are classic Moulding contributions, shining appropriately in Partridge's shadow. After nearly 25 years of edgy, emotional pop, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding show little visible signs of wear and in many cases are performing better than when they started.

Brian Baker


July 2000
Circle Of The Fifth

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
TVT Records

One thing I'll say about these guys is that they sure can craft a great pop tune. Moreover, they've been around for quite some time now. Similar to the style of the Beatles (circa White Album era), the boys behind XTC wield their wacky lyrics with great skill, fusing them with catchy yet abstract melodies. They reel you in with simple familiar tunes, then turn everything inside out. Fans of the Beatles or Steely Dan should have no trouble appreciating what they are trying to do.

"Stupidly Happy" best captures the overall feel of the album. The song's upbeat vibe, carefree lyrics, and careful arrangement try to describe what it means (for them) to be in love. This is pure pop - hook, line and sinker. But XTC also weaves interesting stories; take "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," for example. The simple three-chord structure belies the whimsical nature of the lyrics. "Wounded Horse" is an ideal barroom jukebox hit with its country-style lyrics, swagger, and love-lost theme.

You could say that Andy Partridge (XTC's primary writer) belongs to the traditional school of songwriters. And yet he manages to infuse something creative every time. You might have heard many of these melodies before, but probably not in this way. He manages to turn a song on its head, completely changing its context and throwing you off, somehow.

Rating: 3 (Typical - Nothing new here, but better than not having anything to listen to, right?) - Catchy, studied pop music, honed to perfection.

About The Writer
Enzo Lim plays for the Blue Jean Junkies and works at Tower Records.

© 1999-2000 Localvibe Internet Technology, Inc. All rights reserved.

Shake It Up!
July 2000


Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume II - (TVT Records)

Pop champions and veritable godfathers of Britpop songcraft, XTC return with the "sequel" to the experimental Apple Venus Volume I. While Apple Venus Vol. I had the distinction of being an XTC album without electric guitar fests, it nevertheless was promoted to be something not all that unusual for the Swindon duo. The use of acoustic instruments and orchestrations had been done in the past quite admirably by XTC. Here, we have the other side of the coin - a more familiar sound but with a dose of refreshing simplicity in parts that makes Wasp Star... as notable as past efforts like Oranges And Lemons and The English Settlement.

Not that those records were "simple" by any stretch - they just represented changes in the band's agenda. Tracks here like Playground and Stupidly Happy are exciting - and excitingly simple while still accommodating the knack for sound arrangements that we've come to expect from the band. The harmonies, the counterparts, the rhythms - XTC almost threaten to "rock out" in parts!

Now that's only one distinction about this superior Apple Venus installment. The fuller arrangements that we've come to know are present on tracks like the remarkable and exuberant We're All Light and the adventurous changes within The Wheel And The Maypole (which would be at home on The English Settlement). When such tracks are broken apart by more solemn reflections like Boarded Up and the evenly paced Church Of Women (which features a lovely guitar solo from Andy Partridge), the total effect makes Wasp Star... easy to keep coming back to.

Wasp Star comes off almost as a "history" of XTC. With treasures such as those in XTC's glowing career, it's hard to come up with something less than substantial.

* * * * out of 5

Claudio Sossi

Cosmicben's Record Reviews
circa 2000
It's all that and a bowl of Count Chocula

* * * * 1/2  XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000)-- Tons of fun, but for criminy's sake, don't listen while you're sick.  I did, and the slick production and repetitive, dirge-like nature of the songs (even the rockers) dug into my psyche and gave me repetitive, dirge-like nightmares.  But if you're a 98.6er, hooee, this is a heck of an album.  Sure, Moulding dropped the ball here: his songs are clever, but two of them bring the album to a jarring halt (only "In Another Life" is enjoyable), and his voice is at its smarmiest and most boring throughout.  But I'd vouch for every single one of Partridge's numbers, even the comic blues "Wounded Horse."  The ugliest man in rock is proof postive that creativity still exists in the industry, as he plasters every song with dirty guitar effects, unexpected chord changes, and fantastically inventive percussion.  If you can get past his voice, which is actually very bearable here, you should enjoy all of his songs, especially the giddy pickup-line-fest "We're All Light" and the riffy "The Wheel And The Maypole."  It's all pretty slick, sure, but that just shows how much effort they put into making the album, and if the songs go down easy, it's because Andy's spent the last seven years perfecting his hook-writing.  Basically, XTC has created a timeless album here: it's not perfect, but it's not tied to any era or passing fad, so in, say, 2050, when we're all wondering why we went ga-ga over average grunge-rock like Creed, Wasp Star will still be enjoyable.  Yes, "Boarded up, two-by-fourded up" is probably the worst lyric I've ever heard, an example of Moulding trying to live up to his clever reputation and failing, but Partridge's "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," while too cloying for radio, is an enjoyable mindfuck, from the opening guitar squeal to the harmony-laden fadeout.  By its second week, Wasp Star was sitting pretty at number 190, which means that you probably haven't heard it--so go buy it, let it sink in a few times, because if it's not perfect, it's pretty darn great anyway.  Really fucking peppy, and too weird for your friends, but great nonetheless.

July 30, 2000

Artist XTC
Titel Wasp Star (Apple Venus Ver. 2)
Format CD
Skivbolag TVT
Genre PopRock
Recenserad 20000730



Nu händer det grejer. Tredje albumet på två år! Den klassiska ketchupeffekten dyker upp och gör mig, och förhoppningsvis alla andra glada. XTC har ju en del att ta igen och det känns att nittiotalets stundtals popfattiga innehåll berodde just på att dessa bångstyriga virrpannor inte producerade någonting under detta årtionde. I protest mot Virgin Records ensidiga avtal, ligger XTC numer på TVT och nu sprudlar bandet av energi, även om bandet har tappat en medlem. Musiken spelas för övrigt in i bandets egenhändigt byggda studio, i Colin Mouldings garage.

Nu till musiken. Som uppföljare till "Apple Venus Vol. 1", ett mycket lyckat orkestralt experiment som alla borde ha i sin skivsamling, är "Wasp Star" (Apple Venus Vol. 2) mer en tillbakablick över bandets utveckling från 70-talets spretiga punkrock till senare skivors kluriga popbetraktelser. Det är mycket trevlig lyssning där tight up-beat, gitarrbaserade låtar tar en tillbaks till 60-talspoppen. Beatles känns alltid igen i XTC, även om efterföljarna i detta fallet på ett brilliant sätt för vidare anden och förfinar originalet. Med öppningen "Playground" och "Stupidly Happy" känns deras unika och ärliga lekfullhet igen och det känns som om jag är på mammas gata. Jag leker vidare i sandlådan med mina vänner. "In Another Life" är en söt och drömmande skildring av vardagslivets kärlek och tillgivenhet. Andy Partridge, sångare och låtskrivare, blev hastigt och lustigt lämnad av sin fru nyligen, så "Apple Venus" känns som en återställare för honom och det lyser kraftigt igenom XTCs texter. Detta innebär dock ej självömkan, utan snarare en ödmjukhet och distans som blandas upp med engelsk cynisk humor.

Personligen är jag förtjust i XTCs förmåga att på ett lekfullt sätt ta starka melodier och stundtals socialrealistiska texter till nya höjder, som i "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love". Men, mest av allt dyrkar jag XTC glasklara ballader och det är avsaknaden av dessa som får mig att ge "Wasp Star" det näst högsta betyget. Jag väntar redan på uppföljaren till uppföljaren.

Fredrik Fernberg

© 2000

Sonic Barbecue
Jeudi, 27 juillet 2000, 18h43 HAE

"Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)"


Sept ans. Il aura fallu sept ans pour qu'on ait enfin des nouvelles de XTC. Autant dire une éternité. Certains, Stone Roses en tête, ne se sont jamais remis d'une absence aussi prolongée. Alors quand Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding ont refait surface, l'an dernier, même les entêtés leur étant demeurés fidèles ne pouvaient que se demander si la magie opérait toujours.

"Apple Venus Volume 1" en rassura plus d'un. Depuis "Nonsuch" (1992), XTC n'avait pas égaré la recette de la pop élégante. "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)" parviendra à convaincre les plus hésitants. Le duo possède toujours celle du rock flamboyant.

Conçu comme s'il était le second disque d'un album double, "Wasp Star" constitue le complément parfait de son prédécesseur. A la pop symphonique de l'un succède le rock électrique de l'autre. Ensemble, tous deux révèlent un groupe éclectique.

D'entrée de jeu, XTC met cartes sur table. Aussi tranchants qu'une lame de rasoir, les riffs de "Playground" et "Stupidly Happy" sont à la lutte avec la batterie. "Drums & Wires" vient immédiatement à l'esprit. On aurait toutefois tort de réduire "Wasp Star" à un vulgaire carbone de cet album - pourtant excellent - paru il y a 21 ans. Partridge et Moulding font aujourd'hui la preuve d'une maturité qu'ils ne possédaient alors pas. En témoignent les mélodies, limpides, les textes, savoureux, les arrangements, somptueux.

Savante sans jamais être ennuyante, la musique de XTC s'inscrit désormais dans la grande tradition de la pop et du rock britanniques, celle établie par les Beatles ("My Brown Guitar"), les Kinks ("In Another Life"), mais aussi... XTC ("I'm The Man Who Murdered Love"). Elle fait fi du temps qui passe. En un mot, elle est intemporelle.

© SONIC BARBECUE Tous droits réservés

The Boston Globe
July 27, 2000, Thursday



By David Gerard

The companion to last year's orchestral "Apple Venus" disc, "Wasp Star" delivers on its promise of an electric, guitar-rock spectacle. Andy Partridge continues an unyielding affection for the Beatles with his McCartney-esque singing and songwriting. "Brown Guitar" and "Wounded Horse," in particular, are pages from the "Abbey Road" songbook, with Colin Moulding neatly replicating McCartney's innovative bass lines. On the infectious "Stupidly Happy," Partridge integrates a Stones-like guitar riff with his trademark lyrical epigrams. But the real musical surprises come from Moulding. He contributes three songs and each is a drastic departure from the next. "In Another Life" harks back to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, right down to its cheeky lyrics about marriage and fidelity. "Boarded Up" is the tale of a small town's economic woes and sounds eerily reminiscent of Richard Thompson's "Industry." And the comical "Standing In For Joe" crosses the line between homage and parody, sounding more like something from the Rutles. Still, even on their worst days, XTC has its competition over a barrel.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

n° 2637 - 26 juillet 2000
Critique disque

  ROCK fff


Wasp Star
(Apple Venus volume 2)

Maestros pop. Depuis vingt-cinq ans, XTC (prononcez «Ex-ta-sy»...) distille une musique aussi vicieusement complexe que méthodiquement jubilatoire. De petites chansons d'apparence innocente, mais bourrées de chausse-trapes mélodiques, de brisures rythmiques, d'arrangements excentriques, de vocaux psychédéliques et d'humour caustique. Un peu comme si Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding, les deux forts en thème et uniques rescapés du groupe originel, jouaient à être Lennon-McCartney rencontrant Frank Zappa dans la salle d'un conservatoire municipal...
Conçu comme la suite du disque précédent (Apple Venus volume 1, publié en 1999 après sept ans de silence), ce nouvel album épate donc d'emblée par son insolente simplicité : ici, pas d'envolées orchestrales, pas de chichis harmoniques. Juste une collection de morceaux joliment troussés, tendres et charnus, espiègles et malins, louvoyant entre pastiches rock'n'roll, clins d'oeil country et même reggae fort gai. Avec, comme constante, le thème de l'amour, décliné comme un jeu parfois bêta (Stupidly happy) et candide (Playground), parfois cruel (I'm the man who murdered love) et pervers (Standing in for Joe). L'occasion pour nos deux larrons de décliner leur savoir-faire d'artisans de la double croche et de prouver, une fois de plus, qu'ils sont toujours les maîtres incontestés de la pop britannique. Plus excité qu'extatique, mais extra, cet XTC.

1 CD Cooking Vinyl 11297 15942 - Distr. M10 - 51 mn.

Philippe Barbot

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

Music Manic
July 21, 2000

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Vol. 2) (TVT)
Leslie Stewart
7/21/00 10:43:41 AM

A strange thing happens to Englishmen approaching middle age. OK, two strange things: there's that weird socks-with-sandals thing, sure, but more importantly, they become gardeners. All of 'em, even the rock stars. The gardener's poetic cycle of birth-and-bloom/decay-and-dormancy plays itself into a much more sophisticated metaphor for life's ups and downs than the average pop song will allow. Perhaps this sort of lyrical sophistication is one of the unfortunate reasons that XTC - the band that legitimately should have been the "next Beatles" - has never enjoyed mass popularity here in the States.

Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Vol. 2) finds the garden of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding in full bloom. Partridge, having suffered through a rather acrimonious divorce during the long dry spell that preceded last year's Vol.1, resisted the obvious temptation to turn 'Earn Enough For Us' into 'Keep Enough For Me,' but indulged in enough anger to become 'The Man Who Murdered Love' (and in enough self-pity to become the honky tonk barfly of 'Wounded Horse').

The man definitely has the capacity to harbor a grudge, as evidenced by the still-painful playground memories of the disc's opener; but for the most part, he's content to worship once again at the 'Church Of Women,' and to wallow in the sheer goofiness of blossoming romance on tunes like 'Stupidly Happy.' (Fans of the band's 1984 disc The Big Express will be happy to learn that his new love is, in fact, the one who got away in 'Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her.')

Instrumentally the boys have traded the orchestra and the bassoon riffs of the last Apple Venus for the crunchy electric feel of the playfully sexy 'My Brown Guitar' and the downright danceable drums of 'We're All Light.' Partridge and Moulding are always kind enough to save some of the best for last, and the breezy 'You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful' is a fine example, as is 'The Wheel And The Maypole,' which manages to combine two obviously separate tunes into a jangly, melodic package that neatly sums up the lyrical and musical themes of both albums.

It's somewhat unfair to compare and contrast the two Apple Venus volumes like apples and oranges (or, more appropriately for XTC fans, like oranges and lemons), as they're essentially two sides of the same coin. But for the orchestrally-challenged who were put off by the symphonic thrust of the first effort, it's safe to liken the two albums more to (groan!) the agony and the XTC.

Copyright (c) 2000 Eason Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Süddeutsche Zeitung
Mittwoch, 19. Juli 2000


Auch als Duo sind sie immer noch die Herrscher des Pop: „XTC”

Gelegentlich wird man zwischen all den verhuschten Post-Pop-Hits und Elektronica-Clubfüllern daran erinnert, dass Musikmachen auch noch ganz anders funktionieren kann. Wie schön, dass es noch Pop-Gewährsleute wie Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding von XTC gibt, die sich seit über 20 Jahren der Verfeinerung und Perfektionierung der Liedkunst verschrieben haben. Mittlerweile können sie ihren Überfluss an Ideen für Kammerpop und ihren Hang zum Bombast kanalisieren und servieren reihenweise perfekte Popsongs. Alles Handwerk, wie Moulding beteuert, das sie im Grunde erst in den letzten zehn Jahren wirklich erlernt haben.

Mit „Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)” ist nun der überwiegend fröhliche, elektrische Teil des „Apple Venus”-Zyklus erschienen. Mit „Vol. 1” hatte sich Partridge den lang gehegten Wunsch erfüllt, einmal ein komplett orchestral-akustisches Werk aufzunehmen. Ein gelungenes Experiment, das allerdings Ur-Ekstatiker Dave Gregory nicht mitmachen wollte. XTC haben den Ausstieg ihres Leadgitarristen allerdings gut verkraftet, und Andy Partridge hat nicht zu viel versprochen, als er „Wasp Star” „mehr Hooks als an einem Long John Silver” bescheinigte.

Neben den gewohnt detailverliebten, bunten XTC-Pop-Song-Süßigkeiten hat „Wasp Star” auch radiotaugliche Hits wie „The Man Who Murdered Love” und „Stupidly Happy” zu bieten. Überraschende Arrangements sind reichlich vorhanden, beispielsweise auf dem Opener „Playground”, wenn Partridge und Moulding zuerst eine falsche Rockfährte auslegen, um dann im Song mit ihrer unnachahmlichen Leichtigkeit und Pop-Sophistication mit Stilen und Zitaten zu jonglieren.

Auf „Wasp Star” haben XTC bewiesen, dass ihr 77er-Schlachtruf „This is Pop” noch immer gültige Arbeitsmaxime ist. Wer sich so seine nette Infantilität bewahrt hat, kennt als Mittvierziger auch die Formel für würdefreies, also nicht-langweiliges Altern.


[Thanks to Bernward Meier and Christa Bartsch]

Girls On
Music: Reviews

"Wasp Star (Apple Venus Part 2)"
Reviewed by: Jana S.

Brain gets bent, heart gets broken
You can't jump off once the pages turn
School is out but never over
That's the only lesson you can learn
...Escaping from their big square world.

--"Playground"(Andy Partridge)

I love XTC. I can't lie to you. They are absolutely one of my favorite bands ever--I'm just going to say that up front. They have been the backdrop to two of the most important occasions of my life (one was losing my virginity, the other even more personal). And so I am programmed for brain-bending, heartrending excitement every time they put out a new album. Sometimes I'm prepared for what I get and other times I am profoundly disappointed. With "Wasp Star", pop geniuses Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding (the only two remaining from an original set of five bandmates) have fashioned a perfect pop confection--happy, peppy songs that may actually get played on the radio (which hasn't happened for XTC in many, many years) as well as lower my blood pressure and raise my serotonin levels with every single play.

"Playground" and "Stupidly Happy", the first two tracks on the album, establish that Andy has been in a pretty good mood since he and Colin said goodbye to their other bandmates and Virgin Records' nasty contractual complications. On independent TVT Records, they have now put out three outstanding albums in a row: "Apple Venus"; an acoustic album; and "Homespun", demos from the seven-year batch of sessions that occurred during the Virgin trauma, keeping them from publishing any songs. Their fan base is ecstatic. But songs like "Stupidly Happy" and "My Brown Guitar", which will sound like Third Eye Blind rip-offs to the aurally-and-XTC-challenged, are exactly what has made XTC one of the finest alternative bands around ever. Whimsical vocals, layers of melodies and harmonies worthy of the Beatles, and lyrics that have earned Andy a reputation as a Joycean wordsmith--these elements of XTC's work are fully evident here and mined for all they're worth. But it is the soon-to-be-released single, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" (rife with emotional content culled from the bitter divorce Andy enacted upon his family several years ago) that gets the big A+--it ranks among the greatest pop songs written in the past twenty years. Like Elvis Costello, Andy experiments a lot with songwriting, but it is in the exquisite tailoring of guitar-driven pop songs that he proves his mettle.

Like the Pixies before them, the anger and vitriol of contemporary human experience has always held great interest and inspiration for Partridge, especially, as well as for his other XTC cohorts. Look at "Wounded Horse", in which Andy laments the fact that his friends have pushed him into the dating life too soon after his divorce, in which he discovers that his ex-wife is having more fun than he is ("I bit out my tongue/like a wounded horse/when I found out/you've been riding another man."). In songs like "Standing In for Joe" (written by Colin Moulding), in which a man is asked to look after his best friend's wife during a business trip and ends up stealing her away, the skewed romantic vision of XTC is once again examined in their trademark, ironically pop-tuneful way. Every once in a while, the wordplay gets a little too cutesy, even for my taste ("Jack and Jill-ion years ago") but the soaring hopeful waves of songs like "We're All Light" and "You and The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" show that the boys have learned a lot, gotten rid of the bad, kept the good, and are facing the future with mocking grins on their faces and a healthy mix of contempt and wonder in their pop-tart hearts. "In this new dark age, we're all light", they sing. I, for one, thank them for that--and everything else.

Now, if Andy could just lift that eighteen-year-old ban he put on XTC's touring (he's notoriously affected by stage fright). "Wasp Star" creates too much good energy for me to waste time wishing for what cannot be.

"I got some lovely/ In my head (in my head)"

Since it's there, I'm just going to bask in its wonderfulness.

Further Entertainment

Wasp Star/ Apple Venus Vol.2
Idea/Cooking Vinyl

Andy Partridge hat Wort gehalten und präsentiert nach dem kammermusikalisch verspielten Vol.1 mit Wasp Star den Gitarrenteil der Apple Venus. Die Instrumentierung ist aber eigentlich auch schon alles, was die Songs beider Albumteile voneinander trennt, die Handschrift der Band ist jederzeit unverkennbar. Wasp Star hat einen ziemlich garstigen Titel für eine überwiegend fröhliche Musik. Vielleicht macht das den Unterschied zu Vol.1 aus - die hier vermittelten Gedanken und Gefühle sind leichterer Natur. Das klingt dann im Endeffekt etwas weniger spannend/konventioneller als der erste Teil, wirft aber vielleicht mit "Stupidly Happy" sogar einen Radiohit ab. Schöne Hooklines und detailverliebte, vielfarbige, derweil einleuchtende wie überraschende Arrangements finden sich erneut reichlich. Und auch wenn diese Platte dem bekannten XTC-Universum keine wesentlichen Neueroberungen hinzufügt, Spaß macht mir das dennoch.

14 juillet 00
Nouveautés CD
Éric Messier, chroniqueur


Wasp star, Apple Venus volume 2 (Universal)

Fascinant parcours que celui de XTC, mené par les Anglais Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding. Cette pop recherchée, jamais facile (antithèse de la putasserie), et ces arrangement parfois bizarres leur a valu d'être comparés aux Beatles, sur ces aspect. L'aspect ventes, bien sûr, ne supporte aucune comparaison, mais leur travail a néanmoins fait d'eux une figure culte. Partridge et Moulding travaillaient déjà ensemble en 1973 (à 18 et 20 ans), mais c'est en 1977 qu'ils fondaient XTC. Les albums phares ont été English Settlement (1982) et surtout Skylarking (1986), avec Dear God (un rare hit FM). Le très électrique Wasp Star... devait en fait paraître en double avec le plus acoustique Apple Venus Volume 1, paru en 1999. Bien sûr il ne le fera pas, mais il pourrait tourner à la radio avec, encore, cette succulente collection de rock et de pop doux et dur, bousculant mais authentique (le dénuement de Boarded Up est presque insolent) et peu enclin aux compromis mais parfois (insistons : parfois,) accessible; pensons à Playground; Stupidly Happy; My Brown Guitar; You And the Clouds.... On écoute avec une appréhension trouble, comme on reçoit avec frissons et excitation un cadeau longtemps convoité. Excellent, unique, sauvage, iconoclaste, 8 / 10

The Wall Street Journal
July 14, 2000

Pop Perfection


It's a combination with undeniable appeal: a great song delivered with wit, energy and style. . . . songs overflowing with hooks, the occasional catchy lyric and oceans of rock 'n' pop attitude.


Having delivered superior pop recordings in the late '70s and throughout the '80s, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding kick off their fourth decade with a splendid disk. "Wasp Star," the duo's third release in less than a year following a lengthy hiatus, is bursting with all sorts of cleverness that's enhanced by bright, flawless execution. As do fellow Brits Paul McCartney, Ray Davies, Elvis Costello and Squeeze's Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, Mr. Partridge and Mr. Moulding write songs rich with slice-of-life observations that connect, often with bemusement, to universal themes. On "Wasp Star," the subject is love, bitter and sweet. "All the birds of the air call your name/ As they land on my kitchen roof," Mr. Partridge declares to his paramour in "Stupidly Happy." And, in "My Brown Guitar," he invites his love to "come and nest there" in his field of green grass, pink skies and bluebirds.

But, of course, it's not quite as simple as all that in this type of witty pop. Mr. Moulding sings of his disappointment in "In Another Life": "Ah, but in another life/ Well, I'll be your Burton/ If you'll be my Liz/ There might be flying pigs." In another tune, Mr. Partridge states, "I'm the man who murdered love/ He was begging on his bended knee/ For me to put him from his misery/ He hadn't worked at all this century." And in "Standing in for Joe," the inevitable still surprises, as Mr. Moulding betrays a friend: "As darkness falls/ And I turn out his bedroom light/ Who could resist her tender charms." All this wit and great backing tracks, with no two alike.

[Thanks to Jamie Lowe]

July 6, 2000

Wasp Star-Apple Venus Vol. 2

Wasp Star... is the second and final volume of XTC's ...Apple Venus series, which marks the seminal band's return to music after going on strike from Virgin Records in 1992. Whereas ...Apple Venus Vol. 1 was an orchestral, acoustic affair, Wasp Star... is a triumphant return to more jubilant guitar pop. Inspired mostly by Andy Partridge's emotional rollercoaster of divorce, illness and falling in love again, Wasp Star... is a somewhat bipolar tale of love, from the ecstatic "Stupidly Happy" to the sorrowful "Wounded Horse." Still providing the perfect songwriting compliment is XTC's other half, Colin Moulding (guitarist David Gregory left during the ...Vol. 1 sessions), whose additions include the marital "In Another Life" and the debauched "Standing In For Joe." And, as usual, the band's patented humor and wit are ever-present, providing even more light to an album of shining brilliance. (TVT, 23 East 4th Street, New York 10003)

-Frank Valish

Nouvelle Vague
issue 54, Summer 00

Wasp star. Apple venus vol. 2
(Cooking Vinyl)

Amis lecteurs, vous qui suivez, l'an dernier sortit Apple venus Volume 1, "l'album orchestral", quasiment le meilleur XTC, donc facilement l'un des plus beaux albums de cette décennie bien pauvre (écrire au journal, etc.). Hé bien, en voici comme prévu le pendant rock, "l'album à guitares". Et comme pour enfoncer le clou, il commence par deux morceaux basés sur un riff simplissime qu'ils traitent différemment. Ce Playground d'ouverture est anthologique et typique des Swindoniens. Comment bouger dans un cadre restreint. Et c'est magnifique. Le suivant Stupidly happy procède plutôt par couches sur la ligne de guitare totalement immobile durant cinq minutes. Plus proche de Black sea que de Skylarking, donc. Et au niveau paroles tout est dit : il ne sera ici question que d'anglicismes, les méfaits du monde extérieur sur l'individu depuis la maternelle, "marked by the masters and bruised by the bullies all around", et les affres et saluts des amours perdues et retrouvées. Des joyaux complètement britanniques et incroyablement universels. Ce qui marque le plus, c'est cette impression de force tranquille, de morceaux continuellement inventés et enregistrés au fond du jardin, quoi qu'il arrive. Nos deux artisans du dimanche, Andre Perdrix et Colin Moulage semblent à la fois coupés du monde et sortis d'affaire : autorisés à continuer leurs inventions farfelues, mais sans plus rien à prouver, sans plus connaître la pression des multinationales que voudraient les récupérer. Longue vie aux deux fous et vivement la suite. Et comme un bonheur n'arrive jamais seul, il est sorti la même semaine que le Nits. Et si Dieu existait ? Jérémiah Cornell

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

July 2000

XTC: Wasp Star: Apple Venu, Vol. 2

Notes: Wow. I was reluctant to believe that XTC could equal last year's truly amazing Apple Venus Vol. 1, the moody, orchestral counterpart to this year's Wasp Star, but they did more than that. With Wasp Star, I believe they have actually summed up their entire career. Bits of the early, pop-punk influenced guitar material from the late 70's is evident, snippets of the glorious Beatles-esque late 80's/early 90's period is prominently featured, and there's a touch of the gorgeous orchestration of last year's truly stunning and numbingly beautiful Apple Venus. Guitarist Dave Gregory jumped ship when he found out he wouldn't be needed on Apple Venus, but XTC is none the worse for the loss. In fact, there's a vitality to the new songs that harkens back to the very early material. Wasp Star is one of the "happiest" albums XTC has ever made - a fact made astonishing simply by reading any of their lyrics. They may sound happy, but they've always been angst-ridden boys. Witness Apple Venus Vol. 1 for proof of that. In case you're wondering, the two albums were originally going to be a double album set. When it became apparent that there was truly two different sounds emerging, XTC decided to separate them. The result is a document of a marriage falling apart (Apple Venus Vol. 1) and the freedom of finally being with that one person you've always wanted to be with (Wasp Star.) I simply cannot recommend these two albums enough.

The Mike Castro Music Appreciation Society

XTC - Wasp Star (****.5)

I believe the Partridge Family put it best when they sang, "Come on get happy!" Is it a coincidence that one half of the duo that is XTC is named Andy Partridge? I don't think so. After a long absence (filled by one orchestral-based album, which really doesn't count), XTC has given the summer of 2000 a soundtrack of quirky, cheerful, intelligent pop songs that probably no one will hear because it isn't fashionable these days to be quirky, cheerful, and intelligent. And being British on top of that. U.S. pop radio wouldn't touch this stuff with a really long pole, but you should. This is fun music. This is clever music. This is music that will make you smile and leave you in, forgive me, XTC.

***** = Utterly, Ludicrously Superb
**** = Excellent, Top Drawer
*** = Good, Really... No Shame In 3 Stars
** = Not So Good
* = Utterly, Ludicrously Awful

Coalition of Independent Music Stores
July 3, 2000

XTC - Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume 2]
XTC return with their finest collection of musings on life, love, birth, and decay since the 1986 classic, Skylarking. This companion piece to last year's Apple Venus rounds out XTC's best tracks from 5 years in limbo. Melodic, catchy, bittersweet, always intelligent - if you know XTC, you know what you're getting when you bite into this apple.

Planet HiFi
july | august 2000
M U S I C A L suggestions

Album Review: XTC: Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2 (2000) Tvt Records

by Joseph Taylor

Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2

XTC returned to recording last year with "Apple Venus Vol. 1" after a seven-year hiatus brought on by a contract dispute with their previous record label. Their newest disc, "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)" is, as the subtitle suggests, a continuation of the earlier disc. Apparently the plan was to release a two-disc set, but that idea was dropped, so we have two volumes, two contrasting approaches to songcraft.

"Wasp Star" announces its difference from its strings and keyboards based predecessor in the first cut, "Playground". A slightly distorted guitar gives way to several sharp drum shots and settles into a happy pop groove that Andy Partridge, the band's principal songwriter, immediately undercuts with the song's opening lines:

I climb up, spending daylight
Slide down bankrupt on the other side
Some sweet girl playing my wife
Runs off with a boy
Whose bike she'll ride.

Throughout the album Partridge maintains this dichotomy between bouncy optimism and broken-hearted cynicism.

It wasn't until I listened to both discs that I realized how few of "Apple Venus Volume 1's" tracks contain drums or percussion-or how low they're mixed on the tracks that do use them. Since "Wasp Star" is a guitar and drums based disc, my initial impression was that it was more densely recorded than "Volume 1," almost Spector-esque. Upon closer listening, I realized that my impression was wrong; there's more going on in "Wasp Star" but there's plenty of space between each of the details.

Of course, it's the details that make an XTC record. You can return to their records repeatedly because they reveal new things each time you listen to them. And, while I hate to draw an obvious comparison, their records consistently show a "Sgt. Pepper's" influence, not so much in the songwriting - which I think compares favorably to the Beatles-but in the little bits of 'business' that one hears in the recording. A chair scrape here, a little bit of discreet applause there, the sound of footprints in the fadeout - tiny examples of aural wit that bring playfulness and levity to their darkest musings.

As I noted above, those musings run pretty dark through "Wasp Star," as they did through "Apple Venus Vol. 1." I don't want to sound like I'm making a bid for the editorship of "Random Notes" but my guess is that Andy Partridge was cuckolded. In addition to the lyrics I already quoted, other songs point the way:

Well I stumbled and I fell
Like a wounded horse
When I found out
You'd been riding another man.

- From "Wounded Horse" on "Wasp Star"


H-A-T-E Is that how you spell love in your dictionary
K-I-C-K Pronounced as kind
F-U-C-K Is that how you spell friend in your dictionary
Black on black
A guidebook for the blind

- From "Dictionary" on "Apple Venus Vol. 1

In the case of these two songs, I think such open cynicism leads to the weakest cut on each of the discs. Usually Partridge is able to keep his anger in check and can even express romantic hope, as in "Stupidly Happy":

I'm stupidly happy
Everything's fine
I'm stupidly happy
My heart pumping wine.

Or he couches his vitriol in clever wordplay, as he does here in "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love":

I put a bullet in his sugar head
He thanked me kindly
Then He lay down dead
Phony roses blossomed where he bled
Then all the cheering angels shook my hand and said

I'm the man who murdered love

Colin Moulding, the other half of XTC (guitarist Dave Gregory left the band during the recording of "Volume 1"), contributes three songs to "Wasp Star." Their spare arrangements make them a comfortable bridge between this and the previous disc, but I'm not sure his writing on either disc approaches his contributions to earlier XTC efforts. What I am absolutely sure of is that he is one of the very best bass players ever (listen to Sam Phillips's wonderful "Martinis and Bikinis" for further proof). A riff based song like "Wounded Horse" would be considerably less interesting without his contribution, but his playing catches your ear on the best tunes, as well.

At this point in their careers it must gall Partridge and Moulding to be referred to as elder statesmen of pop who need to be compared to Oasis (a ploy adopted by their current label, if the sticker affixed to the shrink wrap is any indication). The truth is that they have few peers in melodic invention, lyrical sophistication, and stylistic versatility.

Copyright © 1997 - 2000 Interactive Orbit, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Daniel Zibin]

the most incomprehensive music zine in the high arctic region
June 2000
jUnE ReCoRd RoUnDuP


Though countless hacks keep trying to rekindle Beatlemania, few can approach the overblown, bombastic orchestral majesty of Sarge Pepper quite like meticulous duo XTC. Take (as I know you will) "Stupidly Happy", a terrific pop paradox masterpiece riding a repetitive (like there are any other kind) Keith Richards riff, cutesy word play and velvety smooth harmonies. This folks, is what they used to call a single back in the day. There are a couple more here, most penned by the nerdy, reclusive and very paranoid Andy Partridge. Letting partner Colin Moulding in on the act sets a nice balance, especially on the sparse, percussive creeper "Boarded Up". This may not be any magical mystery tour, but as a decent pop collective for nostalgia buffs in retro denial, it'll do just fine.

None For You Dear
June 2000
music reviews

XTC - WASP STAR (Apple Venus Vol. 2) TVT Records
review by Mike Keneally

It's one of the weird side effects of being unstintingly brilliant in the public eye for a very, very long time: said public begins to accept said brilliance as a given, kind of humdrum in a way, and many will yowl for their money back if the earth doesn't tilt off its axis at 9:00 AM on Tuesday when the new album hits Tower. I have been guilty of taking Andy Partridge for granted over the last decade or so, in that it's generally taken four listens to each new album before I begin to grasp the breadth of his latest achievement. I remember cleaning my house while I was in the fourth spin around last year's "Apple Venus Vol. 1" and suddenly stopping, mid-vacuum, and realizing that not only was the album making me feel exactly the same way that The Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" album makes me feel, but that I was loving "AV V.1" just as much. And now comes "Wasp Star," the other side of the "Apple Venus" mirror, and one so seemingly unassuming in its ambition that I was more than happy on first listen to simply embrace it as Andy having a sweet old time, him digging being the only guitarist on his own record after a couple of decades of the priceless and now-departed-from-the-band Dave Gregory intimidating him, playing simple tunes that didn't necessarily require months of studio time to perfect, and continuing to loudly proclaim his undying lust and gratitude for his long-kept-in-waiting lady love. All of which sent a big smile to the front of my head, but not necessarily gallons of awe screaming through my nervous system.

Hit "play." Be greeted by a startlingly simple (for our deviously clever Andy) guitar riff, tent pegs of the groove pounded firmly into the ground by the brute force of the opening drum fills, splashing open into the type of melody which may seem obvious (if you're listening wrong, as judgmental bastards like me often do on the first go) but isn't, which actually, by now, is such a welcome part of my life, as is this entire album. In fact, I need to actually hit "play" right now... see, this just FEELS so good right now (I'm speaking, by the way, of the song "Playground," the first song from the album "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)" by XTC, this group that I like a lot). And every song on this album, in addition to being filled with life- and language-loving lyrics and rich, intricate, music-loving music, has got at least one THING, one of those moments which is just so sweet to listen to that you just can't wait until --- and there it is! Andy's lovely multi-tracked daughter Holly nyaah-nyaahing "Playground! Playground! Careful what you say ground!" Man, if you can listen to that and not grin, and then not be delighted by the return of that by-now completely essential verse melody and then not in turn grin even more widely - uh, just don't talk to me right now.

Consider "My Brown Guitar" (latest entry in the subgenre of "Andy sings about his penis," and bursting with happy love energy. While bassist/vocalist/songwriter Colin Moulding continues his wholly worthy and charming work of finding elemental poetry in every seemingly mundane cranny of middle aged married life - how many pop songwriters find value in that as a subject? - Andy now occupies both grounds on either side: 1) the horny old adolescent, delighted almost beyond breath to find himself in love again, a moony, idealistic wall of semen, and 2) the extraordinarily bitter dumped husband [after last album's shocking "Your Dictionary," now witness this album's self-pitying "Wounded Horse," probably the low point here, not necessarily redeemed by corny clip-clop sound effects, rendered somewhat appealing by its harrumphing precisely-sloppy-guitar slowish blues groove {although Andy's sadistically slow "Blue Overall" accomplished this in a vastly more satisfying way}, but certainly rendered car-crash fascinating by Andy's drunken-Nilsson vocal delivery, and any and all reservations rendered utterly, utterly moot anyway by the next three amazing songs which close out the album with breathtaking confidence and joy and triumph. Yep]. If it seems unseemly that Andy is still smarting so loudly in the aftermath of his divorce, it's worth remembering that all of these songs have been gestating for over half a decade (and that the closing number here, the impossibly perfect "The Wheel And The Maypole," counteracts the bitter aftertaste of "Wounded Horse" by taking an entirely more healthy and life-affirming overview of the entire experience of divorce). But it will be a subject well worth avoiding when he decides it's time to start writing again, mostly for his own good but for ours as well. Anyway, what was I about to say about "My Brown Guitar"): I really love the background vocals in the verses. Sorry, I'd planned to say more about them, but after that distended parenthetical aside I lost a bit of steam. Lemme turn "My Brown Guitar" back on...

Ahhhhhh. No need to say much more than that, really.

But I'll say more anyway: Andy Partridge once said, in one of his very many interviews (the lad can talk at least as copiously as I can write), that his avowed purpose as a pop songsmith is to make music so good that it actually hurts to hear it. "Wasp Star" may not be as ecstatically painful as "Black Sea" or "Oranges & Lemons" or "Drums and Wires," but let's remember that it is, in a very real sense, half an album, and should be taken in tandem with last year's "Apple Venus Vol. 1" (the 23 songs on both volumes were written and developed at approximately the same time and, at one point, planned as a 2-CD set). "AV Vol. One" is stuffed absurdly full with some of the most lustrous, lush, generous music you can imagine, slices of heaven which just sound damn nifty. So a few days ago I loaded both "Apple Venuses" into the multi-changer and hit shuffle, and even though my player locked into a seriously pro-Colin mode and served up four Moulding sides in a row (which was surprisingly effective! A revelation), all the songs slide in and out of each other wonderfully well. The "Apple Venus Shuffle Manuever" will deliver to you an infinite number of albums, any one of which is two to seven times as good as The Beach Boys' "Smile" would have been, and I recommend the maneuver highly.

Oh. A very lovely thing about XTC is the sheer volume of plastic they generate when they kick into an active season. Since 1998's "Transistor Blast" BBC sessions set (4 oh so scintillating CDs, slick with nostalgia tears) there've been two new studio albums, a home-demo version of one of them, CD singles with bonus tracks and interviews, promo items - and I'm ninny enough to actually enjoy stacking them up and gawking at them like a first time visitor to Metropolis - look at all them CDs, maw! I guess what I'm trying to say is that XTC make me very, very happy, and I'm a grateful, dizzy fan and always will be.

Oh. I'm just now noticing, for the first time, the stereo keyboard solos at the end of "We're All Light." So sweet. SO sweet.

[Thanks to Rich Pike]

June 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)


Rating: 4 stars

Review by Martin Monkman

Last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 was a welcome return after a seven year layoff due to contractual and personal problems, a boldly ambitious album that was unlike anything that XTC had made before. While Wasp Star was originally conceived as the second half of a double Apple Venus album, it is as different musically as XTC's broad range allows. Where Apple Venus was a deeply moving record of "orchoustic" songs primarily built around acoustic guitar and orchestral arrangements that make full use of the string and wind sections, Wasp Star is brash electric guitars and pounding drums powering simpler song structures.

Wasp Star

Wasp Star kicks off with the chunky guitar riff and loud drums of "Playground", a wake up call that we're hearing a different side of the band. But are we? The closing track on Apple Venus Volume 1 is "The Last Balloon," a song telling children to avoid the mistakes of their parents. "Playground" is similar: the lessons of the school playground stick with you all life, and if you get pushed around in the playground you'll get pushed around as an adult, too. "Stupidly Happy" follows and takes the guitar riff construct to its extreme: the song is built on a single repeated figure that calls to mind Keith Richards. Lyrically, however, it's just a re-write of "I'd Like That" from Apple Venus Volume 1.

The other songs are, for the most part, built around slightly more complex song structures, but never stray from solid pop forms. For instance "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" (the first single) and the bluesy, Beatley "Wounded Horse" both spring from relatively simple guitar riffs, and use a standard verse/chorus structure, lacking only a hooky bridge. "Standing in for Joe" and "My Brown Guitar" were originally slated for an aborted bubblegum pop album, and employ the standard musical devices of that genre.

Lyrically, Colin Moulding continues to survey the nuances of everyday life with songs about urban decay ("Boarded Up") and committing adultery ("Standing in for Joe"). Andy Partridge, the more prolific writer of the pair, tends to write in broader strokes and with a greater reliance on metaphor and simile, with liberal dollops of mythologic and folklore references ("You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful").

While the album's songs are consistently strong, it's the album's closer that is perhaps the most convincing thing on Wasp Star. "The Wheel and the Maypole" is a brilliant amalgamation of two seemingly unrelated halves. The first, "the pot" (which is of course made on a wheel), is about earthly love, and the second, "the maypole", concerns the cycles of nature and the rituals humans have developed to celebrate those cycles. These two sections then meld at the end to create a dynamic and unforgettable coda. It is the only song on the album that harks back to the sound of Apple Venus Volume 1, utilizing a string quartet and oboe (played by Fairground Attraction's Kate St. John). It's also the only song that draws on Andy Partridge's interest in the cyclical nature of the seasons and love, and as such it also serves as a bridge back to Apple Venus Volume 1.

One of XTC's greatest strengths has been their ability to absorb their influences, and wear those influences on their collective sleeve, without ever sounding forced or imitative. Wasp Star continues that trend, and the album also points out the band's other strength: they can dabble in various styles of music, creating smart and provocative music without ever losing their pop hooks.

© 2000 Martin Monkman

  Updated: 06.06.00 13.4 

Record Reviews

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. II)
I'm biased. I've been hooked on XTC since I was a kid and as far as I'm concerned they can't do an album that's all bad. 1992s Nonsuch put this theory to the test. Parts of the first Apple Venus did too. I told you that I'm biased and I am. I'm biased to old XTC- circa Drums and Wires. This getting old and mellow crap is lost on me. This is the band that wrote "Respectable Street" for Christ's sake. Wasp Star does a good job of bridging the gap however. It's giddy with love, yet it has the flexibility to hit an open chord when it has to. Since time and fleeing personnel have rendered the XTC of 2000 to not actually be the same band that recorded Drums and Wires, I'm not sure that it's fair to compare the two works. This CD is good. Damn good. As a matter of fact, I think that this is the best thing they've done in 10 years.


[Thanks to Ian Rans]

Music Scene
June 2000
Splitter - Internationale News


VW-Werbung und Studiotüftler

Nach dem üppig orchestrierten «Apple Venus Vol. 1» zeigen sich die englischen XTC auf «Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)» wieder von ihrer elektrifizierten Seite.

von Robert Pally

Interviewgeben gehört nicht gerade zu den Lieblingsbeschäftigungen von Colin Moulding, seines Zeichens Bassist von XTC und neben Andy Partridge einzig verbliebenes Mitglied. «Das passt nicht zu meiner Persönlichkeit. Ich überlasse das lieber Andy. Ich will bloss ein Fenster zur Welt, um meine Songs den Menschen nahe zu bringen», sagt er. Colin Moulding ist ein scheuer und ruhiger Typ. Am Telefon spricht er bedächtig und mit leiser Stimme. Auch wenn er im Schatten von Andy Partridge steht, hat er doch einen wichtigen Beitrag zu XTC geleistet. «Making Planes For Nigel», der beste XTC-Song überhaupt (zumindest für mich), stammt beispielsweise von ihm, aber auch das ironische «General And Mayors» oder das überdrehte Liebeslied «Love At First Sight» hat er verfasst. Überdies ist Moulding die ideale Ergänzung zum extravertierten Partridge. Gemeinsam haben beide, dass sie lieber im Studio rumtüfteln als auf Tour gehen und sich in enge Busse quetschen.

XTC: «Unsere Songs sind nicht dafür konstruiert, um live gespielt zu werden.»

Touren? Never!
Das letzte Konzert hat die Band 1982 gegeben. Andy wollte nicht mehr, weil er unter Bühnenangst litt. Heute ist er nach eigenen Angaben daraus entwachsen. Etwas anders sieht es bei Colin Moulding aus: «Wenn du auf Tour gehst, musst du herumreisen und immer darauf achten, dass du genügend Geld machst. Ich mag das nicht. Unsere Songs sind eh nicht konstruiert, um live gespielt zu werden. Im Studio aufnehmen ist für mich viel aufregender. Es ist wie einen Film drehen. Du nimmst verschiedene Teile und setzt sie zusammen», erklärt Colin begeistert. Würde er auch einen Filmsoundtrack schreiben? «Ja, sehr gern, aber nur für einzelne Szenen, weil ich nicht das Talent habe, um einen ganzen zu schreiben.» Dann kommt Colin ins Schwärmen. «Ich liebe die Soundtracks zu Filmen und Musicals wie 'Casino Royal' (James-Bond-Verulkung), 'West Side Story' oder 'My Fair Lady'. Die sind noch auf den Handlungsstrang abgestimmt. Nicht so wie die modernen Soundtracks, bei denen man einfach auf ein paar bekannte Bands zurückgreift.» Colin mag es auch, wenn XTC-Songs für Werbezwecke eingesetzt werden. «'Frivolous Tonight' von 'Apple Venus Vol. 1' wurde für eine italienische VW-Werbung benutzt. Die fand ich ganz gut. Etwas komisch war es, als der gleiche Song für eine schwedische Nastuchwerbung verwendet wurde.»

Auch XTC
XTC stehen gern in Hinterhöfen rum und mochten schon immer Gitarrenriffs.

Gitarren forever!
Wie sieht Colin eigentlich rückblickend das letzte üppig orchestrierte XTC-Album? «Ich höre mir unsere Alben nicht allzu oft an, wenn sie fertig sind. Zufälligerweise habe ich das bei 'Apple Venus Vol. 1' vor ein paar Nächten doch getan und gefunden, dass es zu unseren besten Alben gehört. Es rangiert in meinen Top 3.» Auf «Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)» haben XTC die Streicher beiseite gelegt und die elektrischen Gitarren wieder ausgepackt. Hat sich das Duo als Inspiration ein paar alte Led-Zeppelin- oder AC-DC-Platten angehört? «Wir mochten immer schon Gitarrenriffs. Es ist alles in unseren Köpfen - Led Zeppelin, Free, Burt Bacharach und Black Sabbath. Bevor 'Apple Venus Vol. 1' erschien, hatten wir einen Haufen Songs in unterschiedlichen Stilrichtungen. Wir teilten sie dann in zwei Gruppen auf. Die rockigeren kamen auf 'Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)', die anderen auf 'Vol. 1' Auch wenn das Andy Partridge nicht gefallen wird, muss ich sagen, dass mir 'Vol. 2' besser gefällt. Songs wie 'Stupidly Happy', 'In Another Life' oder 'Standing In For Joe' gehören zum Besten, was die Band seit langem geschrieben hat.»

XTC «Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)» (RecRec/Cooking Vinyl/Idea Records)

[Thanks to Robert Pally]

Turkey Volume Guessing Man
Originally posted: 6/00
Music Review

I try not to get too excited about albums before they come out, but in this case, it was hard not to. This is the "eclectric" follow-up to last year's softer, orchestral Apple Venus V.1 (hence the sub-title), and it's just one of the best feelings in the world to have these guys back again and in top form. You see, the release of Wasp Star isn't without "Behind the Music"-worthy drama. They were locked in a 7 year stalemate with their ex-record company. Lead singer Andy partridge's wife left him. Then lead guitarist Dave Gregory left the group in frustration. They very easily could've been just the group that was only remembered for "Making Plans for Nigel","Dear God" and disregarded as another entry in the "where are they now?" file.

So for us very dedicated fans of theirs, the music on the new record is all the more jubillant. The songs and arrangments almost effortlessly conjour images of beautiful, carefree summer days. As usual, it all stands in defiance to current trends and fashion. If XTC are going to continue making music, it will be on their own terms without having to do ads for Pepsi, rap with Puffy or pretend that they're not getting any older.

The album opens with the aptly-titled "Playground", which starts as a straight forward guitar-driven number, which is then surrounded by harmonies one right after another as though the vocals were playing ring around the rosie with the music (the use of Partridge's daughter, Holly adds to the youthful exuberance). "Stupidly Happy" took me a few listenings to get used to, but I can almost guarantee you won't be able to listen without getting the ending of it stuck in your head.

Colin Moulding's "In Another Life" turns "Fixing A Hole" into a night by the fire with the missus. "My Brown Guitar" pulls off the nice trick of having a song musically top itself with every verse and chorus without sounding calculated or weighed down with histrionics. In fact, this album threatens to get away on its own light-heartedness with only "Boarded Up" & "Wounded Horse" serving as an anchor in more earthy subjects from small-town economic strife to infedelity. Sandwiched between two of the best songs on the record, "Standing in For Joe" & "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" as they are, it all serves to enhance things with a sense of balance. "We're All Light" is a catchy synth-pop and theremin-inflected number as close to the dance floor as XTC is likely to get. Good to know they still can manage a surprise without sacrificing their integrity. The album mellows out for the finale, but that's not such a bad thing. If anything, "Church of Women" contains one of the best guitar solos they've ever put on a record, and it's without their lead guitarist!

So I would definitely have to recommend this to everybody who likes 60's Brit-Invasion Pop like the Beatles and the Kinks, fans of singer-songwriters along the lines of Elvis Costello & Joe Jackson and just plain anyone who's tired of the steady diet of rap-metal, boy bands and teen divas inundating the airwaves.

In their own words, "This is pop!"

FHM (France)
June 2000

Quand on tape sur le web, on échoue sur... un site de cul. Tant pis pour les infos sur le duo brittanique. Mais au fond, ce n'est pas si mal trouvé, tant l'humeur d'Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding s'affiche printaniere. Personne ne fabrique plus de la pop comme XTC. Pas même eux puisqu'on mentirait en soutenant que leurs plus riches heures (l'indépassable English Settlement de 1982) n'ont pas déja sonées. Ce douzieme album leur donne l'occasion de s'encanailler comme aux plus beaux jours. Sorties du grenier, les guitares déchirent a plaisir la dentelle bucolique don't la maison XTC s'etait fait une spécialité.

* * *

When one types in on the Web, one ends up on... a T&A site. So much for info on the Brit duo. But in fact, this is not as bad as it sounds, Andy Partridge's and Colin Moulding's mood being so pastoral [or: spring-like; the implication being that nudity suits such a mood, a la "Grass"]. Nobody produces pop such as XTC does anymore. Not even they, in fact, since we'd be lying if we maintained that their finest hour (1982's unsurpassed English Settlement [a French fave; XTC's popularity in France might have been at its peak then]) wasn't already past [a polite way of calling them has-beens, if you will]. Their twelfth album gives them an occasion to slum it out as they used to in their better days [assuredly an allusion to a return to a rougher, more "rockish" sound]. Taken out of the attic, their guitars shred gleefully the bucolic lace which the XTC workshop had made a specialty of.

[Thanks to Gary McBride, translated by Mario Beaulac]

Columbus Alive
June 1, 2000

Rock isn't dead

by Stephen Slaybaugh

New disc from XTC

After "striking" until its former record company, Virgin, released the band from its record contract, XTC returned last year with its first album since 1992's Nonsuch, Apple Venus Volume 1. That record, as well as their current release, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (TVT), consists of songs secretly written during the band's aforementioned downtime.

As the band states, the two volumes were essentially arranged by dividing those songs into two categories based on sound. Where Volume 1 contained lush, orchestral works, Wasp Star is the "rock" record.

Much changed with XTC over the course of its strike. The band pared down to the dynamic duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, and Partridge went through a bitter divorce. The latter break-up informed one of the tracks on Wasp Star, Wounded Horse, on which Partridge sings, "I found out you've been riding another man."

As was the case with Volume 1, Wasp Star echoes back to the high points of the band's career, like Skylarking and previous records. Songs like Stupidly Happy and The Wheel and the Maypole are laced with the quirky wordplay and quick wit that established the band's reputation.

Copyright © 2000 Columbus Alive, Inc.

June 2000

CD Review:

By Djangos contributor Ted Thieman

Wasp Star- Apple Venus Vol. 2, by XTC

The brilliant men of Swindon have returned to the peak of pop genius.

Wasp Star is the companion set to last year's Apple Venus Vol. 1, which is more acoustically based. Andy Partridge and longtime XTC sidekick Colin Moulding deliver an album of second nature savvy brimming with keen metaphors and fruitful imagery. Of course, XTC have been at it so long, they can write ten good songs before breakfast. The group is living proof that the craft of true pop songwriting doesn't take the sort of leave of absence we've seen with recent efforts from contemporary British acts like Pulp, Blur and Oasis.

Granted, Partridge's infamous stage fright and record label wranglings left XTC landlocked for most of the nineties, but Wasp Star is manna for pop-starved ears. Partridge likens life to a "Playground" on the album opener, letting us in on a little secret: bullies will be bruising us our whole lives.

XTC do a bit of their own bruising here with bold arrangements and a guitar sound definitely meatier than their Skylarking days in the late eighties. "The Man Who Murdered Love" continues Partridge's ongoing battle with affairs of the heart, though he admits Cupid's rapture has him blissed out in "Stupidly Happy." Bassist Moulding pens three of the twelve tunes on Wasp Star, the best being "Standing In For Joe": a humorous tale of a good friend trusting him to look after his "restless" wife while he's out of town. Needless to say Moulding takes the situation into his own hands. Ahem. Wasp Star is indeed dandy news for diehard XTC fans and should also find an audience among smart pop fans, tiring of generic radio blah-blah.

© copyright 2000,

June 2000

The Partridge Family

Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2

‘Magnificent guitar-centric follow-on set to the orch-pop of Volume 1’

By Kit Aiken

During their legendary strike begun in '92 that precipitated their split from Virgin, brilliant, eccentric popmeister Andy Partridge and his less productive, quietly exceptional chum, Colin Moulding, stockpiled songs that had nowhere to go. Their new contract with Cooking Vinyl saw some strikingly crafted esoterica eventually flowering on 1999's orchoustic delight that was Apple Venus Volume 1, an approximation of the album Partridge wanted to make in '93. It wasn't worth the wait for guitarist Dave Gregory who, feeling redundant in the midst of the editing frenzy that was its making, quit. Shame he couldn't hang on for Volume 2 arriving a mere 15 months later, with Partsy and Moulders strapping back on, plugging back in and creating a whole other world of pop nirvana.

The musical mood is defiantly - sometimes misleadingly - up. Armoured in plangent electric guitar, burly drums, sunny melodies and dazzling contrapuntal harmonies, Wasp Star is certainly louder and brighter than the pastoral Volume 1, but beneath their riff and bluster, several of Partridge's songs retain the vulnerability that characterises much of the earlier record. Hardly surprising given the period during which they were written coincided with divorce, alcohol excess, serious illness, artistic stultification and new love. "Playground" continues a preoccupation - following the what-if ache of Volume 1's "Harvest Festival - with ever-bruising schooldays ("This boy must try harder to please/From down on his knees"), the hurt in the McCartney-esque bluesy betrayal dirge, "Wounded Horse", is blatant (Well I bit off my own tongue like a wounded horse/When I found out you'd been riding another man") and you can detect the exuberant catchiness of "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" gradually mutating into mania as the bleakness of the lyric unfolds. But he's also "Stupidly Happy" - ingeniously decorating a single repeated guitar riff beyond reason - still celebrating his pink thing on "My Brown Guitar" ("There be inch worm/There be football/Take my yardstick/Stir some lovely") and delivering elaborate chat-up lines ("Don't you know just a couple of lips away/There's an evolutionary beanfeast whose insides are jumping") to high-spirited sounds with Paul Simon-esque harmonic economy. Partridge's muse is alight with his awful lows and crazy highs - from pain to jealousy to forgiveness to horniness to wanting to worship at the "Church Of Women" - and as ever, it's thrilling.

Moulding, by effective contrast, is more reliably measured in his expression and fashions at least one more provincial gem with "In Another Life", which for some - like "Frivolous Tonight" on Volume 1 - may just steal the album. Consensual romantic fantasy set to a wheezing acoustic stomp with an elegantly constructed bridge, Moulding asserts "It's how we're built, love/Don't let it wilt, love/"I'll take your mood swings/If you'll take my hobbies/It all works out in the end". Spot the married man.

Little more than stay-at-home craftsmen these days - but with an internal division of ego which seems to work for them, fierce quality control and one of the brightest minds in pop at the helm - XTC are that rarest, most precious of pop beasts: a band that never got worse.

They still haven't.

* * * * *

[Transcribed for Chalkhills by Paul Culnane]

Spleens a Go-Go
June 2000
by Natalie Jacobs

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)

Released from their oppressive Virgin contract at long last, XTC have reverted back to their old prolific habits, releasing their second album in as many years. Their latest release, "Wasp Star," is the sequel to 1999's orchestral/acoustic "Apple Venus Vol. 1," and as promised by the band, it's high-energy and all-electric (or "eclectric," to use Andy Partridge's distasteful term). But it's also less ambitious than previous releases, and perhaps as a result, it's not one of their best efforts.

The album is bookended by two fantastic songs, "Playground" and "The Wheel and the Maypole." "Playground" is a perfect introduction to the album, a rocking, raucous number with a searing guitar hook, based around the concept that "you may leave school, but it never leaves you." Andy Partridge's teenage daughter Holly provides mocking background vocals. "The Wheel and the Maypole" is by far the best song on the album, and XTC's finest closing track since 1986's "Sacrificial Bonfire." It's a stunning celebration of change, evanescence and decay, accompanied by strings which mesh perfectly with the electric guitars, and it's truly beautiful. Other highlights include the appropriately giddy "Stupidly Happy," based around one willfully simple, "moronic" guitar riff; the album's single, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," which features cheerfully cynical lyrics and some enthusiastic yelling from Partridge; "My Brown Guitar," an innuendo-filled ode to the Partridgean tallywhacker, with a great, almost reggae-tinged chorus; and "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," a bouncy, sweet love song. "We're All Light," with its tongue-twisting pick-up lines and groovy pseudo-theremin sample, is also fun, but is marred by some clumsy, strained puns (e.g. "Jack and Jillion years ago").

Then there's the rest of the album. Partridge strikes out with the sludgy, self-pitying "Wounded Horse," another song - yawn! - about his divorce, which trips up on its own metaphor and falls flat like the horse of the title. Equally distasteful is "Church of Women," in which we learn that women are wonderful because we're "loving and giving" and good at raising kids. These sentiments are presumably well-intentioned, but they're essentially the equivalent of praising African-Americans because they sing and dance so well and are good at picking cotton. The song's lighter-waving, anthemic quality and tasty flugelhorn bits almost redeem the dodgy lyrics, but not quite.

The other lackluster tracks, alas, are all contributed by bassist Colin Moulding, who seems stuck in a permanent musical rut. Two of his three songs employ the same tedious "Penny Lane" shuffle he drove into the ground on "Apple Venus Vol. 1": "In Another Life," a whimsical ode to Moulding's marriage, and "Standing In for Joe," a characterless pop ditty about sleeping with a friend's girlfriend. The third song, the stark and gloomy "Boarded Up", at least sounds different, but still isn't very engaging. Somewhere along the line, Moulding lost the capacity to imbue his songs with much emotional resonance - his new material is pleasant and catchy, but it's lightweight stuff, displaying little of the creativity or insight of his earlier work. It's hard to be moved by any of these songs, emotionally or otherwise, and that's a shame.

The production on "Wasp Star" is a welcome change from the highly polished style which XTC favored for the last few albums. It has a straightforward, spontaneous quality that suits the upbeat music, and there's plenty of nice little touches like the stomping feet in "Boarded Up." On the other hand, much of the musical appeal of XTC's previous guitar-oriented efforts was grounded in the interplay between Partridge and departed guitarist Dave Gregory, who also provided brilliant, fluid solos and tasteful keyboard embellishments. The primarily orchestral "Apple Venus Vol. 1" didn't suffer from his lack of contribution, but on "Wasp Star" his absence leaves the music sounding a little threadbare. Partridge carries on alone in reasonable style -- the goofy pseudo-Middle Eastern solo on "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" is a particular treat - but the complexity and beauty of Gregory's musicianship, which might have perked up the weaker tracks, is definitely missed.

"Wasp Star" is a very enjoyable album, but it's basically a collection of XTC's old tricks. We get everything we might expect from the band - clever lyrics, tricky song structures, lots of hooks - and that's about it. Uncharacteristically, there aren't any stylistic quirks or twists that make "Wasp Star" special, which is a little disappointing. "Apple Venus Vol. 1," with its glorious orchestral arrangements and oddities like the quasi-minimalist "River of Orchids," is by far the superior of the two albums in this regard, even beyond its stronger songwriting. There's nothing on "Wasp Star" to match the magic of "Harvest Festival" or "Greenman" - only "The Wheel and the Maypole" comes close. It's hard to say whether this signifies the beginning of a decline for the band, or just a temporary glitch. More likely it's the latter, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Thanks to Eb, Colin Howells, Viv, and the Chalkhills mailing list
[Thanks to Natalie Jacobs]

Blah Blah News
June 2000

Wasp Star
Apple Venus vol. 2

Ce disque est le pendant du Vol. 1 sorti précédemment. Le concept était d'enregistrer rapidement des chansons et de ne pas se perdre dans une superproduction qui aurait enlevé la fraîcheur, le rythme, la spontanéité des compositions. Quand on connaît la capacité d'écriture d'Andy Partridge, on peut avoir peur. Mais heureusement, en garçon raisonnable, il opère de luimême une sélection. Cet album délibérément pop va droit au but. On y sent la volonté de revenir à la base de la pop music et de ses premiers soubresauts sixties. Moins marqué que certains albums de XTC, celui-ci est un peu plus rock. Mais n'allons pas plus loin que ce modeste mot, devenu aujoud'hui flou dans sa définition. Libérés des contraintes d'une grosse maison de disques, les deux protagonistes de XTC donnent donc quartier libre à leurs rêveries musicales. Par contre, subsiste une question lancinante, mais dont la réponse ne pourra que faire plaisir aux fans si elle est positive : retourneront-ils sur scène ?

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé]

El Pais
June 2000


Wasp star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Autor: XTC

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

Crítica: El primer volumen de Apple Venus -una joya, por cierto- era pop orquestal o acústico. Éste va de pop con guitarras. Y decir guitarras aquí significa que Andy Partridge y Colin Moulding llegan a esgrimir riffs de guitarra dignos de los mejores Stones. Como en la pegadiza Stupidly happy, que por lo demás, está impregnada del sabor british de XTC, inconfundible a pesar de los giros inesperados (la armónica de In another life, el cuasi blues de Boarded up) del que siempre terminan aflorando gloriosas melodías esculpidas con el pulso firme de uno de los grandes excéntricos del rock británico. Otro joyón, vamos.

Autor Crítica: Rafa Cervera


[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Juli 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)

Cooking Vinyl/PP Sales Forces/Indigo

Es klinge vielleicht pompös, aber er habe "nicht das Bedürfnis, sich den Kram anderer Leute anzuhören". Gut gebrüllt, Andy Partridge, aber pompös würde man das nicht nennen. Überheblich nennt man so was. Und wie als Taktik, um die gespannte Erwartung der Musikpresse auf das neue XTC-Album zu zerstören, schiebt er einen furchtbaren Satz nach. Sein Ziel sei es diesmal gewesen, "ein erwachsenes Album aufzunehmen". So schlimm ist WASP STAR, der zweite Teil der "Apple Venus"-Aufnahmen, denn nicht geworden, obwohl die Äußerungen Partridges bereits die Marchrichtung vorgeben.

Aber hier lodert kein Feuer mehr, der aufrührerische Furor hat sich seit seinen Anfängen 1977 nun wohl endgültig abgeschliffen. Die Entwicklung ging, ziemlich konsequent, von fahrig-nervösen New-Wave-Stücken und manischen Melodien zum Songwriting. Dessen subtile Freuden kosten Partridge and Moulding nun aus, ohne wirklich begeistern zu wollen. Mit Chorvocals? Ja gern. Bläser-Arrangements? Bitte sehr. Die Mittvierziger richten sich mit ihren Altersgenossen im Ironie-Stübchen ein, genießen entspannt die melodische und harmonische Verfeinerung und freuen sich, wenn ihre Hörer beim Referenzquiz im Songformat alles 'rauskriegen. Man will nur ein wenig erfreuen, und diese Lied gewordene Selbstgenügsamkeit enttäuscht bei XTC, ehrlich gesagt, schon.

Die scharfen Riffs sind rund geworden und swingen ein wenig. Und das Spiel mit der Rockgitarre, aus dem man sehr wohl seinen Profit zu ziehen weiß, wirkt abgeschmackt. Auf diesem Feld haben andere Bands und Musiker, die sich Andy Partridge ja nicht anhören will, schon lange Wesentlicheres geleistet.

It might sound pompous, he says, but he doesn't "feel a need to listen to other people's stuff". Well shouted, Andy Partridge, but we wouldn't call that pompous. Arrogant is the word. And as if it were a planned tactic to destroy the music press' tense anticipation of the new XTC album, he tops this with another awful statement: This time, his goal was to "record an adult record." Wasp Star, the second part of the "Apple Venus" recordings, isn't as bad as Partridge's statements would make it sound, although those statements do make XTC's approach to the project clear.

But there's no fire blazing here any more, the rebellious furor has finally lost its gleam, so evident back in the beginnings in 1977. The development went, in consistent fashion, from distracting, nervous new-wave songs to manic melodies to "songwriting". Partridge and Moulding are now enjoying the subtle pleasures of this art to the fullest, without really trying to capture our hearts or our enthusiasm. With choir-style vocals? Happy to oblige. Brass arrangements? As you like it. Along with others in their age group, the two forty-somethings set up shop in their little chamber of irony, and now sit back, savor their melodic and harmonic refinements, and are pleased when their fans guess all the right answers to their "musical references quiz" in song format. They just want to enjoy themselves, and this self-satisfied musical expression is, to be honest, a bit disappointing when it's XTC we're talking about.

The sharp, pointy riffs are rounder and smoother now, and they swing a bit. And the whole "spiel" with the rock guitar, which they certainly know how to use in the right places to their own profit, seems a bit fatuous. Other bands, who Andy Partridge doesn't want to listen to, have already explored this territory, and done it better.

* *
- Lukas Grasberger

[Thanks to and translated by Jeff Thomas]

M6 Music
Semaine du 26/06/00 au 02/07/00
Accueil > Actu > Sorties CD

"Wasp Star"Apple Venus Vol.2

* * 1/2

Résumé du premier épisode. Il y a tout juste un an, XTC opérait son grand retour avec un album acoustico-symphonique quasi parfait justement encensé par toute la presse : "Apple Venus Volume 1". A l'époque, le duo british composé d'Andy Partridge et de Colin Moulding avait déjà envisagé, avant même le début de l'enregistrement, de donner une suite à ce disque sous la forme d'un deuxième cd beaucoup plus électrique cette fois, histoire de montrer deux facettes contrastées d'un seul et même groupe, le tout en un temps record. Nous y sommes donc, douze mois seulement après, XTC tient parole et boucle son album concept avec "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)". On le sait, il n'est jamais simple d'enchaîner derrière un succès. Enregistrer un chef-d'oeuvre passe encore, en enfiler deux à la suite tient du miracle et à l'impossible, même XTC n'est pas tenu. S'il n'est pas la merveille attendue, ce "Vol 2" reste néanmoins un très bon album pop. Comment ne pas succomber aux fines mélodies dont le tandem Partridge/Moulding s'est fait le spécialiste (The man who murdered Love, You and the Clouds ...) ou à leurs petits joyaux pops qui en quatre minutes vous donne autant à écouter qu'à méditer (The Wheel and the Maypole). La particularité de XTC, c'est d'être à la fois apprécié pour sa musique, mais aussi pour ses textes souvent très pertinents. Partridge/Moulding, c'est un duo pince sans rire à l'humour très bristish, qui raconte des histoires que l'on comprend tous : l'enfance (Playground), la vie en couple (In another life) ou le divorce (Wounded Horse). Même si les titres sont peut-être un peu moins réussis que sur l'incontournable "Vol1", XTC reste un groupe largement au-dessus de la moyenne et cet album relativement plaisant.

Florent Talbot

Copyright M6web

Boston Herald
Arts & Entertainment: Music
Sunday, June 25, 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)

* * *

XTC fans are a small cult. But don't ask members to explain the reason for their affection. It's nearly impossible to do.

While this new release is XTC's best in years (at least since “Oranges and Lemons”), its considerable appeal is elusive. The songs on “Wasp Star” are so whimsical and clever that they border on the daft and obnoxious.

Andy Partridge's vocals remain as affected, inventive, abrasive and bracing as ever. And eventually you'll stop wincing when bassist Colin Moulding goes dorky as he explains the virtues of being “Stupidly Happy.”

But XTC's music is as ravishing as anything you'll find in modern pop. Maybe that's enough to explain the cult's devotion.


Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Interactive Advertising Systems, Inc.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

June 23, 2000

Wasp Star

Wasp Star

(Cooking Vinyl/S4)

* * * * CULT!

Wasp Star, il nuovo disco degli XTC doveva essere l'ideale seguito del precedente Apple Venus Vol. 1, in realtà, pur facendo parte dello stesso lotto di scrittura si discosta nettamente dallo scorso lavoro. Se il primo era orchestrale e sperimentale, il secondo è la sintesi del pop, l'anima vera di questo genere tanto bistrattato ma sempre in grado di essere reinventato. Canzoni lineari, arrangiamenti semplici privi di quella sovrastruttura che avvolgeva il precedente album, gli XTC tornano ad esprimersi sul terreno a loro congeniale, dove la forma canzone è la sostanza, con dei testi sempre graffianti. Disco veramente piacevole, imperdibile, scritto da un gran gruppo.

Luca Trambusti

The Daily Camera
June 23, 2000
Entertainment: Discs

XTC Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)


XTC ended a seven-year hiatus last year with the release of Apple Venus Volume 1, a collection of orchestral ballads that underscored Andy Partridge's genius but left some fans yearning for the band's trademark power pop.

The second volume features guitarist/singer Partridge and his partner, bass player/singer Colin Moulding, turning up the volume for an electric set. Wasp Star revisits the band's penchant for Beatles melodies and Beach Boys vocal harmonies.

"Stupidly Happy" offers the band its best chance for a radio airplay. The song kicks off with just drums and a repeating guitar riff, adding bass, more guitars and round-robin harmonies as it builds toward the same kind of lush sound that fueled the band's 1989 hit "The Mayor of Simpleton."

Moulding contributes three songs, including "In Another Life," a tongue-in-cheek tribute to maintaining domestic bliss, and "Boarded Up," the lone acoustic song on the album.

Not everything clicks. The abrupt tempo changes on "My Brown Guitar" sound forced, and the pastoral sexual imagery of "The Wheel and the Maypole" was captured more artfully in Volume 1's "Easter Theater." But these are small sins. With back-to-back triumphs, XTC has returned from limbo with its muse intact.

- MICHAEL COTE/Camera Staff Writer

Copyright 2000 The Daily Camera. All rights reserved.

The Octopus
June 23-29, 2000
new and noteworthy albums:



The harder rocking guitar follow up to last year's Apple Venus Volume 1, Wasp Star finds XTC at the peak of their powers. Its all here. Inventive melodies, pushy guitars, sweeping harmonies and ultra-creative arrangements. This record could single-handedly remove some of the tarnish that has been affixed to the under-loved genre called "Power Pop" since this is the way it is supposed to sound. Andy Partridge has served up a batch of great new songs; highlights (out of many) include the terrific "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," "You and The Clouds will Still Be Beautiful," and the intense "Church Of Women". Co-writer Colin Moulding weighs in with 3 great new songs, with "Standing In For Joe" a particular fave rave. You won't find this on the radio (save WEFT), or on the shiny video channels, but don't let that sway you into ignoring this record. This is great Beatles-derived guitar Rock 'n' Roll music. * * * * 1/2

-- Cody Sokolski

Wiener Zeitung


XTC: Wasp Star

Von Gerald Schmickl

Vor einem Jahr noch war man mehr als glücklich, mit "Apple Venus (Vol. 1)" endlich wieder ein Album von XTC hören zu dürfen, nachdem das einstige Trio und nunmehrige Duo (Partridge/Moulding) wegen unannehmbarer Bedingungen bei Virgin jahrelang freiwillig verstummt war (und danach eine andere Plattenfirma gefunden hatte).
Nun der zweite Teil der Wiederauferstehung - doch diesmal hält sich das Glück in Grenzen. Natürlich ist Andy Partridge nach wie vor ein begnadeter Songschreiber, doch verliert er sich derart in die innere Mechanik seines ausgetüftelten Spielzeug-Pop, dass jener zwar glänzend funktioniert, aber nicht mehr voran kommt. Er tritt auf der Stelle. Auch eine Vielzahl an Ideen kann eintönig klingen, was vor allem an Partridges Stimme liegt, deren Variabilität begrenzt ist. Und so wirkt diese übervokalisierte Kammermusik wie braves Kunsthandwerk, dessen Reiz bald verfliegt. Mag sein, dass die lange Pause auch zu einer Art Asynchronizität beigetragen hat. Mit diesem Material wäre XTC zur Hochzeit des Britpop, dessen frühe Paten sie ja auch waren, voll im Trend gelegen, etwa zu Zeiten von Blurs "Modern Life Is Rubbish" (1993). Nun hinken sie hinterher.
XTC: Wasp Star - Apple Venus Vol. 2 (Cooking Vinyl/Hoanzl).
Erschienen am: 23.06.2000
Entertainment Reviews
by John Guerin

Apple Venus Volume 2

TVT Records

"Wasp Star" marks XTC's return to the infectious guitar pop that earned it a loyal following in the 1980s. Starting with the spiky riff of "Playground," the hooks grab you song after song.

"Stupidly Happy" follows a simple, Stones-ish riff to tell an equally simple, yet catchy tale of being driven senseless by love. XTC doesn't shy away from the simple love song, but the themes and music on "Wasp Star" get more complex. Subject matter ranges from love to disillusion to the nature of life. Being so petrified of playing live, it's surprising that frontman Andy Partridge can continually air his insecurities so publicly. Yet he does so in a self-deprecating, often brutal manner. On the twangy, grungy "Wounded Horse," he sings with the bite of "White Album"-era John Lennon: "Well I bit out my own tongue/like a wounded horse/when I found out you'd been riding . another man." Bassist Colin Moulding also turns somber on "Boarded Up," his ode to their depressed hometown.

But the CD, for the most part, is upbeat and positive. "My Brown Guitar" has Partridge playfully flirting. Its soaring, layered harmonies are countered by a jagged, bouncy chorus. "We're All Light" uses similar, glorious harmonies and syncopated percussion to preach carpe diem. Moulding's "In Another Life" suggests silly fantasies as a gift to his wife, who's recent bout with agoraphobia had kept her indoors ("I'll be your Burton and you'll be my Liz / there might be flying pigs / in another life"). "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is a jazzy tune that sings the title in response to all the world's ills, revealing newfound priorities.

Gone is the anxious uncertainty of Partridge's youth. On "The Wheel and the Maypole," he perhaps resolves his crisis of faith expressed so controversially on the banned "Dear God" (from 1986's "Skylarking"). With sprawling music moving through several movements, he sings lyrics affirming the power of love, then declares "Everything decays / and what made me think we'd last forever? Was I so naïve? Of course it all unweaves." "Wasp Star" reveals a maturing band, and confirms that XTC is still setting the standard for intelligent pop music.

© 2000

Boulder Weekly
June 22, 2000
Buzz | SoundCheck


Wasp Star / TVT Records

Wasp Star is technically the sequel to XTC's 1999 CD Apple Venus Vol. 1. In fact, it is subtitled Apple Venus Vol. 2. But the two CDs don't sound like they're that closely related. Apple Venus Vol. 1, with its ambitious orchestral instrumentation and intricate song arrangements, was a stark departure for the venerable British pop group. But Wasp Star, recorded immediately on the heels of Apple Venus, brings XTC squarely back to the catchy, slightly skewed guitar pop format that has long been the group's stock and trade.

It may also be the most accessible XTC album to date. Where several XTC albums-such as the early era Drums & Wires and midperiod The Big Express-were flawed by their quirkiness and density, Wasp Star is inviting from the opening note.

In fact, "Stupidly Happy," with its smart lyrics and an instantly memorable signature guitar riff, sounds like the kind of song that could bring this band a much-deserved pop hit. But if Wasp Star is an immediately likable CD, that doesn't mean it is one dimensional or any less interesting than the band's best efforts-Skylarking and English Settlement are my personal favorites.

Here band members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding cover everything from the tart and punchy rock of "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" to the whimsical pop of "Standing In For Joe" to the breezy folk inflected sounds of "We're All Light" and "In Another Life." Even with the variety represented in these songs, Wasp Star stands as one of the band's most cohesive CDs.

When considered in tandem Apple Venus Vol. 1 and Wasp Star suggest that nearly 25 years after the first XTC album, Partridge and Moulding are in one of the most inspired periods of their career.

-Alan Sculley

© 2000 Boulder Weekly. All Rights Reserved.

SiouXLand Weekly
June 21-27, 2000

Back from wherever, XTC turns in quality effort with 'Wasp Star'


A misconception exists: Pop music is what teen-agers listen to.

That's wrong on two levels. Teen-agers listen to rap, and pop music is catchy and usually so nice in nature that you're embarrassed to admit to liking it to your more hard-core friends who just had a sub-woofer installed in their El Camino.

XTC's new album, "Wasp Star (Apple Venus #2)" falls into that pop category.

Most will remember the group from the song "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead" that jumped in and out of the MTV rotation when MTV used to play videos about eight years ago.

However, at the time, if you heard that song, you probably thought XTC--the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding--was REM.

If "Wasp Star," which is a great album, could get any airplay in Sioux City, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" would get its fair share. This straightforward song about putting a cap in the emotion's cranium, essentially ridding the world of heartbreak and loneliness, is very good and sticks around.

Other highlights in "Wasp Star" include the minimalist "Stupidly Happy"; "Standing in for Joe," which is a naughty song about a man who is going out of town and asks his best friend to look after his girl; and "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is a nice antithesis to "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love."

Any disc you can listen to all the way through is quality. "Wasp Star" is not fantastic, but it's very, very good.

© 2000 Sioux City Journal
June 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Release Date: 05.23.2000
TVT Records

Last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 found reformed art-popsters XTC in a solemn and introspective mood. Layered with caustic tales and swathed in orchestral arrangements, the mostly acoustic outing was, after a seven-year hiatus, hardly the quirky pop undertaking longtime fans were expecting. Fortunately, it was also their finest work since 1986's majestic Skylarking. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding grew as songwriters, expanding their boundaries beyond the wise-ass corners of their youth. XTC promised that for the second volume of Apple Venus they would plug back in their instruments and resume their roles as the mayors of drolldom.

And they pretty much make good on that pledge. Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is every bit as "adult" as Volume One, but with electricity once again surging through the grooves they've crafted a sequel as simple as its predecessor was complex. The opening "Playground" kicks off with a fuzzy guitar riff worthy of any arena-rock band capable of arrogant backstage riders. Once the hook-filled verse-chorus-verse structure takes shape, however, Wasp Star becomes every bit the shimmering pop album as Oranges & Lemons (their most straightforwardly commercial album).

Yet Partridge can't help but to toss in a few sinkers. His often heavy-handed approach to the quite simple art of pop songwriting can be daunting. On glorious arty statements like English Settlement and Skylarking (or even Apple Venus Volume One) the mighty metaphors and plodding arrangements benefit the songs; on more undemanding fare such as Wasp Star, the results seem a bit mannered. But this has always been Partridge's, and XTC's, biggest flaw. So, in a way, it's nice to have them back where they belong.

-- Michael Gallucci --

© 1998-2000, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Island Ear
CD Reviews

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Power pop fans rejoice! After seven years without a peep, England's XTC have graced us with two albums in a year: 1999's Apple Venus Volume 1 and now Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). While last year's offering was low-key orchestral pop, the new disc reclaims the classic XTC sound fans have been clamoring for. The enigmatic band, now down to the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, shine on songs like the first single, "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" and "Stupidly Happy." Other highlights include opener "Playground," "Wounded Horse" and closer "The Wheel And The Maypole." Moulding's "Boarded Up" and "In Another Life" are disappointing - he's not the eccentric genius Partridge is - but his "Standing In For Joe" is quaint in a European way. While Wasp Star is by no means XTC's best album, it's more than enough to appease their devoted following. Let's hope it's not another seven years until they rear their heads again. And gentlemen, how about a live studio webcast, since you don't tour?  B+

David Bernstein

Copyright 1999 Islandear. All rights reserved.

June 17, 2000
Discology Online: CD Reviews


Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Volume 2) (TVT)
Some XTC fans looking for the complex rhythms and ear-chummy melodies that characterize much of the band's work were disappointed by last year's stark Apple Venus, Volume 1. This follow-up should tickle the X-spots of the disenchanted: the music on Wasp Star is as sunny as Apple Venus, Volume 1's lyrics were overcast. (However, I'm still not going to touch Andy Partridge's psyche with a 100-foot pole.) That catchiness is again king becomes apparent instantly with the opening Partridge-penned pair of "Playground" and "Stupidly Happy," the latter driven by what could pass for a sampled Stones' guitar riff. "We're All Light" is a pick-up line masquerading as an exercise in existentialism, while Colin Moulding's "Standing In For Joe" seems to use kindred spirits Steely Dan's "Barrytown" as a starting point. But it's Partridge's "The Man Who Murdered Love" (see, I told you he still had issues) that's the most brilliant moment on an album brimming with 'em. - Rick Cornell

Copyright © 2000 Eason Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Detroit Metro Times

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

(3 out of 5 stars)

By Mitch Myers

Waving on

Is it all that hard to tell the difference between XTC from 1978 and the XTC of 2000? Yes and no. While the band's membership has gradually shrunken down to that of a duo, you can still hear the distinctive voices and idiosyncratic songwriting of guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding. Still, XTC began as a quirky British New Wave band and nowadays must be considered a quirky British pop band.

On the evidence of Wasp Star, it would seem that time has treated Messrs. Partridge and Moulding quite well. Of course, Beatle-esque pop-rock ain't what it used to be, but if you still enjoy this kind of thing, you really can't beat XTC. Featuring two able-bodied vocalists, tasty contributions from talented session musicians and studio smarts to spare, XTC is as professional and efficient at its job as the newly revived Steely Dan manages to be.

Creating an intelligent and tuneful world of adventurous pop music all its own, this sound was once the stuff rock radio was made of. With chiming guitars, full-bodied harmonies and clever wordplay on songs like "Stupidly Happy" and "Church of Women," this is the best XTC record in nearly a decade.

Mitch Myers writes about music for Metro Times.

Rock Island LIVE
Music: alternative

Electric Eclectic XTC

A Pleasure From Start To Finish

Their first electric album in eight years, and we are "Stupidly Happy" to once again rock out with Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, our favorite 70's pop meets punk band, XTC.

Wasp Star, the hotly anticipated follow-up to the lush "orchustic" Apple Venus, vol. 1, is a distillation of everything that ever came before from XTC. This album of beautifully crafted pop songs is a pleasure from start to finish. The album is pristinely recorded and attention is paid to the smallest detail. The listener is breezily transported from the hell of the "Playground" ("Marked by the masters/And bruised by the bullies") to the ether of creation on the album's best song, "We're All Light." This tuneful, sophisticated song combines African High Life, a Theremin sound, and a jab at modern-day, bone-headed, fake-o philosophy: "Yeah, I read that someplace... / Yeah, it's a bumper-sticker someplace." It's impossible not to bob and sway when this tune is spinning.

"Stupidly Happy" perfectly captures the blissed-out self-indulgence of falling madly, passionately in love, and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" transports us back to the good ol' "Dear Madam Barnum" days of 1992's Nonsuch. "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is a tender love song with a calypso beat filled with the kind of sweet romance and acceptance we gals dream of and only a few of us find.

"Standing In For Joe," one of the three tunes contributed by Colin Moulding, is his best songwriting since "Dying" on the 1986 album, Skylarking. The one dud on the album, "In Another Life," however, is also a Moulding composition. It's a minor censure on an otherwise wonderfully well-written album. And of course it's clever. It's XTC.

Although we miss guitarist Dave Gregory's contributions, Andy and Colin more than amply fill his boots and guitar frills. XTC have figured out how to assimilate 25 years of many and varied creative influences and remarkable musicianship to create a vocabulary uniquely their own. We are the lucky beneficiaries of such care and diligence.

Carrie Boram

[Thanks to John Silverman]

Music Monitor
July 2000

XTC, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), (TVT)
By: Wes Long

"Maybe I'm just a frustrated architect," says Andy Partridge, "I like structures that surprise." "I like architecture with hidden niches and folly, buildings that try to expand and trick and delight," he continues, "I think architecture and music are pretty closely related." Wasp Star, XTC's latest effort, effortlessly glides into the groove of which Partridge speaks and was built on a foundation made ever firm by more than two decades experience at recording fiendishly clever pop songs.

Wasp Star, Mayan for apple venus, is the second installment of material born from the lives of Andy and bassist Colin Moulding during a 7 year strike against their then record company Virgin. The first was last years stunning Apple Venus Volume 1, an often-amazing collection of acoustic and orchestral songs, dubbed "orchoustic" by Partridge. Wasp Star continues the trend of briar catchy tunes, this time served fresh on a bed of electric guitars.

The ultra punchy intro of "Playground" will remind the fan of Black Sea or English Settlement material and should easily grab the ear of the newcomer. Andy's purposely simple "Stupidly Happy" is the sort of tune his "Mayor of Simpleton" may have written once he landed the girl. The last three songs: the bouncy "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," the richer than double chocolate "Church Of Women" and the elaborately woven "The Wheel And The Maypole" are as good as anything Partridge has ever written.

"Boarded Up," Moulding's eerie lament over the decay of his hometown is theatric in nature and true to the form of Nonsuch's "Bungalow" and last years "Frivolous Tonight." Colin's songs are easily the more moody of the two and are tasty sandwiched within slabs of Partridge.

For the most part these are straightforward guitar driven tunes with just enough muscle in all the right places. Wasp Star begs the attention of the masses that have somehow overlooked one of the better pair of musical architects of the last twenty years.

[Thanks to Wes Long]

Montague Terrace
June 11, 2000
by Jason Thornberry

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple VenusVolume II)

People who usually have nothing at all to say about XTC always and without exception say something like "Always one of the more interesting and innovative of the post-punk/pop crossover bands of the the early-'80s". Well just stop there you daft beggars. XTC have been making excellently crafted pop before and since the soddin eighties. And what's more they still are. Split with Virgin aside - they've simply never been away.

If you're not the kind of person who thinks 'pop' should always have something new and enigmatic to say (I mean - this is fucking pop we're talking about?) then you can't begrudge Andy Partridge's obvious rural genius. Tracks like 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love' & 'You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful'' may not be changing the face of popular music today but they're still representative of what all good pop should be. Charged & listenable. It doesn't matter what charges these songs - whether it's an ageing middle-aged rocker with a hard-on the size of Brazil or whether it's a twisted Swindon man in the grip of a pastoral orgasm. XTC bring to their songs what too many bands disregard. An unself-conscious honesty. There's no ironic tiltin' at beatle windows or idle morrisonisms here. Just honest to goodness prick tingling pop. Ignore the Colin Moulding songs if you he's not a funny man..just stand back and give the men room to muster another classic.

Best bits: the riff stricken 'Stupidly Happy'

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Sunday, June 11, 2000
Arts & Entertainment

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

(Idea/TVT * * * 1/2  )

After the overly fragrant strings and bitter lyrical fruit of last year's Apple Venus Volume 1, it's weird to hear XTC stripped down to its six-string skivvies. Even compared with, say, Oranges and Lemons, this is still remarkably unornate. But don't be fooled. Rather than spending time winding through twitchy arrangements, XTC saves the complications for the subject matter.

Though hardly raw, there is something cleansing about Wasp Star, as if little else lousy could happen to remaining X men Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Surrounded by subtly contagious melodies, Wasp Star's stories cattily relate the barbs of youth to the low-slung arrows of adulthood ("Playground") and detail how pain affects romantic espirit ("I'm the Man Who Murdered Love"). While Moulding is little more than an emotional costar on "Standing In for Joe," Partridge is made slowly mad, nibbling on stale wedding cake on "The Wheel and the Maypole." Yet, when XTC is joyful, as on Partridge's crusty acoustic stomp "Stupidly Happy," it's over the moon.

- A.D. Amorosi

[Thanks to Roger Patton]

June 2000

XTC - Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2 (Cooking Vinyl/Indigo)

Gitarren statt Cellos - XTC ziehen das Tempo wieder an. Wir ziehen mit und verlosen 5 CDs.

Wo sind denn die Gitarren geblieben, fragten sich die XTC-Fans, als 1999 nach sieben Jahren Pause das Album "Apple Venus Volume 1" erschien; ein fast durchgängig orchestrales Werk mit Kammerspielcharakter, das in erster Linie das deutsche Musik-Feuilleton in kollektiven Freudentaumel versetzte.
Nun, Gitarre/Bass und Drums ergeben hier auf dem zweiten Teil von "Apple Venus" in bewährter XTC-Manier zwölf enorm eingängige Pop-Songs, die zeigen, dass die Songwriter Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding gottlob nicht unter die Ambient-Fans gegangen sind.
Seit nunmehr zwei Jahrzehnten kreiert das Duo aus Swindon smarten Pop mit Sixties-Reminiszenzen an Kinkssche Power-Melodien und beatleske Vocal-Harmonien. Und genau das ist das Problem: Songs wie die formidable Single "Playground" oder das leichtgewichtige "Stupidly Happy" scheinen Partridge und Moulding aus ihrer in den 80ern gutgefüllten Vorratskammer an Art-Pop-Songs gepickt zu haben. Die Mittvierziger können hier und da immer noch einen ohrwurmartigen Chorus schreiben (wie bei "The Wheel and the Maypole", das von der ruralen Idylle Englands erzählt) und im Upbeat-Rocker "My Brown Guitar" den George Harrison geben, aber: "Wasp Star" fehlt bei aller studiobedingten Perfektion die Unbekümmertheit und die mit Pop und Psychedelia hantierende Experimentierfreudigkeit von XTC-Meisterwerken wie "Drums and Wires", "Black Sea" oder gar "English Settlement". Nostalgie kann eben nicht alles sein...
Uli Nickel

copyright and produced by poponline gmbh, all rights reserved.

June 2000 / Number 193

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea/TVT)
Why isn't XTC the biggest band on the planet? No other current group has picked up the baroque-rock gauntlet thrown down by the late-period Beatles, and XTC has been at it since the late '70s. Perhaps it's because this resolutely English band recalls another great auld-sod combo whose relative obscurity in America remains mystifying: the Kinks. At this point, it'd be hard to imagine XTC essentially a vehicle for songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding making a lousy record. Wasp Star supposedly contains the harder-edged material developed at the same time as the flowery music on last year's brilliant Apple Venus. I dunno; it's as sharp-turning, smirky, tuneful and brainy as ever. Sure, Partridge's "Playground" and "Stupidly Happy" are built on repetitive riffs, but AC/DC this isn't. And the other cuts ("Church of Women," "We're All Light," Moulding's winning "In Another Life" plus seven more) are pretty swell, too. Maybe not Skylarking or English Settlement swell, but Oranges & Lemons nifty at least. * * * 1/2  Jackson Griffith

Copyright 2000, MTS Inc., All Rights Reserved.

The Canberra Times
Thursday June 8, 2000
Times Out
Reviewer: Peter Robinson

Wasp Star

More old rockers should adopt Chuckism as a philosophy. Chuck Berry produced a string of playful and innovative hits in his youth. He somehow knew when to stop. He has continuously performed the old warhorses with knowing irony ever since. Meanwhile pop fashion occasionally darts towards him but mostly focuses elsewhere. Bravo Chuck.

Judging by this album, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding need Chuckian therapy desperately. Whither the abrasion, the humour and the attack of yesteryear? Alas, it's all been replaced with cutesy, Queenish studio harmonies and creative lassitude.

Readers, please note: in a love song you can't lament that your beloved "has been riding another man" and claim as a consequence "I bit out my own tongue like a wounded horse". It doesn't go. It's ugly.

Nor can your friends exhort you to "just climb back in the saddle". Which saddle? You are the horse. For the very same reason, even though it may rhyme, your friends can't propose that "you won't sink if you paddle".

I applaud Elvisism - the slurring of words to the point of suffix-suffocation. I applaud Billythorpism - the repetition of a few words to a ridiculous extent. But I won't abide (even in the nursery world of rock lyrics) this long and winding insult to the imagination - neo-Partridgeism.

[Transcribed (with a hefty "harrumph!") for Chalkhills by Paul Culnane]

June 7, 2000
Music: On The Tracks with....Michael Hogan

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
TVT Records
Vocal harmonies and art-pop-rock melodies, the trademarks of XTC since the '70s are in open abundance. Listening to these tracks, you start realising where bands like Hothouse Flowers, Blur and maybe Jesus Jones got their ideas from. And you can hear the Pink Floyd influences particularly with the opener 'Playground' which hints at the school-is-hell 'Another Brick in the Wall' and 'Boarded Up' with its menacing footsteps from 'The Final Cut'. The probable hit single is 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love'. Very likable and upbeat, this will appeal to the classes of '79 through '86 and the more discernible music-iandos of classes beyond.

The World
June 7, 2000

Music To Make You 'Stupidly Happy':
XTC Gets Electric!

Months late, XTC finally delivers Apple Venus Vol. 2, Wasp Star. Last year's Volume 1 was a lushly orchestrated, B-I-G production, and hailed as the triumphant return of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, better known as the collective, XTC.

So, is it worth the wait? Let me put it this way...if I were lucky enough to have my own band, I would want it to sound just like this one. Partridge and Moulding understand contemporary pop music as few others do. Beyond that, they possess the ability to translate their understanding into fresh new material. XTC perfectly interpolate pop heritage with their creative drive, resulting in a delicate and successful fusion of pop's past, present, and future. It's no small job, and few are as well equipped to pull it off as XTC. Best of all, it's fun!

The opening chords, loudly electric, leave no doubt that orchestras have been left in the dust this time out. The boys are going to play. "Playground" is the opening track, and it's a pre-pubescent parable with the potential to leave post-pubescent scars. It's such a perfect place to begin. Rooted in the dreamscape of childhood are the seeds for all the elements of what we are to become, without being weighed down with all the baggage we pick up along the way. Wasn't it Picasso who insisted he spent his entire adult life trying to paint as he once did at age 5?

"Stupidly Happy" points it all up, rather well. It boasts a simplistic, nearly moronic, redundant lyric, but it vividly illustrates how easy it is to be caught within the powerful web of a pop song.

"Wasp Star-Apple Venus Volume 2" is an album of texture, style, and electricity, both literally and figuratively. It is angst, both teen and middle-aged. It is high fidelity and infidelity, wrapped in a rock and roll time signature.

"Wasp Star" ends as all such dreamscapes must...with a return to hard truth and reality. "The Wheel And The Maypole" begins filled with hope and optimism. It ends in disillusionment. But, for just over 51 minutes we've been on the ride of our lives...and, as soon as it's over, we're ready to go again!

copyright 2000 by In Your Ear

The Scotsman
June 3, 2000, Saturday

'Honestly, Does it Never not Rain in Glasgow?'
Robert McNeil's Week

NOW, I want you all to go off and have a jolly good weekend. You can't sit around reading newspapers all day. But before you go, let me address each and every one of you personally and from the bottom.

Many of you write asking for money or threatening to kill me. Others among you write pleading to be told the secret of happiness. Well, here is my best shot, children. Music. It is not the food of love, as some dolt said, getting everything terribly mixed up. It is in fact an art form consisting of sequences of sounds organised melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically. (What d'you mean: "You just nicked that out the dictionary"? I did not. And, anyway, what if I did?).

Well, the point (hoorah!) is that you should do yourself a favour and purchase Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol 2) by XTC, a pop band. Witty, intelligent, poignant lyrics; guitar-driven tunes; and a beautiful English feeling. The band doesn't gig, preferring to eschew the ignorant mob's demands for entertainment. Instead, it crafts mellifluous and agreeable songs from the suburban Eden that is Swindon. Friends, love them with the same affection you bestow upon your stick insects.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Toronto Star
June 3, 2000

Music Pop Reviews

XTC True to its Roots


Wasp Star

Absent for much of the '90s, XTC startled many last year with Apple Venus, Volume 1, an acoustic album that stacked up with the best of its 23-year repertoire. While its newest disc doesn't quite attain those lofty heights, it does find the tandem of Andy Partridge (vocals/guitar) and Colin Moulding (bass/vocals) in continuing fine form. Billed as a plugged-in sequel, Wasp Star: Apple Venus, Volume 2 maintains a stronger kinship to the duo's rootsier efforts than it does the post-punk stylings of 1979's breakthrough Drums And Wires. "Boarded Up," an evocative requiem for a dilapidated concert hall, is scored to acoustic guitar and the sound of footsteps. Later, "Standing In For Joe," an amusing tune about a guy who is invited to look after a buddy's girlfriend and ends up filling more than his pal's shoes, slyly segues into "Wounded Horse," which tells a similar story of betrayal from the cuckold's point-of-view. Deft, articulate pop music.

- Vit Wagner

[Thanks to Wes Hanks and David Oh]

CitySearch (Australia)
sounding off

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)

The best pop songwriters in England? That's what XTC man Andy Partridge recently labelled himself and fellow XTCer Colin Moulding and, after last year's Apple Venus album, they may have some stake to the claim. Wasp Star is a return to the guitar-driven pop XTC have been churning out for nearly 25 years. While there's nothing here as memorable as their classics Dear God or Generals and Majors, several tunes come close: Stupidly Happy, a one-riff ode to falling in love, and the radio-friendly I'm the Man who Murdered Love. Although Partridge has written most of the album, Moulding's songs are among the highlights, particularly the lone guitar of Boarded Up, which paints a desolate picture of his home town, Swindon. If you like your pop done Beatles-style, mixed in with Kinks, sprinkled with Beach Boys and seasoned with Bacharach, then you'll like this.

Stephen Cauchi
The Age

© CitySearch 2000

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Jun. 2, 2000

XTC, ‘Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2),’ Idea Records Ltd.:
If you were looking for a great pure-pop record as a summer companion, here it is. Whereas last year's ‘Apple Venus’ was a lovely acoustic/orchestral side trip, ‘Wasp Star’ returns the band to its glory days as perhaps the best pop craftsmen since the Beatles. At once fully adult and sporting more than a bit of childhood whimsy, the songs (nine by Andy Partridge, three by Colin Moulding) address a variety of subjects. There's giddy love, the playground as training for life, and a decrepit music venue bemoaning its fate, all with soaring hooks and harmonies, and all the trimmings -- horns, strings, some Latin percussion, a few diversions into folkier areas. Quirky and utterly charming, ‘Wasp Star’ is a godsend for the fans who have followed this band's fitful history.

* * * *

-- Dave Ferman

© 2000 Star-Telegram

The Rocky Mountain News (Denver)
June 2, 2000, Friday


By Mark Brown, News Popular Music Critic

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2)
TVT Records

I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's a shame when things like divorce, tragedy and pain happen to anyone, but when it does, it might as well happen to a great songwriter.

Tom Petty gave us last year's brilliant Echo, and this year Andy Partridge picks up the wounded-soul genre with Wasp Star, the bitter, electric follow-up to last year's bitter, acoustic Apple Venus Vol. 1.

We never grow up and we never change, Partridge believes. We're the same people we were in grade school. "Some sweet girl playing my wife / runs off with a boy whose bike she'll ride," he sings in Playground, combining sweet innocence with sexual innuendo. He revisits it a bit more bluntly in Wounded Horse, singing, "I stumbled and I fell like a wounded horse / when I found out you'd been riding another man." Ouch.

XTC partner Colin Moulding contributes an obligatory couple of songs, but this is clearly Partridge exorcising demons. And while his wit has gotten wicked, his song craft is as poppy and catchy as when XTC ruled the radio with Mayor of Simpleton and Senses Working Overtime. Check out the Sting-like vocals on You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful or the lush production of Church of Women.

But this is full of rebound, too, with Stupidly Happy and We're All Light showing that if Partridge hasn't come out of his dark tunnel, he knows he will someday. Grade: A

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Record
June 1, 2000

Wasp Star [Apple Venus Volume 2]
Idea/TVT 3260 (Universal)

Billy Connelly would put it this way: "It's a great fookin' record. It's XTC, innit?" Another XTC album, another critic's pick. They're an automatic, like Richard Thompson and REM are automatics. That's the problem with strong, maybe great albums by vintage bands: Nobody believes it when you start raving, because that's all these acts ever get -- raves re: ground-breaking this, craftsman-like that, progressive the other. And after 23 years and what feels like as many albums from Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding ... well, a certain fatigue and heard-it-all vibe sets in even among diehards like me. (To be honest, my last high off XTC was the opening four songs on Nonsuch nearly a decade ago ... and I did drop $30 on that limited-edition fossilized Virgin hits CD a few years back).

Reasons to love XTC anew: The opening guitar riff on Playground plus the harmonies of Partridge's daughter Holly on the same tune; In Another Life's bemused take on long-term relationships ("It's how we're built love/Don't let it wilt love/I'll take ya flat feet/If you'll take my habits/It all works out in the end"); the Carl Sagan-worthy cosmology of We're All Light; the proudly hetro salute to the feminine on Church of Women ("Want to worship at the church of women/Breathe 'em in/Until my head goes spinning round"); the eternally reliable Moulding's three songs, notably Standing In For Joe ; and much more besides.

The sharp edges that have traditionally made XTC an acquired taste are totally absent as Partridge rings up points time and again for melodicism, witty wordplay and flat-out tunefulness. In that regard, Wasp Star is akin to Skylarking (1986), the one XTC album that made them some loot and reached a semi-mass audience. I'm The Man Who Murdered Love is the single here, but it's Stupidly Happy that could connect with listeners as strongly as the Skylarking hit Dear God. It's got a crunchy guitar line, Partridge has never been this smooth as a vocalist (particularly the bit at 0:45 where he sings "all the birds of the air call your name/As they land on my kitchen roof"), there's a rockin' John Lennon interlude (1:15) from Moulding and the run to the finish is loaded with masterful touches: a sneaky tempo change (2:02), a strummed electric guitar (2:20), the arrival of celestial harmonies (3:10) and the build through the chanted finale. Best of all it'll make you feel as deliriously upbeat as the title suggests. Could radio please ... pretty please ... get behind it and give this piece of sunshine a chance? (June 1/00; J.B.)

Copyright ©1999/2000 The Record

June 1, 2000
No. 6, Vol. 30; Pg. 34
Sound Recordings: Buyers Guide


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (TVT)

For XTC fans who found the orchestral tone of last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 a bit too high-culture, here's good news: The duo is back sporting an album with more hooks than Mike Tyson. Crisp electric guitars stab through cumulus clouds of vocal harmonies, while McCartneyesque bass lines keep the songs bouncing along. That's not to say that XTC are pandering to the lowest common denominator. Their blithely joyful melodies coexist with smart, intriguing lyrics and subtle, complex song structures, brightening everything up without dumbing anything down.

Dimitri Ehrlich

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

New Times L.A.


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (TVT/Idea)

By Franklin Bruno

XTC Steve Gullick

In a world that seems only to want to hear killer hooks when they're voiced by a fresh-faced teen (or five), XTC is a welcome anachronism. For two decades and change, they've made shamelessly smart, meticulous music that one would call pure pop if only it were more popular, earning reverence from fans and shrugs from everyone else. Last year, the band broke an atypically long silence (partly a result of contractual woes) with the verdant Apple Venus Volume 1, an extended tribute to George Martin's production style, full of lush string arrangements, some minor masterpieces (such as "Your Dictionary," the bitterest divorce song imaginable), and an unhealthy dose of the formal sterility that mars all but their very best work.

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), the promised rock-oriented follow-up to Volume 1, is their least fussy album in recent memory, though hardly their most consistent. An unexpected side effect of chief songwriter Andy Partridge's decision to parcel the new material into electric and orchestral sets is the departure of lead guitarist Dave Gregory, who pushed for a single, more varied album. The absence makes for an audibly sparser XTC, but the remaining players -- Partridge, bassist Colin Moulding, and the occassional session drummer -- work around it, replacing Gregory's flash and filigree with meaty, not to say metallic, rhythm riffs and a canny ear for tone color. Case in point: "Stupidly Happy" chugs along with a single rhythm guitar until a specific line ("All the lights of the town are the strings of a big guitar") calls for another to chime in.

Still, any XTC album stands or falls on Partridge's songs, and those on Wasp Star are intriguing but uneven. "Playground," which advises "You may leave school but it never leaves you" sets the tone, mixing melodic good cheer with a dispiriting sentiment. (The nursery-rhyme bridge, sung by Partridge's daughter, lays it on a little thick.) "The Man Who Murdered Love" and "Wounded Horse" are equally grim -- the latter is a bluesy lope, fitted out with entendres ("You've been riding another man") that have been around since Robert Johnson still had his soul. But with the exception of the cosmic come-on "We're All Light," Partridge's vinegar tastes better than his honey. The aforementioned "Stupidly Happy" ("with an idiot grin") is a lyrically unconvincing paean to new love, and the worshipful "Church of Women" sounds calculated to deflect charges of misogyny.

Luckily, Moulding, the band's less prolific writer, is three for three this time out. "Another Life," apparently written after his wife's bout with agoraphobia, is a touching fantasy, though "I'll be your Burton if you'll be my Liz" isn't my idea of marital bliss. "Standing in for Joe," in which the narrator inadvertently falls for best pal Joe's wife, lends some needed perspective to Partridge's tales of cuckoldry. And "Boarded Up" may be XTC's most minimal recording ever -- just an acoustic guitar, some cavernous atmospherics, and a lament for Swindon, the depressed industrial town the band calls home. This isn't the sort of band that "does more with less," but that's exactly what happens here. Maybe they're growing up after all.

©2000 New Times, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Stephanie Takeshita]

The Columbus Dispatch
Thursday, June 1, 2000


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), XTC (TVT): Because of a contract dispute with its record label, XTC didn't release an album for seven years, not until Apple Venus Volume 1 in 1999. The wealth of songs the British pop band had been storing during that hiatus also spilled onto this new collection, Volume 2. The two releases, however, couldn't be more different. Volume 1's graceful melodies were backed by large ensembles, including an orchestra. In Volume 2, the group goes back to basics, with guitar-based arrangements of strongly drawn tunes with some lyrics crafted in burlesque style.

Andy Partridge's Stupidly Happy proudly wears its title while riding on a Keith Richards-style riff; I'm the Man Who Murdered Love finds Partridge cynical and his music boastful in a bit of sour grapes; longtime partner Colin Moulding's Standing In for Joe recounts a cuckolding over a cheesy, new-wave arrangement.

Apple Venus Volume 1 was a sophisticated slice of clever pop. But like the Kinks, XTC's most obvious predecessors, Partridge and Moulding are at their best when they are least polite, when they sting.

-- Curtis Schieber

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

May 2000

Hands up, everyone who was secretly disappointed by the gentle orchestral sound of last year's XTC comeback, Apple Venus. True, there was no way that album could have lived up to fans' expectations: Thanks to a well-publicized fight with their record label, XTC put themselves "on strike" and released nothing for seven years. The eventual release proved to be one of their loveliest records, but also their subtlest. If you were hoping to get knocked over by great guitar sounds and memorable pop hooks, you instead had to absorb the rich orchestral arrangements, the folkish melodies and the pastoral imagery.

Now comes the long-promised "rock album" and if you're still waiting for those massive hooks and great guitar sounds, then Wasp Star is indeed the stuff. The sound has a rough, garage-y spontaneity to it; and we can almost guarantee that you'll come away humming something. Still, it's not that big a change from the last album. It may be guitars and drums instead of strings and keyboards this time, but once again the songs have a warm and rustic tinge. The blast of guitars that opens "Playground" (and the album) may bring memories of 1980's "Respectable Street" (the album-opener from Black Sea), but the new melody and overall arrangement are better crafted, if less manic, than anything XTC did back then.

The best song on Apple Venus, "Your Dictionary" was inspired by singer/guitarist Andy Partridge's bitter divorce, and he revisits that territory with the new album's "Wounded Horse." But much of this album reflects his newfound bliss, and there are more love songs here than have ever been on an XTC album. Partridge had to go back ten years to dig up a cynical song, "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" (which was originally intended for the Nonsuch album, and could have been its hit single). The real surprise here is the re-emergence of singer/bassist Colin Moulding, breaking the songwriting slump that he's been in for years. His "In Another Life" may be the most charming Beatles homage this band's ever done -- which for XTC is saying something -- and the infidelity song "Standing in For Joe" matches giddy tune to messy subject matter. Partridge winds up providing the album's summary with "Stupidly Happy," but don't believe it -- XTC aren't really capable of being stupidly anything.

Brett Milano

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

Number 3 · 2000 (May)

“Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume 2”
Cooking Vinyl/Kommunikation

Efter att ha varit frånvarande i många år, släppte XTC förra året albumet Apple Venus. Till det albumet hade upperbarligen ett rejält knippe låtar samlats på lager, för här kommer mer. Dock är det inte samma innehåll sdeklaration, för där Apple Venus var rik på infall och smarta arrangemang är Wasp Star mer rak och rockig. Och visst funkar även det konceptet med den pop XTC tagit patent på. Trots att plattan ändå är ett genuint XTC-hantverk, tycker jag att det tyvärr blir lite tradigt. Nu har ju bandet en närmast orimligt hög lägstanivå, så Wasp Star är fortfarande rekommendabel, men kanske inte riktigt helt vad jag förväntar mig av dem. En favorit dock i Boarded Up.

Magnus Sjöberg
May 2000

  record review:
Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (TVT)

After a bitter contractual battle, Beatles acolytes and British eccentrics Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge reunited last year to record the winsome, orchestral Apple Venus Volume 1. Wasp Star isn't so much an extension of that blissful album as a rocking counterpart. On it, XTC cranks up the guitars and indulges in some ecstatic goofiness. Seldom has XTC been so unreserved in its Lennon/McCartney worship as on the amped-up "My Brown Guitar." Rarely has Moulding been so personal as on the choppy ode to his wife "In Another Life" and vocally vulnerable as on the rattling acoustic elegy "Boarded Up." Partridge is as inspired as ever on the playful "Stupidly Happy," the cheerfully devious "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" and the giddy jazz of "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," on which XTC comes off like a convincing British incarnation of Steely Dan.

-- Buzz Morison

© 1994-2000 Epigraph Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.
May 2000

Apple Venus Vol. 2 (Wasp Star)

Da hat er ja nicht zu viel versprochen, der harmonieverliebte Querkopf Andy Partridge, als er ankündigte, dass das zweite XTC-Album nach jahrelanger Arbeitsverweigerung mehr Hooks aufweisen würde als jedes Peter-Pan-Fanclubtreffen. In der Tat haben Partridge und Kreativ-Kollege Colin Moulding mit Wasp Star eine wunderbar vielfältige Blaupause des euphorisch-ironischen Melodie-Pops vorgelegt, auf die John Lennon auch ein paarunddreißig Jahre nach Sgt. Pepper stolz gewesen wäre.

Man merkt dem Album trotz offenkundiger Leichtigkeit an, dass den auf ihm befindlichen Songs einige Reifejahre zugestanden wurden. Zwangsweise, denn XTC haben die Zeit zwischen 1992 und 1995 mit einem songwriterischen Streik verbracht, der ihnen am Ende die erhoffte Trennung vom Vertragspartner Virgin Records brachte. Die rund 40 Pop-Perlen, die in dieser Zeit entstanden, wurden aufgeteilt auf ein orchestral-bombastisches Album namens Apple Venus und den konventionell elektronischen Teil, der sich auf Wasp Star eingefunden hat. Aber was heißt bei dieser Poplegende aus Swindon bei London schon konventionell? Ist es konventionell, das vermeintlich schnurgerade Gitarrenriff und den vermeintlich schnurgeraden Groove in "Stupidly Happy" mit Vollgas gegeneinander prallen zu lassen? Ist konventionell, der romantischen Pophymne "We're All Light" die leicht angekrankte Abrechnung "Wounded Horse" und dieser wiederum den Happy-Latino-Groove-Pop-Reggae "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" folgen zu lassen? Und am Ende gar zu singen, dass man Gottesdienst halten möchte in der "Church Of Women"... Charmante Schlawiner. --Björn Döring

Tue May 30 2000 15:34 GMT

Reviews · XTC : Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Wasp Star

(Cooking Vinyl CD194)

XTC unveil new Mexican direction... not really

For all the jaw-jaw regarding the inexportability of contemporary Brit-Rock, it's heartening to reflect that there is some corner of a foreign strawberry field that is forever XTC. Nowhere is this more true than in Beatle-embracing North America. So, bully for Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Indeed, for a brace of nursery-rhyming, red telephone box hugging parochialists whose creative hunting ground is the attic, the backyard and the allotment and who would, latterly, sooner tune-in to Gardeners' Question Time than The John Peel Show, this is sterling work.

Sterling work indeed. And in the monetary sense. Worldwide sales of last year's largely acoustic 'Apple Venus Volume 1' effectively put XTC back in the black after seven years of tribulation and fiscal deprivation following the split from Virgin Records. A lushly verdant, Cecil Sharpe-ish album, organically orchestrated and best experienced in the company of sheep, crumbling greystone walls and church wardens on bicycles (hide that copy of The Golden Bough), 'Apple Venus Volume 1' was as crisp and rejuvenating as a dip in the River Frome. Ripe for action, XTC's latest windfall of fructose pop refreshment finds them getting back to the jack-plug, flicking the switch, sticking a shilling in the meter and giving it some of the old Michael Faradays. But oh so delicately.

'Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)' has a certain aural kinship with such XTC vintages as 'English Settlement' and 'Skylarking' but, honestly, the writing here is keener and more discriminating. Take the opening 'Playground' and Partridge's anti-scholarly recitation of how abuse in childhood and the law of the kindergarten jungle carries over into adult life. 'Schools' out but never over and that's the only lesson you can learn' he advises, in defiance of everything Alice Cooper ever taught us. Better still, the whistleable, jovial irony of 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love', in which Andy P turns the bow back on Cupid with wicked intent, is on a musical and verbal bar-for-bar par with the Ivor Novello Award nominated 'The Disappointed'.

Truly, this 'Apple Venus' lark furnishes us with a veritable orchard of big red juicy ones to bite into. How about the circle-of-life song / home-counties hootenanny of 'The Wheel And The Maypole'? Or 'Stupidly Happy', which grins deliriously from earlobe to earlobe over a fuzzy, Stones-y guitar loop, or 'Standing In For Joe', which finds Colin Moulding doing 'Blockbuster' by The Sweet to a cautionary tale of placing your girlfriend in the stewardship of your best mate while you're away (an absolute tonic for distrusters of milkmen everywhere). 'You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful'; Sting anyone? Urine-extraction anyone?

Anyway, less of the jaw-jaw. Wasp Star. Four wasps, sorry, **** in anyone's language.

Kevin Maidment

Tue May 30 2000 15:34 GMT

Copyright 2000 Kevin Maidment. All moral rights asserted. Reproduced by permission.
[Thanks to Kevin Maidment]

USA Today

XTC, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (* * * 1/2  ) For more than 20 years, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have been leading exponents of a distinctly British school of wry, elegant, post-Beatlesque pop that, at its least inspired, can seem glib or fey. Fortunately, there's no shortage of inspiration on this follow-up to last year's Apple Venus Volume 1. Veering from buoyant, guitar-fueled romps such as Stupidly Happy and I'm the Man Who Murdered Love to sly, bittersweet confections such as Standing in for Joe and Church of Women, Partridge and Moulding offer a probing study of romantic folly, tempering their sharp wit with yearning. Their supple melodies, insinuating lyrics, and taut, sophisticated arrangements invite comparisons to Squeeze, Elvis Costello and Steely Dan. In short, this juicy Apple offers plenty of bite. - Elysa Gardner

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

North Shore News
CD Review
May 29, 2000

Web Published:
May 29, 2000

By John Goodman
This Week editor

* ****
XTC -- Wasp Star Apple Venus Vol. 2 (TVT Records)

A noisier, rocking companion piece to last year's Apple Venus. Where Volume 1 went for lush orchestration this new set gets into electric guitar rock riffs in a big way.

Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding continue their masterful command of the pop lexicon on Wasp Star. You want some lovely? Here it is.

copyright 2000 by the North Shore News

Ginza Musik

XTC: Wasp star

En enad svensk ktitikekår höjde XTC's förra platta till skyarna, helt befogat. Gruppen släppte debutplattan White music 1978 och har därefter inte gjort en enda dålig platta. De flesta har däremot hållit en orhört hög klass.
Mycket av det de gjort låter faktiskt som man skulle kunna ana att Beatles skulle låta om en återförening vore möjlig i dag. Denna, deras senaste platta är som grädden på moset en av deras allra bästa. Stampa foten, dansa, sjung, eller bara njut!

OOR 11, May 27 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
(Cooking Vinyl/Bertus)
Wasp Star is getuige de subtitel de pendant van het verleden jaar verschenen Apple Venus Volume 1. Die comebackplaat van XTC moest iets speciaals worden, vonden Andy Partridge en Colin Moulding. Dat werd het. Orchustic noemden de beide Britse popveteranen hun akoestische, georkestreerde muziek. Deel twee zou meer op gitaren focussen. Dat doet het. Met mate. XTC moet nog steeds niets hebben van gitaarmachismo. Wasp Star is directer en alledaagser dan het gedistingeerde en barokke Apple Venus Volume 1. De XTC-fan zal ook Wasp Star aanschaffen. Die aankoop levert hem tijdloze, pientere pop op, waarmee Partridge, net als Elvis Costello vroeger, zich weer graag het slimste jongetje van de popklas toont. Dat doet hij onder meer in de humoristische schuldbekentenis I'm The Man Who Murdered Love. There'll be no more pain from broken hearts and no more lovers to be torn apart, zingt Partridge in een meteen-meezinglied met een hoge dosis Paul McCartney. En Stupidly Happy klinkt als een poppy Stones. U ziet het: ook op deze solide CD heeft XTC respect voor de popklassieken. RENÉ MEGENS

[Thanks to André de Koning]

Publicerad 2000-05-26
Nöje: Skivrecensioner

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol 2)
Bolag: (Cooking Vinyl/Kommunikation)


Av Jörgen Olsson

Lekfullt och inspirerat med XTC

Fjolårets musikaliska återfödelse, efter år av ofrivillig träda efter en schism med förra skivbolaget, tycks ha inneburit startskottet för en kreativ explosion hos Andy Partridge och Colin Moulding som numera tillhör den brittiska popens allra mest strävsamma gamla par.
Mycket av materialet på alldeles färska "Wasp Star" antas ha varit i stöpsleven redan när "Apple Venus" kom till, men koncepttänkandet är uppenbart. Fjolårsplattan dominerades av det orkestrerade; det utstuderat sköna.
"Wasp Star" är mer aggressiv, vassare, hårdare och fränare.
Det börjar med ett snärtigt elektriskt riff som i fråga och explosivitet och driv nästan för tankarna till REM:s "Document"-era och fortsätter med huvudsakligen vassa och koncentrerade låtar.
Men tonfallet är typiskt XTC. Mångordiga och lekfulla texter i spänstiga sångmelodier i perfekt harmoni med arrangemang och låtstrukturer. Här finns mycket luft och lyster, ett pärlband av eleganta och begåvade låtar, av vilka förutom öppningspåret "Playground" även "My Brown Guitar", "Standing in for Joe" och den motsägelsefullt jublande "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" tillhör de absolut främsta.
Kunskapen och hantverket kan Partridge & Moulding från grunden, sedan länge. Men riktigt varifrån dessa två herrar numera, efter alla år, får lekfullheten, spefullheten och den sprudlande inspirationen är inte gott att veta.
Det kan spela mindre roll - resultatet är underskönt att höra.



XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus # 2)

Wasp Star (Apple Venus #2)
Idea/Cooking Vinyl

Apropos XTC

XTC: Venus Apple Volume 1

Yippie! Nytt XTC-album!

Andre og siste skive i sekvensen "Apple Venus" for Andy Partridge og Colin Moulding, etter at de sparka i gang bandet igjen i forfjor. Mere combo-sound denne gang, men jeg kan like godt avsløre det med en gang: Oops...they have done it again! En ny XTC-skive fylt med sårhet og sødme i beste "intelligent popmusikk"-stil!

Ikke alle av XTCs samtidige som har hatt reunion de siste åra har like mye å gi. Mange, kanskje til og med et flertall, gjenforenes mest for å mimre og cash'e inn på gamle meritter. Jeg kan vanskelig tenke meg Partridge spille de gamle "I'm Bugged" og "Science Fiction" i dag, hvis han ikke hadde hatt sceneskrekk.

Dermed har også XTC eliminert muligheten for en mimreturné, og den eneste måten de kan presentere seg på er å stadig lage nye låter. Til "Apple Venus"-konseptet har de laget nok låter til å gi ut fire skiver. Klokelig nok gir de ut to.

Det er en velsigna kvalitetsgaranti at denne skiva ikke fenger noe særlig ved første gjennomhøring. Men etter en hel arbeidsuke med jevnlig lytting gjør den definitivt det!

Bare for å markere har de egenrådige gutta lagt den mest anonyme låta, "Playground" først på skiva. Men allerede på toer'n, "Stupidly Happy", popper XTC opp slik vi elsker dem. Den er blitt mye spilt på radioen den siste uka nettopp pga. sitt umiskjennelige XTC-sug.

"In Another Life" har Moulding lagt inn et snedig forvridd Sinartra-aktig tema som mellomspill før "My Brown Guitar" gir oss assosiasjoner til sein Beatles/McCartney anno "Abbey Road".

"Boarded Up" har et orginalt komp, en nydelig rolig låt uten å bli ballade, mer guitar-picking-blues uten å være rein blues.

"I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" er platas umiddelbare hit, og eneste låt som traff på første høring. Jeg trodde jeg skulle bli fort lei den, men låta bare vokser ennå! Genialt også å plassere den etter rolig "Boarded Up". Glad sommerpop med en tekstlinje som gjør hele låta til en schizofren opplevelse når du tar deg i å gå å nynne på denne gående rundt i byen. Veldig Beatles á la den pop'a enden av "White-album".

"We're All Light", litt gammal XTC á la '79 sniker seg inn her, ok, men ikke til å få dilla av.

Moulding står for platas kanskje beste spor i den neste: "Standing In For Joe"; rolig, hypnotisk, enkel og forutsigbar - og genial!

"Wounded Horse" må være Partridges svar på forrige låt (forutsatt at Joe = Andy). Sår ("when i found out, you had been riding - another man") og sugende XTC-blues; kjempelåt!

"You And the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful": XTC-funk med voldsom soul'ing ut i en 70-talls pastisj på et refreng som du lett henger deg opp i. Det hele er back'a opp av et svart komp som Eric Burdon ville grine for å få tatt i bruk etter New Animals-perioden.

Etter den ukulele-aktig åpninga på "Church Of Women", går Partridge over i sin sære, snedige små-ord-pludrende rim-leie før refrenget drar det ut i en diametral motpol og ters-koringene sammen med trompeten haler oss ned på jorda før neste vers. Alikevel ikke mer enn pari fra den kanten.

"The Wheel And The Maypole" er en verdig avslutning på en nydelig skive. Verset er typisk XTC, modulasjonen til refrenget suger som en elevator i mellomgølvet før et stramt og temmet strykeorkester leder oss over i refrenget på nytt, denne gangen som et swinging-sixtees-avslutning-tema som aldri ender før det har gått nesten fire minutter til.

Skiver som denne gir deg tilbake troen på at den genuine popmusikken har en framtid også i dette årtusen! Jeg frykter at flere av disse låtene blir plukka ut til neste XTC-samleCD, og i mellomtida kan jeg ikke se bort fra at "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love" blir en radioplager i sommervarmen.

Trygve Mathiesen

South Bend Tribune
May 26, 2000
On The Beat
Andrew Hughes

Like spring, XTC's latest rides cusp of duality

I have a friend who says XTC sounds like spring and listens to the reclusive British duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding only during this season.

Well, "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)" arrives at just the right time of year for her, filled with all the sunshine and rain that imbue spring with both hope and frustration.

The season's warm days charge us with a rush of giddiness, but its chilly nights bundle us back into jackets and sweatshirts after dark, just as Partridge tempers his bliss when he sings "I'm stupidly happy/ It's surely a sin" on "Stupidly Happy."

Later, he employs the same sort of circumspection on "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" when he sings, "as we trip down lovers' lane/We sometimes bump into the gate."

For more than 20 years, Partridge and Moulding have drawn on the bittersweet pop delights of mid-1960s Beatles and Beach Boys records, and "Wasp Star," their 12th album, continues in that vein as the electric follow-up to 1999's orchestral "Apple Venus Volume 1."

Most people will recognize XTC for "Dear God," a scathing political single cloaked in delicate pop textures off 1986's "Skylarking," but only Moulding's acoustic blues, "Boarded Up," makes an explicit comment on the outside world. Moulding details the dwindling fortunes of XTC's hometown, Swindon, where "Pubs and clubs had the chop/Making way for a superstore plot/Some town planner didn't know when to stop."

In the eight years since XTC's last electric album, 1992's "Nonsuch," Partridge's wife left him, and their divorce sets the stage for most of the rest of the songs on "Wasp Star."

On "Playground," he sings, "You may leave school, but it never leaves you" as he imagines his divorce as a tale of his wife running off with a schoolyard bully.

Partridge commits his crime in "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" so that "there'll be no more pain from broken hearts/And no more lovers to be torn apart."

Moulding's spry "Standing in for Joe" tells the story of a man who unabashedly steals his friend's wife, while Partridge's brooding "Wounded Horse" offers an immediate response from the cuckolded husband.

As quirky and charming as anything XTC has produced before, most of the music on "Wasp Star" depends on fanciful pop melodies juxtaposed with a realism in the lyrics that eschews the sort of fairy tale tone the music suggests -- classic XTC in tone and production.

Tentative but expectant, like spring, "Wasp Star" doesn't entirely shake loose from the chill of Partridge's emotional winter, but it does point the way to the warmth and sunshine that define summer.

Staff writer Andrew S. Hughes

[Thanks to William Loring]



Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
(Cooking Vinyl/Kommunikation Skivor)
BETYG: 3 öron

  * XTC, det vill numera säga duon Andy Partridge och Colin Moulding, har sedan mitten av 70-talet onekligen tillhört de riktigt stora brittiska popbegåvningarna i Beatles efterföljd.
  Förra året kom mästerliga "Apple Venus Volume 1" med genial experimentell och intrikat instrumenterad pop med imponerande stämsång i utsökta melodier. Den nya "Apple Venus Volume 2" visar upp en rakare och mer rockig sida hos gruppen där distade gitarrer fått större utrymme i ljudbilden.
  Här finns också en rad mycket bra poplåtar, även om plattan som helhet inte når upp till föregångarens storhet. Här finns lite mer av popmusikaliska schabloner till skillnad från ettans mer överraskande och nydanande intentioner. Den här gången bekräftar XTC mest sin duktighet. Förra gången överträffade duon sig själv genom att placera kvalitetsribban extremt högt utan att riva. Att de inte når upp till den nivån igen är förståeligt. Och klart godkänt får definitivt även tvåan.


© Arbetarbladet

Wall of Sound
May 25, 2000

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Label: TVT Records
Genre: Alternative
File Under: The Toppermost of the poppermost
Rating: 81

Assurances by Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding aside, lots of XTC fans probably suspected that this "companion" CD to the duo's heralded 1999 comeback effort, Apple Venus Volume 1, would prove inferior to its predecessor. Happily, such fears can now be allayed. Sporting, as it did, orchestral textures built around horns and strings, Volume 1 was certainly a more ambitious undertaking, but from a songwriting standpoint, Wasp Star is its equal. Indeed, stripped to their essence, the meticulously crafted melodies of Moulding and Partridge constitute beautiful structures that shine like stark diamonds.

Kicking off with the fittingly titled "Playground," Wasp Star wastes no time in signaling its no-frills approach. Centered on a circular guitar riff that gives way to a jangly chorus, the song serves as a Beatles-esque counterpoint to "Stupidly Happy," a scruffier - and vaguely Stones-ish - rocker that follows. From those opening salvos, Partridge and Moulding fan out into territories that are less predictable, but that nonetheless remain tethered to the duo's strengths as pop maestros. On "Boarded Up," for instance, Moulding utilizes a simple acoustic guitar figure and some cloppity percussion to create an insular vibe that recalls Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth." Likewise, "Wounded Horse" finds Partridge employing a down-and-dirty riff and slurred vocals to create a Brit-pop (and decidedly tongue-in-cheek) equivalent of a country blues whine.

Still, for the most part, Wasp Star adheres to the bouncy melodicism and skewed humor that's been XTC's stock in trade for 25 years. Indeed, like their progenitors - The Beatles and the Beach Boys - Moulding and Partridge revel in turning the standard pop construct on its head, yielding up something fresh and familiar at the same time. Musical styles may come and go, but as XTC continues to demonstrate, fashion will always make room for pristinely rendered melodies.

- Russell Hall

Copyright ©2000. Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Todd Wells]

Torsdag, 25. mai, 2000

Tidløs popmusikk
Veteran-duo overvelder med et av sine beste album.

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

«Du kan forlate skolen, men skolen forlater aldri deg», synger Andy Partridge på «Playground», åpningslåten på denne fenomenale cd-en. Partridge slikker sårene fra nederlag i skolegården, og det kler ham. Han gjør det på en raffinert og innsiktsfull måte, uten å bli pedantisk eller sentimental. Og slik er det han fremfører arven etter ungdommen musikalske helter også. Mange av sangene her er Paul McCartney på sitt aller beste, og på noen har McCartney John Lennon til hjelp også. For å si det sånn Partridge på sin side har Colin Moulding til hjelp, og tradisjonen tro har Moulding laget en av samlingens to fineste låter - den energiske «Boarded Up». Bare Partridges «Church Of Women» overgår den.

Undertegnede var ikke blant dem som var mest betatt av fjorårest comebackplate «Apple Venus Volume 1». Også den bød på klassisk popmateriale, men full orkestrering og mye slutt-polish gjorde at den ble litt tettpakket, energiløs.

I forhold til denne; som oser av energi, varierte arrangementer med enkel rock-besetning som basis og så litt krydder der det passer.

XTC har laget masse bra musikk siden debuten i 1978. Punkenergi og avantgardistisk pågangsmot har gradvis veket plassen for arven fra Beatles og 60-tallet. Melodiøsitet og språklig eleganse har vært ledetrådene. Ikke alle låtene er like sterke på Wasp Star, men likevel er nok dette deres sterkeste plate siden klassikeren «Skylarking» på 80-tallet.


Timeless pop music
Veteran duo overwhelms with one of their best albums

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

"You may leave school but it never leaves you", Andy Partridge sings on "Playground", the opening tune on this remarkable CD. Partridge licks his wounds from defeats in the schoolyard, and it suits him. He does so in a subtle and insightful manner, without turning pedantic or sentimental. And in the same manner, he presents the heritage from past musical heroes as well. A lot of the songs are Paul McCartney at his best, and on some of them he is assisted by John Lennon, as it were.

Partridge, on his side, is assisted by Colin Moulding, and true to the tradition, he has composed one of the album's two best songs, the energetic "Boarded Up". This tune is outdone only by Partridge's "Church of Women".

Personally, I was not among those who were most fascinated by last year's comeback album Apple Venus Volume 1. This album also presented classic pop material, but full orchestration and a lot of polishing made it too tightly packed, making the energy of the album suffer.

In comparison, this album oozes energy. It has a variety of arrangements, with a straightforward rock setup as a basis and some garnishing where it fits in.

XTC have made plenty of good music since their first release in 1978. Punk energy and avant-garde courage have gradually been replaced by the heritage of The Beatles and the 60's in general. Melodiousness and witty lyrics have been the guiding principles. Not all songs on Wasp Star are brilliant, but all in all this must be regarded as their best album since the classic Skylarking of the 80's.

[Thanks to and translated by Espen Stemland]

[Thurs., May 25, 12:00 AM EDT]

Reviews: Archive
Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), XTC (TVT)

Senses Working Over Time
Return of the Helium Kidz.

By Michael Snyder

Deep in its own midlife crisis, rock is no longer the exclusive province of the young. But how often do you hear about rock musicians who produce their best work as they're trundling into middle age?

From hardly ever to never.

So it's a bit of a shock to encounter a recording as delectable as Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), the latest album by old British singers/songwriters/punters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, whose partnership in XTC has somehow survived for 25 years on upright talent and downright stubbornness.

How stubborn are they? It was seven years between the release of the band's 10th studio album, Nonsuch, and the appearance of their 11th, last year's Apple Venus Volume 1, because of a legal battle with their former record label. Still, all that time off must have been a tonic.

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) finds Partridge and Moulding at the top of their game, making the collection a fitting match for past XTC triumphs: the bitter, moving late-'70s tune, "Making Plans for Nigel"; the ambitious, stylistically diverse 1982 album English Settlement; and the baroque, mature 1986 collection, Skylarking.

Current Brit-pop icons Oasis play the pouty pin-up card and invoke the Beatles while referencing the Fab Four in a slapdash manner. XTC go about their business and record albums that truly reflect the inventive polyphony of the Beatles' more complex efforts. In particular, Partridge, as a composer, also seems ever-cognizant of the poignant, angelic qualities of Brian Wilson's most exalted and symphonic work with the Beach Boys.

He isn't afraid to tackle the big issues, either (Recall "Dear God"). Here, consider "We're All Light", which finds Partridge dealing with no less a topic than cause and effect on a cosmic scale. "Don't you know, 'bout a zillion years ago, a star sneezed," he sings. "Now they're paging you in reception." In delivering the lyrics with humorous èlan (he's wooing a girl in the song), Partridge pokes fun at the triviality of bumper-sticker philosophy -- even as he acknowledges the gravity of being tiny motes in this huge galaxy.

Lyrics aside, the song is a pop-rock marvel. It bops to a loping, insinuating beat adopted from African high-life music, startles with buzzy guitar licks zinging into the bridge and seduces with sweet, multilayered vocal harmonies.

Characteristically, the topics that Partridge and Moulding address often are treated with whimsy, even when they're deadly serious. "In Another Life" imagines alternate universes ("And you'd give up the cigs, in another life"); "Church of Women" extols devotion to the female of the species ("Want to worship at the church of women, breathe 'em in until my head goes spinning round"); and "Playground" confronts the social programming that follows humans from childhood to old age ("You may leave school, but it never leaves you").

Aiding the wit and wisdom of the lyrics are XTC's elegant arrangements, which feature glistening melodies, lush harmonies and spot-on instrumentation, as well as unique production touches from producer/mixer Nick Davis. A few examples: the chest-grabbing guitar riff that launches "Playground" is followed by a childlike, sing-song hook that smartly weds form to content on the chorus; "Stupidly Happy," a nasty-sounding rocker about the ignorant bliss brought on by a new romance, features sinister, distorted vocals on the bridge; and the blithe "In Another Life" sounds like a busker strumming away in a London underground station with a jaunty horn section sitting in.

It should be noted that Moulding's "Boarded Up" -- a dark, spare piece with echoes of Delta blues about a "music venue" that "has had its day" -- could easily have been inspired by the band itself shutting down during the years of its forced hiatus.

We can only be grateful that XTC is open for business again.

[Thurs., May 25, 12:00 AM EDT]

Copyright © 2000 SonicNet, a division of MTV Interactive. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Dallas Morning News

British duo XTC takes pop music to prep-school with 'Wasp Star'

By Thor Christensen / The Dallas Morning News

LOS ANGELES - In a music world dominated by vapid teen-pop and hormonal rap-rock acts, the arty English duo XTC seems almost too clever for its own good.

While band leader Andy Partridge says he refuses to "dumb down" his music for the masses, he also doesn't buy the idea that XTC approaches rock from an elitist, egghead point of view.

"There's this misconception that we're the smart-ass band that makes smart-ass music," he says with a roll of the eyes.

"We're very honest in what we write. We don't sit down and say, 'Let's make this song so full of obscure stuff that only people with degrees [in] astrophysics will understand it."'

You certainly don't need to think like Carl Sagan to appreciate XTC's new CD, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). While the lyrics are typically sly and sardonic, the music in "Stupidly Happy" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" sounds as jubilant as the Beatles' mop-top era albums.

Mr. Partridge wrote "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" as his 14-year marriage was breaking apart in the mid-'90s, and the song acts as a companion piece to "Your Dictionary," the scathing kiss-off to his ex-wife on 1999's Apple Venus Volume 1. Both tunes brim with the same bile he displayed on "Dear God," an atheistic rant that became a minor hit for the band in 1987.

But as Mr. Partridge is quick to point out, XTC builds its harshest songs upon some of its prettiest melodies.

"You've got to be careful with divorce songs - too many people put nasty music with nasty lyrics, or sweet music with sweet lyrics, and it doesn't work," he says.

"If you want to make a real sad lyric, you put it with happy music, and it'll be even sadder. A white man never looked so white until you stand him next to a black man, or vice versa. It's all about contrasting settings."

For a guy who often writes such moody songs, the 46-year-old singer-guitarist is surprisingly cheery and outgoing during an interview in his L.A. hotel suite. Sharing the couch is 44-year-old bassist-singer Colin Moulding, who co-founded XTC in 1977 and is the shy sidekick of the duo: Only after Mr. Partridge is done speaking will Mr. Moulding whisper his opinion on a subject. (Keyboardist Dave Gregory quit the band in 1998).

Mr. Partridge and Mr. Moulding attended the same schools in Swindon, England, and have been through a lot together - including a five-year standoff with Virgin Records that caused the long gap between 1992's Nonsuch and the Apple Venus CDs. When asked what he learned from the dispute with Virgin, Mr. Partridge throws his hand in the air like a schoolboy who knows the right answer.

"Please sir! I've got one, sir!," he says. "My advice is form a company. If you're just a musician going to a record company, they'll say, 'Here's a paltry 10 percent - sign this,' and you're over a barrel forever. But if you form a company, they'll be reluctant to bite their own and they'll give you a fairer deal and say, 'We'll split it 50-50. Sign this."'

Their "strike" against the label earned them plenty of press - but not nearly as much as they've received for their longstanding refusal to perform live. In 1982, after collapsing onstage in Paris, Mr. Partridge vowed he'd never play another concert.

"I was worried because I didn't know what was wrong with me, although I do know now - I was having panic attacks," he says. "The previous year, I'd come off 12 or 13 years of Valium addiction, and I just started to think, 'I am not cut out to [perform live].' So I decided, 'I like writing songs, so that's what I'll do from now on. I'll write songs."

He's stuck to his guns ever since, though he admits it hasn't always been easy. "We haven't toured for 19 years, but we did an interview last week and all the questions were 'Why don't you tour - when are you going to tour?' Have they not gotten the hint?"

While they won't perform live, Mr. Partridge and Mr. Moulding have been willing to go on promotional tours to talk about their music. Their trip to L.A. centered around Mr. Partridge's appearance on VH1's The List - a show the singer dismisses as "Cro-Magnal" - and included voice work on "a well-known cartoon" that the singer refuses to discuss. "I don't want to get in trouble," he says, "because I'm not a member of S.A.G. [Screen Actors Guild]"

"Oh yes you are!" Mr. Moulding says, mischievously touching his partner's sagging belly, causing the two to break into a fit of giggling.

Next up is a promo tour of Japan, a country which recently began to embrace the band. The fast-rising Tokyo pop group Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her even named itself after a 1984 XTC song.

"I suppose we're these exotic Englishmen to them," Mr. Partridge says. "Maybe we should wear bowlers when we go over there."

But while they're cult stars in the Far East and the United States, Mr. Partridge and Mr. Moulding aren't exactly heroes in their hometown of Swindon, population 160,000. Despite the city's relatively small size, Swindonians don't keep up with XTC's career.

"Every time I get in a taxi there, the taxi driver says, 'Didn't you used to be in a band a long time ago?," the singer says.

In defense of the cabbie, Mr. Partridge and Mr. Moulding don't get out of the house much: They had to turn down a recent request to be filmed by an Italian documentary crew because there was simply nothing to document.

"We get up in the morning and walk around, then sit back and watch the telly and drink a beer," Mr. Partridge says. "We don't lead exciting 'art' lives."

© 2000 The Dallas Morning News
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The San Diego Union-Tribune
May 25, 2000, Thursday

ALTERNATIVE: XTC, "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (TVT)
* * *

This alt/New Wave band ended a seven-year stagnancy with last year's critically acclaimed "Apple Venus Volume I." That record's orchestral/experimental vibe is nowhere to be heard on "Volume II," which boasts what the band bakes best: warm rolls of polished pop, buttered with self-conscious cynicism and English irony, as heard on Andy Partridge's exaggerated lounge-y vocals from "Church of Women" and drunken cowboy hiccup of "Wounded Horse." -- Matthew Kalinowski

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Schweizer Radio DRS3
Düsis CD-Tipp

XTC, 'Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume 2'

Cooking Vinyl

Sieben Jahre lang mussten XTC streiken, ehe sie von Virgin Records aus einem grotesken Vertrag entlassen wurden, der es der Band lebenslang unmöglich gemacht hätte, aus ihren CDs für sich selber einen Profit zu schlagen. In der Zeit schrieben Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding aber weiterhin Lieder. Jetzt, wo sie endlich frei sind, haben sie diese richtig eingespielt (obwohl auch ein Teil der daheim aufgenommenen Demo-Tapes schon als CD herausgekommen sind). Schon letztes Jahr erschien 'Apple Venus, Volume 1', bestehend aus filigran arrangierten, im Abbey Road-Studio orchestral untermalten Stücken. 'Wasp Star' nun beinhaltet die ruppigeren, gitarrengetriebenen Songs aus der Zeit. Highlights: 'Wounded Horse', 'Boarded Up'. Seit jeher singen XTC Songs voller melodischer Tücken und textlicher Perlen. Klasse.

© 2000 Schweizer Radio DRS

The Reader, Omaha
May 24, 2000

Years behind their time with enjoyable pop music drawn from the likes of the Beatles, XTC returns. First the band surfaced from a seven-year hiatus with Apple Venus Volume 1; now it has posted the follow-up album in Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), which holds on tightly to the listener-friendly music XTC always produced.

XTC's knack for creating a melodic tune with great hooks that stay in the listener's head to the point of singing along - like a good pop song should - probably will never cease to exist. Being behind the time musically, the band members have missed out on major commercial success. But fortunately no one told this to the band or its mass cult following, which will be thrilled with Wasp Star.

While the duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are not as legendary as McCartney and Lennon, they can still write a bouncy pop song. From the depths of "Standing In For Joe", with it humorous lyrics regarding Joe's girlfriend, the temptress, to the "Church Of Women", XTC does what McCartney, Lennon and the rest of the Beatles did best - not take them too seriously.

While later tracks like "Boarded Up" and "Wounded Horse" seem dry and lacking in the melodic category, humor shines. Take, for example, "Well, I stumbled and fell like a wounded horse, when I found out you'd been riding another man."

Brightness does return, with songs like "Playground" and "Stupidly Happy." It is the catchy hooks and bright sound that latch onto listeners and attract attention. Who cares if the music peaked decades ago? XTC's Wasp Star is highly enjoyable any time.

- Andy Walter

[Thanks to Samuel A. Scott]


Nesten ekstase



Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
     Cooking Vinyl/MNW

XTC gjorde et overbevisende comeback i fjor etter sju mange år i «streik» i protest mot sitt gamle plateselskap. «Apple Venus Volume 1» var hovedsakelig akustisk, med strykere og delikate arrangementer, og endte som en av årets beste plater. «Wasp Star» viser den elektriske siden av XTC, den store gitarpopen de er mest kjent og elsket for, med fengende låter på rekke og rad, og det er nesten som om de aldri har vært borte.

Andy Partridge og Colin Moulding har nok en gang laget en liten samling popperler som viser hvorfor vi ventet på dem i alle disse årene, selv om vi setter veldig høye krav når vi lytter etter nye «Life Begins At The Hop» eller «Senses Working Overtime». Det er kanskje ingen slike høydepunkter her, men likevel en rekke sanger med eksentriske vinklinger på livet og kjærligheten. «Stupidly Happy» er veldig XTC i sitt tilsynelatende naive, men likevel innsiktsfulle syn på livet, og slik fortsetter de fra den pessimistiske «I'm The Man Who Murdered Love» til den betingelsesløst hengivne «You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful». Forhåpenligvis er XTC tilbake for å bli.

© 2000 Dagsavisen.

Teletext, C4 North East
23 May 2000

The Songwriting duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding return to their traditional prime, rather than copying 1999's experimental Apple Venus album.

The highest praise that can be lavished on Wasp Star is that all 12 tracks could have come from their singles collection - the choruses are big enough to live in.

Back when Blur still did pop, they got Andy Partridge do the demos, betcha their next album doesn't have anything as joyful as this.


John Earle

[Thanks to Simon Sleightholm]

May 23, 2000


Wasp Star: Apple Venus 2

our grade
Artist / Band:  XTC
Record Label:  TVT
Release Date:  May 23, 2000

Our Review:
Despite band-member breakdown, slavish record-company contracts and a frequently disinterested public, XTC lives. Thank God. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, the Energizer Bunnies of Brit-pop, just keep on going and going, creating intelligent, beautifully crafted pop songs that nestle comfortably in the brain alongside your fondest remembrances of the Beatles, Kinks and lighter delights of '70s new wave. Partridge might tease he's "Stupidly Happy" with a buzzing Keith Richards riff, but he's a clever curmudgeon who also cries in his beer with the cuckold's "Wounded Horse." Meanwhile, Moulding's breezy "In Another Life" and "Standing in for Joe" are tales of agoraphobia and infidelity, respectively. Pure pop never hurt so good.

[Thanks to Dale Basye]

Virgin Net
Music: Album reviews

  Album reviews » Review
Apple Venus Vol. 2

Released: 22/05/2000
Label: Cooking Vinyl

More guitar pop with round glasses from the band that are enjoying a revival about ten years after they were meant to be finished. Naturally, Apple Venus Vol. 2 follows on fairly closely from last year's Apple Venus Vol. One. Volume One was a neat piece of psychedelic whimsy with its experimental compositions and orchestral sounds, but here XTC get back to basics. With stripped down arrangements, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding rely mainly on their own talents with the odd flourish from brass or strings. Such a style enables XTC to reveal more of their core talent, songwriting. The pair are unlikely to rediscover the directness of Sgt Rock or the urgency of Senses Working Overtime, but AVV2 has fine sentiments in We're All Light and memorable images in Church Of Women. Although dumped by Virgin Records, XTC still manage to kick sand in the face of daunting opposition.

By Chris Mugan

The Wiseacre
May 22, 2000
Music Reviews

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume Two) XTC (Idea/Cooking Vinyl)

Much like Bradford City victories, films starring Russell Crowe and buses on the 176 route, XTC albums don't show up for ages and then two come along at once. Last year's Apple Venus Volume One was their first since 1992, and yet now, almost before we've had time to digest it, here's another one. Whatever next? Two England test victories in a row?

Well, while the earth spins off its axis at the very thought of Nasser leading The Boys to an almost unprecedented double triumph - especially with Craig "Rhyming Slang For A Surname" White in the squad - we can settle down with Wasp Star. And let's hope that Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding don't come back in a few months with another set, for with Apple Venus volumes one and two, they've come up with a pair of gems that'll keep listeners of the discerning variety occupied for some time to come.

Much like Guerilla and Mwng, XTC's two recent sets couldn't be much more different. While the often acoustic Apple Venus Volume One was all genteel and gentle whimsy, Wasp Star is the duo if not quite turning their amps up to 11, then boosting them up to a good six or seven. It's a return of sorts to the sort of plugged-in guitar pop that graced Nonsuch and Oranges And Lemons. And it's ace.

Despite the trio of contributions from Moulding, of which Standing In For Joe is the most successful, it's Partridge's songs that, as usual, steal the show. On Apple Venus Volume One, Partridge showed he'd lost none of his lyrical wit and gift for melody; here, both are present again in spades. But added back into the mix is the major-key, uptempo pop sensibility that made the earlier work of both XTC and their alter-ego, the '60s pastiche ensemble the Dukes Of Stratosphear, so engaging.

From the thumping opener Playground, a less than rose-tinted remembrance of schooldays past, to closing medley The Wheel And The Maypole, Wasp Star is a delight. Highlights are too numerous to mention, but My Brown Guitar is a typically Partridgean love song, by turns twee, saucy and heartwarming; You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful is spikier than its name suggests but just as splendid, despite reeking a little of Sting; and Stupidly Happy leaves the listener in the exact same state of mind elucidated in its title.

XTC may very well be from Venus. But those that aren't entranced by Wasp Star must surely hail from Mars. A joy.
May 2000

The subtitle is perplexing: though apparently intended as a companion piece to XTC's 1999 comeback album Apple Venus Volume One, the songs on Wasp Star have little to do with the pastoral orchestrations of Apple Venus and much more in common with the XTC albums that preceded it, especially Oranges & Lemons and Skylarking. This is altogether welcome news, of course: though nothing XTC have ever put their name to has been dull, their greatest strength has always been fairly straightforward pop songs with subtle kinks in the musical and lyrical structure (think "Senses Working Overtime", "Love On A Farmboy's Wages"). The finest moments of Wasp Star--notably the epic pop hymn "The Wheel and The Maypole" and the spectacularly titled devotional "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful"-- stand comparison with those or any other of XTC's many finest hours. That, in pop terms, makes the best moments of Wasp Star about as good as it gets. --Andrew Mueller

[Thanks to Rory Wilsher]

Calgary Sun

Sunday, May 21, 2000

XTC still striking gold

XTC's second as good as first

Calgary Sun


On "strike" for seven years to get out of their record deal with Virgin, XTC made a triumphant return in 1999 with the magnificent Apple Venus Vol. 1, a lush and lovely orchestral work that nevertheless left some bemused fans wondering where the electric guitars went. Well, they're here on the second half of the group's comeback epic (in stores Tuesday), a collection of tremendously catchy guitar-pop songs that prove songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding haven't gone all easy-listening in their middle age. Almost all of these 12 new songs are immediately accessible and blessed with splendourous pop melodies and Beatlesque vocal harmonies. Yet they're hardly lightweight, managing to grab hold and make sense of life's big themes. OK, maybe there's not that much content to Partridge's Stupidly Happy, a one-riff song that pogos on the spot for three minutes of irrepressible romantic bliss. Yet his deft hand with metaphor is demonstrated on Playground, on which he cleverly argues that the schoolyard is a rehearsal for adult life ("Some sweet girl playing my wife/ Runs off with the boy whose bike she likes"); My Brown Guitar, another of his slyly naughty songs about his faithful trouser pal; and Church of Women, an exaltation of daughters, girlfriends, wives and mothers. Moulding, as usual, offers his keen observations about British house and home on the bluesy Boarded Up, a lament for his dying hometown of Swindon, and the jaunty In Another Life, a big-hearted song about longtime spouses working to keep their romance alive. As much as Partridge protests otherwise, the absence of guitarist Dave Gregory, who left XTC during the Apple Venus Vol. 1 sessions, does leave a void, as Wasp Star lacks some of the fine embroidery that Gregory knitted into XTC's best songs. That quibbles aside, no one makes thinking man's pop any better than XTC, 24 years into their recording career and still untouchable.

"Apple Venus Vol. 2"

* * * * 1/2

[Thanks to David Veitch]

Ottawa Sun
JAM! Music

Sunday, May 21, 2000

XTC's second a bit of a letdown

Ottawa Sun


Given all the raving over 1999's Apple Venus Vol. 1 -- and deservedly so -- high expectations abound for XTC's "plugged-in" companion disc.

On this first electric-guitar based effort since 1992's Nonsuch, Andy Partridge's layered-to-perfection vocals and Colin Moulding's music-hall sensibilities transfer nicely from the first Apple Venus to the second.

Vol. 2's In Another Life mirrors Vol. 1's Frivolous Tonight (though it sounds more like its demo from the Homespun CD); Vol. 2's My Brown Guitar goes nicely with Vol. 1's Easter Theatre.

The first single I'm The Man Who Murdered Love and Stupidly Happy come across as catchy as The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead, but Partridge's arrangements sound tired and somewhat empty. He fares better on Church of Women and The Wheel and the Maypole. Moulding's bizarre Boarded Up defies explanation.

XTC's upbeat lyrical wit and wisdom keep Vol. 2 afloat, but it sinks when it comes to rock-solid consistency. A bit of a letdown.

"Wasp Star -- Apple Venus Vol. 2"

* * * 1/2

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Sunday Herald, Glasgow
May 21 2000
This week's CD releases reviewed

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) XTC

(Cooking Vinyl) * * *

LIKE a pair of good-natured cockroaches, XTC are indestructible. Their peers from the class of '77 may have fallen by the wayside - or in many cases split up, settled down and ended up reforming to pay the tax bill - but XTC have trudged onwards and sideways, fuelled by a peculiarly English sense of grim determination. Where last year's Apple Venus Volume One was a folk-tinged, slightly whimsical affair, this is a rock-tinged, slightly whimsical affair - recognisably XTC, only with contemporary production values. Particularly touching is In Another Life, a charming paean to suburban love; the final track, meanwhile, wins the prize for most stereotypical XTC song ever by managing to mention ploughs, Aunt Sally and maypoles in the space of five minutes.

Simon Stuart

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Chicago Tribune
May 21, 2000 Sunday
Arts & Entertainment
by Mark Caro


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. II) (TVT)

The opening, chiming guitar riff on "Playground" greets you like a birthday card from a long-lost friend, and as the verses and chorus kick in, you wonder: Does anyone else come close to crafting such catchy, punchy pop as Andy Partridge and his lone remaining sidekick, bassist Colin Moulding? If so, someone please discover them soon. Meanwhile, we have "Wasp Star," the electric follow-up to last year's acoustic-and-orchestral "Apple Venus Vol. I," although it's less the second coming of the brash "Black Sea" than a sonic sequel to the eclectic, polished "Oranges and Lemons." The sound is chimey and clean, the songwriting more uneven than the first "Apple Venus." "Stupidly Happy" prefers bludgeoning its great Keith Richards-like riff to fleshing out a song around it, and Partridge's gift for nifty chord changes and dopey lyrics is on full display in "Church of Women." Moulding's contributions, meanwhile, continue his bouncy minor mode of the last album. All in all, a mid-level XTC album, and the world could use more of them.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Music & Media
May 20, 2000, No. 21, Vol. 17

European release date: May 22

The marginalisation in recent years of XTC, one of the most individual and consistently creative forces in British music since new wave days, is one of the sharper indictments of the fashion-obsessed UK mainstream. Their cause was not helped by leader Andy Partridge's continuing refusal to tour, nor by a messy departure from their longtime marital bed at Virgin, but when the band (now a duo of Partridge and Colin Moulding) returned to active service last year on their own Idea label, it was with an album to rival and perhaps even surpass their finest moments from a more sympathetic age, with the stunning Apple Venus Volume 1. Partridge, as voraciously creative as ever, had always intended it as a two-parter, augmented by a second tier, and while Apple Venus was a glorious intertwining of XTC's lifelong pop sensibilities and their equally instinctive esoteric tendencies, Wasp Star often goes like an arrow to the band's old, instantaneously melodic targets. Another brilliantly eccentric English uncle of a record. PS

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

National Post, Toronto
Saturday, May 20, 2000

XT-atic melodies for guitar

ANDY PARTRIDGE, RIGHT, AND COLIN MOULDING: a second volume of pop pleasures.


XTC -- Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Volume 2) (TVT Records)

Don't tell Noel Gallagher, but XTC is the closest thing to the Beatles we have left on Planet Britney. Like the Fab Four, XTC emerged fully formed from an industrial town northwest of London, infused an emerging style (in their case, new wave) with melody, stopped touring mid-career and became a trend-immune, studio-only entity, crafting densely decorated miniatures for rabid fans.

True, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have sold several hundred million fewer records than the Beatles, but they've always had similar aims. From the McCartneyesque chorus of My Brown Guitar to the solo-Lennon vitriol of Wounded Horse, Wasp Star continues the pattern. It's more melodic than any 10 boy-band albums, and a lot funnier, too.

Hailed as XTC's return to guitar-based rock -- after last year's orchestral Apple Venus -- Wasp Star represents the second batch of tunes Partridge and Moulding wrote during a seven-year standoff with their longtime label, Virgin records. I'm the Man Who Murdered Love is a hookfest in the Peter Pumpkinhead mould; Stupidly Happy is a witty paean to witlessness; and Playground addresses Partridge's recent divorce. It's a weaker collection than 1992's Nonsuch, but it's still plenty engaging. And, needless to say, Beatlesque.

-- Don Breithaupt

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Daily Telegraph (London)
May 20, 2000, Saturday
Art and Books: The Arts: Pop CDs

XTC Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Cooking Vinyl)

THEY spent seven years in a dispute with their former record company, Virgin, and now it seems XTC feel they have some catching up to do. Taking a dramatically contrasting approach to the esoteric and complex song cycle of last year's Apple Venus Volume 1, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have crafted an instantly appealing album of glittering little pop gems.

Britpop came and went in XTC's absence but frankly produced few works of vibrant, melodic, Sixties-style guitar pop to rival this. Clever hooks and glorious harmonies adorn 12 beautifully structured songs of wit and imagination.

Lyrical subject matter roams playfully from metaphysics to quantum physics, striking a delicate balance between humour and sentiment. Wasp Star has a charm redolent of Rubber Soul-era Beatles, when the Fab Four had begun to unleash their musical imagination but had yet to lose their innocence.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Der Standard
19. May 2000

Aber jetzt: This Is Pop!

Das tatsächliche Comeback-Album der britischen XTC: "Wasp Star"

Vor gaaanz langer Zeit, gab es einmal eine Band, die besaß das eher rar gewordene Talent, einen grenzgenialen Pop-Song nach dem anderen zu schreiben. Und zwar nicht nach einem einmal aufgegangenen Muster, das infolge auf Autopilot reproduziert wurde, sondern in erklecklicher Vielfalt. Und das ausgerechnet zur Zeit von New Wave, wo die Schnörkellosigkeit mit der Reduktion verpflichtend Händchen halten musste, um beim Publikum anzukommen. Diese Band nannte sich XTC was auf Englisch ausgesprochen Ecstasy ergibt, allerdings nichts mit den Jahren später neumodisch werdenden Techno-Zuckerln zu tun hatte. XTC waren Colin Moulding, Barry Andrews, Terry Chambers und Andy Partridge, der - very British! - exzentrische Kopf der Band. Damals, Ende der 70er-, Anfang der 80er-Jahre, verfassten XTC Pop-Perlen wie die Biertrinker-Hymne "Life Begins at the Hop", "Making Plans For Nigel" oder das programmatische "This Is Pop": Songs, aufgebaut auf schlichten Ideen, die allerdings sonst niemandem einzufallen schienen und heute noch frisch wie am ersten Tag klingen. Man könnte das herausragend nennen. Wenn man will.

Damit wurde XTC zu einer der angesagtesten New Wave-Bands und eroberte amerikanische College-Radios genauso, wie die heimischen Charts mit "Senses Working Overtime". Zu Beginn der 90er-Jahre, nach Ausflügen ins Psychedelische als The Dukes Of Stratosphere [sic] und mit sich änderndem Geschmack des Publikums, begann ein Streit mit der Plattenfirma Virgin, deren längst gedienter Act man war. XTC, bestehend nur noch aus Partridge und Moulding, gingen in einen siebenjährigen Streik (!), der letztes Jahr damit endete, dass Virgin die Band ziehen ließ. Darauf veröffentlichte XTC das Album "Apple Venus Volume I". War dieses noch ein zauderhaftes "Comeback", zelebrieren XTC auf "Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume II" wieder die hohe Kunst des Pop-Songs.

Im Vergleich zu vielen britischen Nuschel-Kaisern können die beiden XTC's nämlich richtig singen, was dazu führt, dass sich auf "Wasp Star" Melodien auftun, die einem flugs ins Wippebein fahren und die Mundwinkel frühlingshaft nach oben ziehen: "Stupidly Happy", heißt dazu der zweite Song, den man sich gleich einmal 14 Tage lang ohne Verschleißerscheinungen anhören kann: trockene Gitarren, perfekter Rhythmus und Partridges Gesang. Damit können die eingangs beschriebenen Qualitäten als wiederauferstanden bezeichnet werden. XTC sind zurück! Wie sehr, beweisen weitere Highlights wie "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love", "Church Of Women" oder "Wounded Horse": Intelligenter, witziger, britischer Pop, ohne Brit-Pop zu sein. Ein Segen! Karl Fluch
"Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume II": ab 25. 5. bei Hoanzl

The Oklahoman
May 19, 2000

The Beat


"Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume II)"
TVT/Idea Records

An initial listen to the "orchustic" (acoustic and orchestral) drivel of "Apple Venus Volume I" was like being trapped in an elevator with the Muzak turned up full blast. You were trapped because you had to keep listening, hoping the XTC of yore would finally cut loose with the kind of edgy Brit-pop we've always loved them for. This, after all, was the first we'd heard from them in seven years, due to a protracted record contract dispute.

But nothing happened. There were flashes of promise, but most of it was mired in nerve-wracking violin plucking, dripping sound effects and bloated symphonic tedium. It looked as if the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory had effectively neutered the band.

Consequently, no one's been hyperventilating over the lateness of the sequel, which was said to contain "much more basic, idiotic electric stuff."

Good news, kids: "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume II)" comes as advertised, with guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding plugged in and punching on the upbeat and harmonic "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" and the comic blues of "Wounded Horse."

After the murky flutes and violins of the last album, it's nice to hear Partridge bust out with the Keith Richards-inspired riff on "Stupidly Happy," which is all about being drunk on brand-new love. Then there's the deceptively upbeat catchiness of "Playground," which considers the lifelong scars left from school days, which many of us bear.

In all, this is some of the best work this Beatles-inspired duo has done since "Skylarking" and "Oranges and Lemons." Welcome back to XTC. -- Gene Triplett, The Oklahoman

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Chicago Daily Herald
May 19, 2000, Friday
Time Out!

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

XTC returned last spring after a seven-year hiatus with the first volume in this two-set collection. This second half - the electric end - is as sophisticated as you would expect from this Brit-pop duo, although not all the songs are so striking.

This is important since instantly memorable and memorably complex are the two opposing forces XTC auteur Andy Partridge has made work all these years.

He pulls it off somewhat here. "The Wheel and the Maypole" are actually two songs, one upbeat, the other cynical, that eventually mesh together in battle. "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" is Partridge working in offbeat jazz territory, while "Playground" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" is again, instant pop perfection. From the three songs partner Colin Moulding contributes, just the blues foot stomper, "Boarded Up" is the most unique.

The rest are cute, but less fleshed out ideas. "Church of Women" begins and ends with the title and "Wounded Horse" is Partridge imagining he's a thoroughbred whose woman has been caught "riding another man." Not a pretty animal story.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

May 19, 2000
Heavy Rotation: Daily Rotation

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

"A riff? An electric guitar riff?" were the first words I said once my jaw was able to open and close in its normal fashion. That's right, "Playground," the opening track on Wasp Star, the follow-up to 1999's "orchoustic" Apple Venus Volume 1, opens up with a crunchy electric guitar line soon followed by heavily-bashed drums. Shocking, really, when you think about the contrast with "River of Orchids," the opening track from Vol. 1, which was built around a string section and rhythmic water drops.

The suddenly prolific XTC (prior to last year, the band had put out only one album in the '90s), now comprised only of founding members Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, had said that they initially wanted to release a double CD set, with half dominated by strings and acoustic instruments and the other an electric rock and roll album. For mostly monetary reasons, they ended up releasing the two discs a year apart, with Wasp Star representing the rock and roll album - and what an album it is.

While I'm not sure what "wasp star" means (although I understand it is Mayan for "venus"), I know that I have been infected by the album's twelve songs as if stung by them. Since I judge XTC on a much higher standard than most bands, I have to admit that after the first few listens I was not particularly impressed with the record. However, by the fourth or fifth time, I began scratching all over, especially on my head because I found that Wasp Star was stuck there and no matter what I tried to do it wouldn't go away. I tried an ointment comprised of the Beatles and Belle and Sebastian but nothing changed. I drank in some Nirvana backed up with an Elvis Costello chaser but still I had that XTC itch. Finally, I gave in, and have been listening to Wasp Star for about two weeks straight with very little interruption.

Andy Partridge, chief singer/songwriter/genius, has been producing near flawless Beatle-esque pop for about 25 years now and he still knows how to turn a phrase like few others. A chief example is "Wounded Horse," in which he laments over a funereal dirge, "Well, I stumbled and I fell like a wounded horse / when I found out you've been riding another man." And, in "Church of Women," the singer cops to genuflecting at the feet of the fairer sex but still doesn't understand them at all. In another twist of lyrical phrasing, he sings "like us men, like us men, will they ever like us men?"

Musically, Messrs. Partridge and Moulding (who contributed three of the twelve tunes here) continue to pay close attention to their musical heroes. Moulding's "Boarded Up," about the death of his hometown, thematically evokes vintage mid-'60s Kinks, while the white-reggae/jazz of "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" would make Steely Dan proud and "The Wheel and the Maypole" closes out the CD with beautifully haunting Pet Sounds-like harmonies. While overrated bands like Oasis try to recreate their heroes (but fail), XTC proudly displays its roots while subsuming them into a larger sound, one that is wholly their own.

So it pains me to admit that, despite the fact that few artists today could produce such a strong collection of timeless pop, Wasp Star will likely drown a quiet and painless commercial death in the sea of mediocre, radio-friendly drivel. On the other hand, it is good to know that long after Christina Aguilera's breasts have begun to sag and she's living in a trailer in West Virginia with a guy named Cletus, Wasp Star will still be a great album and XTC a great (albeit remarkably old) band. Do yourself a favor and get stung.

Barry Stelboum

© 2000 Vibe/Spin Ventures. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Jessica Kashiwabara]

Bass Player
June 2000

Wasp Star, Apple Venus Vol. 2 [TVT]
Bassist: Colin Moulding
Instrument: 1969 Vox Apollo 4

The second volume of the British popsters' long-awaited return proves absence makes the heart grow fonder. Compared to last years' Volume I, this outing is much more in tune with Moulding and his songwriting partner Andy Partridge's rock past. Colin often lays out for sizable parts of songs like "The Wheel and the Maypole", and when he comes in it's clear just how essential his tasteful lines are. Also check out Moulding's lovely upper-range melodic fills on "Playground".

Reviewed by Greg Olwell

[Thanks to Dave Daugerdas]

Cambridge News
Thursday, May 18, 2000
Rock Scene

XTC -- Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (Idea Records). Review by Julian Makey.

HELP! I have just had a terrible dream. I woke up thinking I had lost 20 years -- it is 1980 isn't it? It must be, there's a new XTC album out.

Yes, XTC are back with a second album in just over a year and very good it is too.

The band, now down to the founding duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, sound pretty much the same as they did when they were famous all those years ago.

Partridge's rural burr is still to the fore and the songs continue to reflect XTC's quirky Englishness.

Wasp Star shows the band's rockier side and complements last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 which reflected their orchestral leanings.

The two albums have meant a sudden burst of activity from XTC, whose last record came out in 1992.

(Released on Monday, May 22)

Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, May 18, 2000
The Beat: Listening station

XTC 'Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Vol. 2)' TVT Records

Rarely do you read anything about XTC without the adjective "Beatlesque" lurking nearby. It's always meant as a compliment -- how could it not be? -- and so is this (no, really): Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, the duo that is XTC, aren't so much Beatlesque as they are McCartneyesque, and on "Wasp Star," their electric flip-side release to last year's orchestral "Apple Venus Volume 1," they produce the best Paul McCartney album since, well, since . . . you know.

Never has an XTC record been this accessible. Partridge and Moulding plug in and stay plugged in, emphasizing the bouncy riffs that have always swum beneath their tense, punk-funk rhythms. "Stupidly Happy," "We're All Light" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" represent British pop at its best -- catchy hooks, fine harmonies, witty lyrics -- and were this a just world, they'd represent a trio of radio hits for Partridge and Moulding as well.

Faint echoes of "Black Sea," XTC's magnificent 1980 album, can be heard on "Wasp Star" as Partridge and Moulding, after years of acoustic explorations, get back to where they once belonged. May they stay there awhile, and continue to channel the ghost of Sir Paul. Believe me, they're much better at it than that simulacrum that's been passing himself off as Paul McCartney for the past 30 years.

-- jody seaborn

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

CD Consumer
May 2000

Wasp Star (The Apple Venus Vol. 2)

by Chris Storms

Summer must be upon us, because it seems like there's a flood of great pop music coming out as of late, and everyone's brother's band or label is going for the big summer hit of 2000. While it's not likely that the big breakthrough song that's going to splashed all over the airwaves (perhaps even shoved down our throats) will be from Wasp Star, the self described "rock" portion of the Apple Venus duology by XTC, it is certain that whoever puts out that money hit has something to learn about popcraft from XTC.

From the start, Wasp Star exudes the quirky harmelodic genius of Andy Partridge and partner Colin Moulding, but it's immediately apparent that the arrangements and production are sparer and more efficient than their past several releases, harking back more to the Skylarking / English Settlement period. 

Taking more of a rock approach as promised, (to contrast the mostly orchestral Apple Venus Vol. 1), several songs on the disc approach the most deconstructed and bluesy sound the band has ever had. From the Keith Richards style guitar intro of "Stupidly Happy" to the drag-down nearly gutbucket "Wounded Horse", and the neo-Red Red Meat sounds of "Boarded Up", Wasp Star contains several slight diversions from the signature pop that has given XTC a name in the pantheon of pop greats. These tunes save the record from redundancy, and combined with such soon-to-be-not-quite-famous pure old school alt-pop hits like "The Man Who Murdered Love", "We're All Light", and the absolutely brilliant finale "The Wheel and the Maypole", go a long way toward making this one of the stronger releases the band has done in a long while. 

Sure, there's a little filler, but so few records these days are that solid through and through anyway. Even if the majority of the record buying public doesn't even get around to hearing Wasp Star, it's still good to know that XTC is still out there and writing some of the best pop music available on the market. And maybe, just maybe... well, it happened to Santana... Naahh...

If You Like: The Dukes of the Stratosphear, Todd Rundgren, Talking Heads, Roxy Music, Devo, Shriekback, Gang of Four


Copyright © 2000 CD Consumer

Juin 2000
Disque du Mois

"Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol 2)"

X TC, réduit aujourd'hui à sa portion congrue mais la plus créative (Andy Partridge en maître à panser les influences, et Colin Moulding dans le rôle du faire-valoir de luxe), ne risque pas de s'en aller de sitôt. Comme prévu, cette suite annoncée de leur onzième album paru en 1998 montre les deux faiseurs de pop en pleine possession de ces moyens, justifiés par une faim d'en découdre toujours et encore, qui ont fait leur réputation d'orfèvres en matière de chansons à déguster à même l'écrin. "Stupidly Happy", faussement niais et coupant comme du verre, qui talonne un "Playground" d'ouverture coloré rock (la saveur prétendument imposée de ce second exercice), résume mieux l'affaire que le champion des fans (lire MDAM) ou le chroniqueur à la bourre ne sauraient le faire. Oui, XTC est tourjours vivant et, comme Depeche Mode à Bercy, Cure dans sa lagune ou les Nits dans nos rêves, peut encore en remontrer à tous ceux qui pensent que la pop est un gadget de vieux, un souvenir rance. Loin des sales majors, près du coeur et de l'action, Andy et Colin déroulent leurs couplets tapis et leurs refrains rouges sous une pluie d'arpèges électriques, l'oeil dans le rétro - "In Another Life" sent bon son Ray Davies bien digéré - et la tête dans les nuages (animé de sursauts acoustiques, "Boarded Up" sonne intemporel puisque d'un autre temps). On arrêtera bientôt de s'acharner sur leur fantôme, c'est juré, mais franchement, il ne doit pas faire très bon s'appeler Gallagher Bros dans un pays où des préretraités même pas aigris (relire leur Discorama) sont capables de décocher une beatleserie aussi facile à défendre que "My Brown Guitar". Oh, bien sûr, ce n'est pas une fin en soi mais ça ferait du bien à la radio par laquelle ça passerait. . . Mieux encore, "We're All Light" ou "You And The Clouds Will Fall" [sic] frétillent d'une telle urgence groove que Jamiroquai et consorts (comme des poubelles uh, uh) feraient bien de se méfier de ce magic bus qui menace de leur passer entre les jambes. Positifs, goguenards, voire rieurs - la guitare et le texte de "Church Of Women" sont à se tordre de plaisir - Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding ne sont pas des grabataires qui ressassent mais des artistes / musiciens qui continuent de faire carrière contre vents et marées. Que leur public s'amenuise ou ne se reproduise plus qu'après le foot, ils s'en moquent comme de leur première guitare qu'ils ont forcément gardée et qu'on doit entendre, quelque part dans "Wapstar" [sic]. Vifs jusqu'au bout du disque ("The Wheel And The Maypole") tels des vertèbres bien huilées, ils n'ont que l'âge de ces années passées ensemble à embellir Swindon et le monde en évitant les abrutis, et de ces artères éclairées d'improbables néons multicolores qui sont finalement bien réels puisqu'on les a tous vus briller. Mission impossible mais accomplie.
* * * *

[Thanks to Jean-Jacques Massé and Jérôme Soligny
May 15, 2000
Accueil > Vinyl Cult > Disques

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Album - CD
M10 / Cooking Vinyl - 2000


Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Un an après "Apple Venus Vol. 1", "Wasp Star" est annoncé comme la suite directe, mais aussi comme le pendant électrique et "rock", à la débauche acoustique du premier chapitre.
"Apple Venus Vol. 1" avait brisé sept ans de silence pour le talentueux duo de songwriters anglais Andy Partridge et Colin Moulding. Un an après, "Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol.2)" est annoncé comme sa suite directe, mais aussi comme le pendant électrique et "rock" à la débauche acoustique d'un premier chapitre essentiellement symphonique. On se glisse donc dans "Wasp Star" comme dans une paire de vieilles pantoufles, tout heureux de retrouver intactes l'inventivité et la luxuriance mélodique de ses survivants du post-punk au parcours sans fautes. Des guitares aux riffs entêtants, des harmonies en cascades, des mélodies irrésistibles, des arrangements subtils, des textes qui sont un vrai régal pour l'esprit et cet humour "so british"? Pas de doute, XTC est toujours aussi brillant, peaufinant chaque chanson avec un soin maniaque, faisant de ce douzième album studio (compilations exceptées) une nouvelle collection irréprochable de pépites pop, qui sont autant de précieux moments de bonheur teintés d'une douce mélancolie. Après plus de 20 ans d'existence, XTC n'a rien perdu de sa créativité et de sa grâce. Un vrai miracle !

Christophe Lorentz

FACTS Interaktiv
Erscheint am 15. Mai; Seite 174; Nummer 19
Tipp der Woche
Wie in alten Tagen

* * * *  XTC,«Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume 2», Cooking Vinyl/RecRec.

Glücklich all die, die noch in den Glanztagen des New Wave - also um 1979 herum - XTC für sich entdeckten. Denn in den ganzen Jahren seither haben ihre Idole noch nie ein Album verbrochen, das weniger exzellent gewesen wäre als das vorangegan-gene. Und das ist mit dem vorliegenden Werk nicht anders geworden. Zusammen mit dem vor fünfzehn Monaten erschienenen «Apple Venus Volume 1» besteht es aus den Liedern, die Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding in den sechs Jahren komponierten, während derer sie aus Protest gegen einen lächerlich unvorteilhaften Vertrag mit Virgin Records einen konsequenten Aufnahmestreik durchzogen. Derweil in «Volume 1» eine reiche Palette von akustischen und doch üppig orchestralen Pop-Perlen steckte, sind auf «Volume 2» nun die lauteren, simpleren Songs dieser klandestinen Schaffensphase gesammelt. Simpel bedeutet bei XTC aber keineswegs banal oder gar dümmlich, nur süffiger. Auch wenn sich Partridge ein paar weitere persönliche Dämonen vom Leib singt (eine untreue Ex-Frau, einen Kater und mehr), sind die Melodien so fruchtig, eigenartig und unwiderstehlich wie eh und je. Dabei reicht die emotionelle Palette von Frivolem bis zum bluesigen Liebesschmerzsong à la «Wounded Horse». Mit anderen Worten - nichts Neues bei XTC. Zum Glück! (sk)

Unwiderstehlich wie eh und je: Andy Partridge und Colin Moulding von XTC.

© Facts

nude as the news
May 14, 2000

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume Two)
Rating: 7.0
Wasp Star
TVT, 2000
RiYL: Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Blur

In the seven years between 1992's Nonsuch and 1999's Apple Venus Vol. One, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding waged one of the great music-industry standoffs. Disenchanted with their experiences with Virgin Records, the veterans simply refused to record any new music until they were released from the shackles of their contract. Sure enough, it worked: the band was eventually dropped in 1998.

But the moral victory was not without its casualties: during the hiatus the band lost multi-instrumentalist Dave Gregory (a member of XTC for 15 years), reducing the ranks to two. Partridge and Moulding built up stores of songs over the decade that remained unrecorded until getting signed to American label TVT. Armed with a large batch of tunes, the duo decided that their bounty fit well into two categories - orchestral and electric - and decided to record and release two separately focused volumes.

Wasp Star is the second edition of Apple Venus, and its boisterous, melodic rock is invigorating to hear from a storm-weathered, 24-year old band. The classic signs of XTC are here: smart pop arrangements, witty ironic twists, beds of harmonies, and a touch of that sarcastic Swindon attitude. The pastoral mood of Vol. One lurks in the corners of Wasp Star, but the latter is decidedly more conventional in a rock instrumentation sense.

Electric guitar riffs drive many of Wasp Star's songs, including flashy opener "Playground," which has to rank among Partridge's best creations. The hook-laden tune uses a schoolyard playground as a parallel to "the big square world," as girls run off to ride other boys' bikes and bullies pick fights with the protagonist. Partridge utters a bitter theme statement in the final verse: "School is out, but never over / and that's the only lesson you can learn."

Partridge went through a messy divorce prior to the release of Apple Venus Vol. One, and some of the personal lyric content on that record has bled over onto Wasp Star. But for every "Wounded Horse" ("Well I bit out my own tongue / just like a wounded horse / when I found out you'd been riding / another man"), he includes something like "Stupidly Happy," an almost irony-free, giddy-with-new-love tune. The bouncy "We're All Light" is basically an elaborate pick-up line, the narrator trying to court a young lovely by simplifying existentialism ("Don't you know / 'bout a zillion years ago, some stars sneezed / now they're paging you in you won't mind if I kiss you now").

First single "The Man Who Murdered Love" almost seems like Partridge's personal confession after years of writing bitter pop songs about being slighted by the fairest emotion. The composer encounters Love personified in a bad state and throws the final straw on his back ("He was begging on his bended knee / for me to pull him from his misery / hadn't worked at all this century / said I'd do a job for all humanity").

Moulding takes the reins for three tunes and seems content to revel in his George Harrison-esque role. His "In Another Life" and "Standing In For Joe" have a pleasant chugging tempo and a much more subtle lyrical approach than Partridge's fare. "Boarded Up" is a simple, desolate tune describing the decaying fate of XTC's industrial hometown of Swindon, England.

Wasp Star doesn't make quite as striking an impression as Apple Venus Vol. One, but it's a crucial complement, assuring that XTC can not only still crank out great albums, they can still rock. It's very refreshing that these guys are still around at the turn of the century, and their twelfth album is a tasty addition to their catalog.

- Troy Carpenter

National Post, Toronto
Saturday, May 13, 2000

Saturday, May 13, 2000

The bookworm and the outdoorsman
After professional and personal setbacks, XTC's new album hits the stores Tuesday

Jeff Breithaupt
National Post

Valerie Phillips
Colin Moulding, left, and Andy Partridge are back with a new collection of heavy melodies and life tunes. At their heart is the theme of decay and rebirth. 'Decay,' says Partridge, 'is wonderful.'

If there's one thing Andy Partridge loves, it's a good metaphor. He's pretty much exhausted the song-as-meal, song-as-building and song-as-film-scene angle. So, at the moment, the prime songwriter of XTC -- a two-man band from Swindon, England, that has spent the last two and a half decades getting progressively better at what it does -- is establishing the song-as-chair metaphor.

"In the beginning," Partridge says on the phone from his hometown, where he still lives, "I just thought that you could knock up a song in two seconds. You could sing any old rubbish, grab any old chords and there you go. That's a song, then. And to a small extent it is. Like you could grab a bunch of sticks and put them roughly into the shape of a chair and say, 'That's a chair.' Yeah, it has the appearance of a chair, but you try sitting on it. It's not going to work. It's not going to hold up. It's not well structured. It's not well joined. It doesn't have beauty."

Always maturing as songwriters, Partridge and his partner, Colin Moulding, appear to be in total control of their craft. And judging from the plush orchestral pop of last year's gorgeous Apple Venus, Volume One and the rock-solid guitar pop of Wasp Star: Apple Venus, Volume Two (due in stores on Tuesday), the two songwriters are incapable of a misstep. "I think we've learned how to create the magic," says Moulding, on the phone from his home, just eight kilometres from Partridge's.

Starting with the rickety New Wave of 1978's White Music, through the somewhat sturdier songcraft of 1982's English Settlement, to the anti-assembly-line ethic that's fuelled their work since 1987's pivotal Skylarking, Partridge and Moulding have nurtured ever-higher songwriting standards.

"It's been like coming out of a dream," Partridge says of the journey that took XTC from a scrappy, road-weary New Wave band to country-gent songwriters. "The dream was that I wanted to be a pop star as a kid," Partridge continues. "I remember writing an essay in my schoolbook at the age of 14 and drawing a picture of me from the back with longish hair, onstage with spotlights on me. Once I got into that world, though, I didn't want to be in it. The only good thing about it was I began to understand songwriting."

On Apple Venus and Wasp Star, Partridge carries about 80% of the songwriting with Moulding contributing the rest. "People are always saying to me, 'Why don't you let [Moulding] have more songs?' " chuckles Partridge. "He hasn't got any more. I might write, say, 20 songs, and we might gravitate to doing 10 of them. Then Colin might write six songs, and we might gravitate to doing three of his. So, it's sort of a natural weeding-out process that uses roughly the same percentage of our work."

That ratio works beautifully. Moulding's detailed trifles of life in middle England (Fruit Nut and In Another Life are recent examples) crop up as nicely timed interruptions to Partridge's dense, big-idea pop (Harvest Festival and Church of Women). "It's funny," says Partridge, whose plucky conversational energy belies the long chain of phone interviews he's been conducting, "I'm a big indoor, bookworm type, and I write songs that seem to take place outdoors. Colin's more outgoing, outdoorsy, and all his songs take place in different rooms of the house."

"I think my songs are more English than Andy's," Moulding counters. "Andy's are more cosmopolitan."

The songs on Apple Venus and Wasp Star were written during the six-year period that followed their underrated 1993 album, Nonsuch. It was a frustrating time for the band, one that found them mired in a stalemate with Virgin, their long-time record label. "I learned never to trust the major labels again," Partridge says. "The whole thing of them imprisoning us was really ludicrous." The standoff continued for most of the '90s, with Virgin refusing to let Partridge, Moulding and guitarist Dave Gregory (who has since left the band) out of their contract.

"At the point we went on strike," Partridge says. "We'd already given them 13 or 14 years royalty-free because we had such a crap deal." Virgin eventually relented and released the band, which quickly established three deals with indie labels TVT (in North America), Cooking Vinyl (in the U.K. and parts of Europe) and Pony Canyon (in Japan and Southeast Asia). "It's early days," Partridge says, "but we've had none of the apathy, confusion or idiocy that went on with Virgin."

Although a fallow recording period for the band, the Virgin impasse produced a rich crop of Partridge and Moulding songs. The glorious results can be heard on Apple Venus and Wasp Star, which were originally conceived as a double-CD set. "I like to think it would have been quite a world-beating package," Partridge says. By the time Apple Venus, Volume One was recorded, however, the band had run out of money. "Our bill came to £190,000, where we had budgeted about £90,000," says Partridge. "We had one portion of the double record -- the orchestral half -- so we just decided to finish it off and release it first."

Volume One was greeted enthusiastically by critics ("It was like we'd written our own reviews," Partridge says), selling a respectable, though still disappointing to the band, 250,000 copies worldwide. Anchored by two of Partridge's best songs -- the elegant Easter Theatre and the multi-layered River of Orchids -- Apple Venus is probably the greatest pop album you've never heard.

The album's "part two," Wasp Star, should garner another round of wonderful reviews, but little in the way of attention from a teen-obsessed market. Like all post-Skylarking XTC, the new collection puts melody -- irresistible melody -- right out front, with lyrics that more-often-than-not reflect Partridge's fascination with the life cycle of decay and rebirth. It's a theme he's examined in previous songs (Season Cycle from Skylarking, for example), and it is at the heart of Wasp Star.

"Decay is wonderful," Partridge says cheerfully. "Decay helps grow the next new growth. You can't have roses unless you have horsesh--."

During the years that XTC was on strike, Partridge endured no shortage of horsesh--: Not only was his chief business relationship disintegrating, but his wife left him for another man (a situation reflected in the new songs, Playground and Wounded Horse). But, as Partridge says, with decay comes new life, and soon after his divorce, he found himself in love again. "I went from super-low to super-high," Partridge says. "I went through a separation and divorce, and then I got together with someone who made me feel like an enraptured teenager."

The silliest of silly love songs, Stupidly Happy, and the euphoric You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful are the direct result of this new relationship. "On Stupidly Happy, I was trying to get across that idea of being drunk with love. You're in this kind of trance state where you can't function too well, and it's really nice. It's obnoxious for your friends, though, because they're not on the same laughing gas as you."

On his preoccupation with decay and rebirth, Partridge says, "I have to be careful in future because I've just about wrung it dry. It's a big theme, though. Things have to bust and break down for other things to grow."

Recording contracts and marriages, for example, that fall apart in order to make way for two of the best albums of any year.

[Thanks to Neil Oliver]

May 2000


This is pop!

Big bright tunes on a little brown guitar. By Andy Miller


Wasp Star (Apple
Venus Volume 2)

Follow-up to last year's stellar comeback, Apple Venus Volume 1.

XTC: Partridge (right) and Moulding, the old master painters.

Andy Partridge talks to Andy Miller.

First a Pink Thing, now a Brown Guitar. Leave it alone, you'll go blind!
"(Laughing) Yeah, what colour is it? Well, one half of it's pink. It's a bit like a Zoom lolly - you suck it and it changes colour."

This being a more traditional-sounding record - did you miss having a second guitarist?
"Er, no. I was a bit worried at first, 'cos I used to give all the fancy stuff to Dave Gregory. I'd give him all the difficult bits to do. 'Can you find an arpeggio to tumble down as I'm singing that bit?' I did put off all the solos and the twiddly bits right 'til the end of the album. But I think I did OK."

Is that your daughter singing on Playground?
"It is. She's got fantastic pitch and she plays the guitar. I mean, I couldn't sing, I still have to really work at it, but she's just got it, you know. I had to ask her to sing out of tune. I took her into the studio and said, Look, you have to be a gang of kids in a playground. She sang it and she sounded like Nina Simone."

Whatever happened to The Dukes Of Stratosphear's bubblegum album?
"We were going to be 12 different bands. I've got a book of band names that we were going to be. Like Sopwith Caramel or The Twelve Flavors of Hercules. (Finds notebook) Let me go through some of these names: The Tweedledeens, The Herbert Fountains, Irving Merlin, The Lollipopes, The Four Posters, The Periwig Pack, Cake's Progress, Jellyache, Funnel Of Love, The Rubber Ducks, Ancient Grease, The Piccadilly Circus Tent Rip Repair Company, Kitchener's Sink, Isambard Kingdom Necessary On A Bicycle? (Much hilarity ensues) There's another page at the back here. . ."

WHEN ASKED why XTC doesn't tour (and he frequently is), Andy Partridge likes to compare his records to paintings, with the studio as his canvas. Once the painting is completed you don't expect the artist to repaint it in front of you, do you?

Apple Venus Volume 1 was the band's first outing for seven years, and a triumphant vindication of Partridge's bloody-minded determination (with his partner Colin Moulding) to keep XTC going as a studio-only concern, whatever the pressures: illness, debt, the last-minute departure of guitarist Dave Gregory. A gorgeously orchestrated and ambitious song cycle, AV1 garnered XTC some of the best reviews of their career. And here's the good news: Volume 2 is even better.

Ironically, Wasp Star - Mayan for Venus, apparently - is an album that could be reproduced live, a collection of guitary pop songs which may well be the band's most straightforward set ever. XTC records have a reputation for being growers, often to their commercial detriment, but it would take real musical Attention Deficit Disorder not to get most of these songs on the first or second listen. We're All Light, Standing In For Joe and I'm The Man Who Murdered Love all have more hooks than Velcro. And in the one-riff-and-that's-your-lot Stupidly Happy, they might just have one of the stupidest and happiest ditties ever committed to tape. "All the lights of the cars in the town form the strings of a big guitar," sings Partridge gleefully. It could even be - steady now - a hit.

But despite Partridge's claims that Wasp Star would be a big dumb axefest, things aren't that stoopid - this is XTC after all, not The Ramones. The Wheel And The Maypole intricately entwines two entirely different songs; Boarded Up ("two-by-four-ded up") is Moulding's bluesy lament for his home town; My Brown Guitar (you work it out) is charmingly filthy; and the astonishing Church Of Women - from Partridge purring "butter-err-err-err" in the first verse to the song's a capella, devotional ending - is naïve, lusty and beautiful.

The truth is that very few people make records like this any more; big-hearted, brainy, funny and poignant, and in the Grand Tradition of British pop that stretches back to, yup, The Beatles. It's another old master from the old master painters.

[Thanks to Chris Browning]

Entertainment Today
May 12, 2000
Disc Domain

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
by David Bash

In evaluating the present day work of an artist, it's difficult to resist comparing them to their own past, although in truth this is somewhat unjust. Last year, when XTC released Apple Venus Volume 1, it was their first album in seven years, and perhaps for that reason most fans and critics alike couldn't help but rate it against their glories of years ago like Oranges and Lemons or English Settlement, a comparison it almost always lost. If listeners had evaluated it on its own merits, it would have been seen as an even better album than it was. The same can be said about XTC's latest release, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2). That it may not be as monumental an accomplishment as Oranges And Lemons, but it's an excellent disc filled with the kind of whimsical, well-crafted pop songs that have become a signature of the band.

Main men Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are in fine form on this disc, and it's clear from the tone of Partridge's contributions that he's in the best headspace he's been in for many years. The opening track, "Playground" is filled with gorgeous guitars and perfectly placed background vocals, and others like "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love," "We're All Light," and the reggae-inflected "Church Of Women" show Partridge to be very much at ease. The closing track, "The Wheel And The Maypole," is filled with Partridge's devilishly clever sexual metaphors wrapped around a seagoing melody that moves toward a brisker pace. Moulding's offerings are very good as well, as he chimes in with playfully cheeky tracks like "In Another Life" and "Standing In For Joe."

Like its predecessor, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) shows that XTC hasn't lost any of their unique and genuine mettle that has made them one of the most respected rock 'n' roll bands of all time.

[Thanks to Drew MacDonald]

May 11, 2000
Music: Reviews

wasp star
tvt records
Ronnie doesn't wanna hear it, and advises you to "just say no!"
remember those dumb irish guys who had that song that was something like "I would walk a thousand miles and I would walk a thousand more la la la whatever whatever"? this album kind of sounds like those guys, but maybe a little worse. I think the lyric "im stupidly happy" kind of sums it up best. maybe it would be better if the line was just "im stupid."
--nate cavalieri

Las Vegas Weekly
May 11, 2000
Music: CD-Reviews



Reviewed by Richard Abowitz

Ever since the beginning of the world, XTC has been making Beatles-inflected pop. Last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 included acoustical and orchestral arrangements of songwriter Andy Partridge's sterling replications of the Fab Four's Abbey Road vintage. The totally unsurprising Wasp Star presents a complementary batch of songs, but this time the guitars are plugged in. Either way, XTC more than makes up in vitality for whatever is missing in originality. Long-neglected bass player Colin Moulding has three contributions on Wasp Star, including "In Another Life," one of his strongest. But as with previous XTC albums, Moulding's songs have the misfortune of being sandwiched between the ones by the far more talented Partridge. Tracks like "My Brown Guitar," "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," and "Church of Women" show Partridge at his best, writing charming pop songs that dwell on his melancholy. At other times, however, there's a cynicism and bitterness to Partridge that can bring his soaring creations crashing down. One such moment is the clunker "Wounded Horse" about a cheating woman: "Well I stumbled and I fell like a wounded horse when I found out you'd been riding another man." Thankfully, for most of Wasp Star, Partridge leaves this shtick to Limp Bizkit, who do it better.

Seattle Weekly
May 11, 2000
Music: Citizen John

XTC has just released the electric counterpart to last year's acoustically driven Apple Venus Volume 1. Wasp Star Apple Venus Volume 2 (TVT) is a more aggressive and better defined release than its counterpart. It's also another impressive chapter in the band's long, winding, and often confusing history. Andy Partridge's legendary stage fright has kept XTC from touring since 1982. Some fans and critics argue that if they'd performed live throughout the '80s, XTC would have sold countless records and become major stars. On the flipside, had they been on the road all that time, they might not have created such a complex batch of songs.

I don't know exactly what Andy's hang-ups are, but I can relate--albeit on a much smaller scale. I can get on the air six days a week, play music, make up stories, and not skip a beat even though I am talking to tens of thousands of people. However, as an extracurricular duty, I've had to MC shows that the station sponsors at local clubs. In that setting, instead of thousands of loyal listeners, I'm forced to address a couple hundred drunken music fans who stare at me blankly, wondering when the hell I'll shut up and let the band start playing. Just thinking about it makes me want to throw up. I've learned to down about seven drinks every time I have to go on stage. Talking into a microphone at four walls is one thing, addressing 100 or more people--people who are sizing me up and thinking to themselves, "He's much uglier than I pictured"--is a whole different issue. So the world should forgive Andy for his fear and hatred of the stage. If you didn't have to get in front of a thousand people to make the music he makes, you wouldn't either.

john richards

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
THURSDAY * May 11, 2000

MUSIC PICK: 'Wasp Star (Apple Venus 2)'
Thursday, May 11, 2000

'Wasp Star (Apple Venus 2)'

XTC / TVT Records / 12 tracks / Our critic's grade: A

After two decades, you'd think XTC would tire of updating the Beatles every few years. You'd be wrong. And we should all be grateful that Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are sticking it out. XTC's latest Lennon-McCartney homage is the duo's best album in 15 years. Gone (wisely) is the arty orchestra play that drenched 1999's spotty (if often brilliant) "Apple Venus." In its place are the tight guitar-bass-drums pop, baroque lyrics and killer hooks that made XTC an enduring '80s-radio treat. Catchy songs like "Stupidly Happy" and "Playground" echo XTC classics like "Mayor of Simpleton" and "Respectable Street." And much of "Wasp" has that irresistible hum-along-at-first-listen quality that rewards repeated listenings. Bottom line: This just might be the best record Paul McCartney never made.

--- Nick Tate

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

The Washington Post
Wednesday, May 10, 2000; Page C05
By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer

Pure Pop For Now People

There's a guitarist in Los Angeles who performs with a "Friday the 13th" hockey mask strapped to his face and a KFC chicken bucket on his noggin. Not to knock the guy's chops--hey, he's toured with Ozzfest, after all--but Buckethead's shtick highlights the hurdles facing long-term musicians in an industry that thrives on short-term novelty. How do you sustain an audience without resorting, metaphorically speaking, to a cardboard takeout pail?

XTC has been staring at this problem for a long time. The best and most durable British band to emerge from the late '70s collision of punk and pop, XTC has been producing catchy, bucket-free albums since Col. Sanders's spry days. And it's still at it. "Wasp Star" (TVT Records), the group's first studio rock album in eight years, offers a dozen guilt-free pop bonbons, all of which you can savor without hating yourself in the morning. The music snaps and bounces with Keith Richards-like guitar hooks, vocal harmonies and winking humor that might sound Kinksy if the whole production weren't so disciplined and tight.

Though every bit as accessible as five dozen acts that were born, rose to superstardom and then died since 1977, XTC has what is politely called a "devoted" following--which is to say, it's never quite caught on. Part of the problem is that Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge swore off touring in 1982, the year that Partridge collapsed in mid-concert with a stomach ulcer and a horrific case of stage fright. Today, XTC is England's own Steely Dan, a pair of willfully low-profile and vastly gifted perfectionists who concede little to pop music's peculiar rigors. Aside from songs, the group's got little to offer its fans.

But what songs. Over the years, and on rare chart-toppers like "Making Plans for Nigel," from 1979's "Drums & Wires," Partridge and Moulding have hashed over topics as exotic as the Argonauts and British class angst. "Wasp Star" finds the band fixating on love like smitten, scheming sophomores at the back of the class. "Like us men, like us men, will they ever like us men?" they wonder in "Church of Women." "Playground" repeats a fetching, metallic guitar riff and asks if the drama of schoolyard play time, with its damsels and bullies, is merely a rehearsal for "the big square world." The single "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" is one of the year's best sing-alongs so far. If it doesn't plant itself on alternative radio play lists, that'll prove it: XTC is going to need a couple of buckets.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

May 2000

Wasp Star: Apple Venus Part II (Idea/Cooking Vinyl)

Apple Venus Part I was released last year to almost universal acclaim. The promised follow-up, Wasp Star, abandons the orchestral/pastoral conceits of Apple Venus Part I and delves into uninhibited, unabashed guitar pop - 12 fabulous gems in a crown of pop glory that only get shinier with each succeeding play. Yes, XTC are back with their second release in a year (three if you include the Homespun album - a collection of the demos of Apple Venus Part 1).

Significantly, Colin Moulding's best work has also returned. The folky eccentric Boarded Up sounds like an outtake from the Beach Boys' quirkiest LP, Smiley Smile; In Another Life maintains Moulding's interest in easy-listening music - the recurring horn/harmonica riff accentuates the song's rather quaint concepts - "I'll be your Burton/You'll be my Liz" - and Standing In For Joe (originally intended for the bubblegum pop project), a paean to infidelity, comes across like a latter-day Genesis/Steely Dan ditty but works nonetheless.

However, as usual, it is the genius of Andy Partridge that makes XTC what they are - one of the finest pop bands of all time. While the emphasis on Wasp Star appears to have been hooks, hooks and even more hooks, this approach has not been at the expense of Partridge's familiar word play and wit.

Tracks like I'm The Man Who Murdered Love, with lines like "He was begging on his bended knee/For me to put him from his misery/He hadn't worked at all this century/Said 'I do a service for humanity'," or My Brown Guitar - "You want some lovely, I got some lovely/In my yard, in my yard/There be inchworm, there be football/There be yardstick stir some lovely/Laying waiting naked for you" - and Wounded Horse - "Well I bit out my own tongue like a wounded horse/When I found out you'd been riding another man" - reiterate Partridge's claim to be one of UK's most enduring (and endearing songwriters). Well, he is certainly in better shape than most of the "Class of '77."

With Wasp Star, XTC have made up for the prolonged hiatus since Nonsuch (if you consider an album every four years as "normal" frequency), and that both parts of Apple Venus had been completed without the considerable influence of Dave Gregory. Certainly the song arrangements have suffered for this (especially it has to be said on Wasp Star), but has not proven fatal to the spirit of XTC. Andy Partridge's continuing belief in his art is the winning factor.

In the circumstances and taking into account what XTC needed to achieve with this album, I would have to say that Wasp Star is an unqualified success. (9) - Kevin Mathews

BC Magazine, Hong Kong
May 2000
Music Reviews
by Neil Chase

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Cooking Vinyl / Pony Canyon
(Available 22 May)

Think of British band XTC and you might recall the excellent This is Pop or Making Plans for Nigel from the late 70s, or later successes like Senses Working Overtime from the 1980s. XTC released ten albums between 1978 and 1992, which received fair acclaim, but latterly that was restricted to more cult appeal than popular chart success. Even though the boys have had their quiet spells, and trimmed down to a duo in the intervening years, they have never gone away. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding have never been less than original either. They wanted to show off different strings to musical bows here, and decided to release two albums in quick succession. Apple Venus Volume 1 came out last year (their first studio album in seven years) and displayed their more luscious orchestral pop side. The second half of this collection shows a slightly harder side, but still wrapped around some fine pop songs. Yes you can still have guitar tracks that put the fun back into music; Stupidly Happy and I'm the Man Who Murdered Love show that perfectly, having more life than many whole albums these days. Others like Church Of Women or Wounded Horse demonstrate their moodier sides. Wasp Star is unlikely to gain the recognition that it deserves, and although it might not be perfect, it is still thoroughly enjoyable. It's also hard to know where XTC fit in the over-categorised music of today, but if nothing else they are an antidote to the musical mediocrity that is prevalent in Backstreet and Britney Land.

[Thanks to Simon Deane]

Bloomington Independent
May 4-11, 2000

Sugar, ah honey, honey

XTC continue the pop invasion

By Lane Hewitt

XTC Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2 (TVT)

Good pop songs never go out of fashion. As long as people whistle, hum, and sing along with car radios, a great melody and a sticky hook will always be sought after.

Which is where song-friendly artists like XTC, Apples In Stereo and Elliott Smith come in. All three acts stick with traditional guitar-driven setups (augmented by layers of strings and keys) and draw from the same sphere of influence (Beatles, Beach Boys, psychedelia, the pure tunesmanship of Ray Davies and Paul Simon) while simultaneously sounding fresh and original and nothing, really, like each other.

XTC have been at it so long, or are so supremely inspired, they make it look easy. Wasp Star comes hot on the heels of a masterpiece (last year's ornate orchestral set Apple Venus, Vol. One), and for that it is even more extraordinary. Yelping singer/songwriter Andy Partridge has turned once more to his unique stable of obsessions (the nature of existence, his divorce, his expansive libido) and turned out songs so catchy you could sell chewing gum with them, but full of exhilarating left turns. What's more, the group have dusted off the electric axes in earnest for the first time since 1989's Oranges and Lemons. "Playground," "Stupidly Happy" and especially the summer-baked power pop gem "The Man Who Murdered Love" rock out with surprising authority.

Elsewhere bassist Colin Moulding checks in with three of his own jaunty, shaggily endearing compositions and Partridge tackles ersatz samba ("You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful"), bluesy Lennon romp ("Wounded Horse"), and hoedown ("The Wheel And The Maypole") with elastic, fantastic results. Wasp Star is 51 minutes and seems shorter.

[Thanks to Jan C. Harris]

ABC World News Now
May 2, 2000

Vinny Marino Reviews Newly Released Albums

ALISON STEWART, co-anchor: If you can't tell a Backstreet Boy from a member of *NSYNC, if you aren't sure which of the current Supremes is an original Supreme, and if you're still waiting for the release of that Carpenter's Greatest Hits eight-track, well then you might want to sit down and listen up to our in-house music man, Vinny Marino from ABC Radio.

Good morning, Vinny.

VINNY MARINO (ABC News Radio): Morning.

STEWART: Okay. Real quick, an album released this week I should be excited about.

MARINO: Well, it's not this week. It will be out May 23rd.


MARINO: It's XTC's Apple Venus Volume II, which everyone's been looking really, really forward to. And it's very electric. It's very classic XTC. So, if you're a fan of the band, you're going to be very happy.

STEWART: Which is kind of nice British pop.

MARINO: Oh, indeed, absolutely.

STEWART: It's an actual British pop.

MARINO: We like that a lot.

STEWART: We'll be looking forward to that. Vinny Marino, thanks for joining us.

MARINO: Thank you.

STEWART: You're watching World News Now.

[Thanks to Wes Hanks]
europe daily
Monday, May 1, 2000

Pop Nursery Rhymes
The British band XTC are back with a sparkling new CD

Enough of high technology for a while. This week's London Eye is about high fidelity: XTC's new CD 'Wasp Star', to be released May 22.

Formed back in the mid-1970s in the old English industrial town of Swindon, XTC comprises the singing and songwriting duo of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. As usual, Partridge writes and sings most of the songs on the new album, with Moulding contributing a clutch of droll and keenly observed ballads.

Though XTC has been around for nigh on 25 years now, the band's music is as vivacious and bright as ever. 'Wasp Star' — with its raunchy guitars and boisterous rhythms — harks back to the rougher, more hard rock sound of the band's early days. (Click here for a review of 'Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles 1977-92') The new songs have the melodic charm and lyric playfulness characteristic of all XTC's music, qualities that lend these tunes an air of modern nursery rhymes.

'Wasp Star', by XTC
Partridge's lyrics have long been riddled with references to and excerpts from nursery rhymes. Appropriately enough, the first piece on the new CD is entitled 'Playground', a song about the slings and arrows children suffer in the schoolyard. An early title for this CD was 'A History of the Middle Ages', an apt description given that 'Playground' is the kind of remembrance of things past engaged in by men of a certain age. Partridge writes in the song of how in the playground we "never stop rehearsing for the big square world." The same can be said of nursery rhymes: these seemingly innocuous jingles are actually sophisticated recitals of usually subversive — and distinctly adult — truths.

Partridge cites 'Goosey Goosey Gander' as an example. At the time that it was written, every adult knew that this little ditty referred to Oliver Cromwell's troops — known as "geese" because of the way they walked in their boots — who roamed the English countryside terrorizing those who refused to follow religious orthodoxy. Hence, the lines:

There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers!
So I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.

What we know as an artifact of children's lore was in its own time a screed about religious intolerance. "Nursery rhymes are like little verbal hand grenades that go off when passed from person to person," Partridge says.

The best songs on 'Wasp Star' are like little musical hand grenades that detonate on impact with the ear. 'We're All Light' is one such device. Partridge is the first to admit that the words are "just party talk, a mixture of lame chat-up lines." And the song's uplifting melody and chugging beat make it the ultimate in easy listening. But lyrics like "Don't you know/ 'Bout a zillion years ago/ Some star sneezed, now they're paging you in reception" and "Don't you know in this new Dark Age/ We're all light" are both scientifically accurate — all matter, including our bodies, was once spewed out from an exploding star — and emotionally true.

In keeping with its scientific bent, 'We're All Light' also contains a wonderful theremin sample. The theremin is an early electronic instrument that emits spooky oscillating tones in response to the player's hand movements around its aerial. The sound of the theremin usually heralded the arrival of alien space ships in 1950s science fiction films and was also used to great effect in the Beach Boys' hit 'Good Vibrations'.

Other highlights of the new CD include Moulding's 'Boarded Up', a tune he describes as "a lament for Swindon." It's a dour song, so dry and desolate that you half expect a tumbleweed to come rolling out of the speakers as you listen to it. The song's jangling, skeletal guitar and its grim descriptions of a run-down Swindon are evocative and moving. 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love' is another of Partridge's charming and inventive lyrics about romance gone wrong. 'Stupidly Happy', a paean to the stupefying effects of love, is a piece built around a single, repeated guitar riff. The song is in some respects moronic, but like a nursery rhyme that sticks in the mind it is also incredibly catchy — and contains one of the best-placed cymbal strikes in all of pop music. I know, I know: 'Wasp Star' is only unabashed, ebullient bubble gum music, but I like it.


The Tulane Hullabaloo
April 28, 2000

Come on get happy with XTC

Cindy Fernandez, contributing writer

Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Artist: XTC Label: TVT
Rating: 5 They may be past their prime.

Back in the day, XTC cut their teeth on tense, guitar-driven riffs typical of the late '70s New Wave scene. They outlived most of their musical peers, wisely picking and incorporating the more redeeming elements from each passing fad as they went along.

A series of musical growing pains ensued. Some were well received. And some were severely criticized, like the time they infuriated the masses (especially Kmart) by challenging our Western belief system in an apathetic being with the cheerful little ditty "Dear God." (Who buys an XTC CD at Kmart anyway?)

File Photo

How is it that a band whose critical acclaim has typically been greater than their sales enjoyed such staying power? Luck, talent and a smart sense that comes through in their lyrics and musical composition, usually. That, plus an army of rabid fans with obsessions comparable to that of Trekkies.

Now in a state of full, musical adulthood the music has morphed into a lavishly arranged, beautiful entity of meticulous melodies--and it's become pretty sterile. "My Brown Guitar" spews forth sexual double-entendres that actually sound clean. Even "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" is feel-good music worthy of heavy rotation at a Prozac party. "Wounded Horse" is perhaps the most upbeat "I've-just-been-dumped drinking song" ever sung. Its slurred lyrics "Well I bit out my own tongue like a wounded horse/When I found out you'd been riding another man" sound like front-man Andy Partridge is happy to rid himself of both the horse-luvin' broad and his pesky oral appendage.

If the chipper attitude keeps up, XTC will find themselves careening down a road heading straight into the city limits of that happy-go-lucky, super-affluent metropolis known as Disney soundtracks. And the Kmart masses will eat it up with a spoon.

Copyright 2000, The Tulane Hullabaloo
All rights reserved

Fort Worth Weekly
April 27-May 4, 2000

XTC Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) TVT

Swindon's greatest export, XTC has been crafting off-kilter pop anthems since (gulp) 1977, and continue to do so with Wasp Star, an album that head honcho Andy Partridge claims is the electrified brother of last year's hiatus-breaking revelation-in-strings, Apple Venus.

After 1992's Nonsuch, the band went on strike while extracting themselves from their contract with Virgin. In the intervening period, the band had plenty of time to devote to writing new material. Wasp Star bears all the XTC hallmarks of delicate albeit slightly skewed melodies and lyrics. Positively bursting with unexpected joy, the album is undoubtedly a reaction to Partridge's significantly improved emotional life. Epitomized by the incessantly cheery single "Stupidly Happy," the album features more upbeat, guitar-driven tracks than has been heard from XTC since 1982's English Settlement.

While triumphantly proclaiming their good spirits, XTC eschews simplicity and remains resolutely eccentric, but with Wasp Star their peculiarities are infectious.

-- Colin Maycock

The Daily Free Press, Boston University
April 2000

Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume Two

TVT Records

For anyone who thought that XTC's seven year strike had more to do with the band's laziness than it did with their record contract nightmare will be silenced by the fact that they've released two albums within a year of each other on their new label TVT Records; Wasp Star - Apple Venus Volume Two follows the band's near perfect Apple Venus Volume One.

While Volume One was comprised of acoustic and orchestral songs Volume Two finds Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding picking up their original instrument of choice, the electric guitar, and discovering that they still have plenty of rock riffs and catchy hooks to bestow upon the music world. Is it better than Volume One? No. Is it better than 95% of all other music released this year? Absolutely.

Volume One was more than anyone could have expected from the band's first release in seven years; it was simply stunning. And although the rabid fans and critics declared it as the masterpiece that it was, the general public, as always, remained indifferent to their talent. There's a slight chance that this could change with the release of Wasp Star but at this point long term breath holding is not suggested.

Wasp Star has some of the most radio friendly songs ever written by the band. With "Playground", "We're All Light", and "Stupidly Happy" XTC should be able to live comfortably for the next five years on single sales alone. That is, these songs all deserve to hold the #1 spot on Billboard. But the same could be said for a handful of songs on every XTC album since Drums And Wires. The sad and blunt truth is that mainstream success is simply not going to happen for Andy and Colin.

XTC are not hip. You will not see them on MTV surrounded by scantily clad women as they pretend to enjoy themselves at the Beach House. You will not hear these songs being blasted as the soundtrack to this summer's hottest action thriller. There will be no Rolling Stone or Spin cover. But as long as you're the type of person who doesn't need their tastes reinforced and applauded by mass popular culture than none of the above should bother you.

So for those people who are looking for a happy album whose songs are built on the foundation that Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, Lennon and McCartney built, look no further. Songwriting, as far as the three minute pop form goes, does not get much better than this. And although songs like "In Another Life" and "Wounded Horse" aren't outstanding you have to remember, to quote Musician magazine, ". . . the tunes these guys throw away are worth more than some bands' careers."

XTC are not concerned about anything else but their songwriting craft and Wasp Star is the latest in their 13 album collection of proof.

Grade: A

Ryan Walsh
-Muse Staff

[Thanks to and by permission of Ryan Walsh]

April 17, 2000

XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) TVT Records
Andy Partridge, Andy Partridge, Andy Partridge. Yes, Andy Partridge writes and sings most of XTC's songs. But the rest are written and sung by Colin Moulding, the bashful bassist who penned the group's first bonafide hit, "Making Plans for Nigel," over twenty (!) years ago. How about a little equal time? Moulding offers up three numbers on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), the guitar-oriented sequel to last year's ornate Volume 1. Moulding comforts his agoraphobic wife with sweet optimism in "In Another Life." "Boarded Up" drearily laments the musical isolation of XTC's hometown of Swindon with boot clomp beats, workbench percussion, a lonely acoustic guitar, and an air of matter-of-fact resignation. "Standing in for Joe" is an obvious contender for single status. Moulding plays Vincent Vega to Joe's Marcellus Wallace, keeping Joe's girl company while Joe is out of town. He lacks, however, Vega's self-control. "Love," as the song goes, "is like a river, you cannot stop its flow." It's fun to imagine Joe himself humming along to this effortless, breezy bit of pop perfection on his car radio as he drives home. Appropriately, the next song on the album is Partridge's "Wounded Horse," a self-pitying dirge about learning that your woman has been "riding another man." Partridge's divorce has proven to be quite the wellspring of inspiration. Volume 1's caustic "Your Dictionary" and the egocentric "I Can't Own Her" were cooked in a cauldron that now spews forth songs like "Wounded Horse" and "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," a giddy, gruesome confession that musically recalls the snappy XTC of yore. Ole Partsy is not all cynic. He lets the sun shine through with "We're All Light," a jaunty number propelled by a whirring siren a la Cypress Hill, the love-drunk "Stupidly Happy," and "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful," a hip-swinging song of reconciliation for his ex-wife. Divorce, deafness, and music biz politics caused XTC to woodshed for most of the nineties. XTC is boarded up no more. - Don Leibold

[Thanks to Don Leibold]
April 14, 2000
World Beat
Fresh Cuts
New and notable recordings

"Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)"


Together for more than 20 years, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding build on their unique and impressive aural resume with the release of "Wasp Star ..." Not an obvious sequel to last year's orchestral "Apple Venus Volume 1," this new set brims with guitar/drum-based nuggets and ever-witty lyrics, highlighted by "Playground," which recalls their heyday, and the riff-driven "Stupidly Happy."

© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
[Thanks to Ned Frey]

April 13, 2000

By Brian Watts

Wasp Star
TVT Records

* * *

It's all about the riffs for XTC this time around. Each track on the group's latest album, Wasp Star, is built upon the foundation of a solid, pop-heavy guitar riff. With most bands, that could be considered a problem, but XTC's unapologetic pop leanings seem to do no harm and a hell of a lot of good.
The opening notes of "Playground," the first track on the album, tells the whole story. That story consists of extremely solid music with clever lyrics.
"Playground" also exposes one of Wasp Star's biggest faults: pop sensibility. Although the music is interesting enough to escape its pop roots, the lyrics and melodies get mired in the poppy mud.
Compounding the problem posed by the sickeningly sweet melodies is the vocal delivery of Andy Partridge, who, rather than downplaying the sweetness, seems to revel in it. Despite this fact, the music usually succeeds in counteracting the sappiness.
The album does offer a fairly good mix of sounds, from the pop rock of "Stupidly Happy" to the slow, bluesy "Wounded Horse." So, despite the ability of some of the tracks to stand out, Wasp Star still manages to be a solid album.
If you have enjoyed previous XTC albums, Wasp Star will definitely rub you the right way. If anything, the sound of the band has progressed and expanded. The group has managed to broaden its sound without destroying the original vibe the band played off. A difficult feat for any group.


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