Friday, June 13, 2008

FDF Vol 1 Issue 97: XTC - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol 2)

Album - Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Artist - XTC
Key Players - Andy Partridge - vocals and guitar, Colin Moulding - vocals and bass
Produced By - Nick Davis

Release Date - May 23, 2000

What caused me to blow off the dust? - Almost every XTC album I own, I feel is so well produced and flat out "sounds" good, I was just in the mood I guess.

Overview -XTC have been making music, in some way, shape, or form since 1972. The Swindon, England band would have chart success in the 70's, 80's and 90's The bands success would ride the wave of the popularity of MTV Music videos and many of the records would become critical favorites. The band would go through issues with members, drugs, divorce, label problems, you name it and still somehow manage to release interesting records. This record here is the final studio album (to date) from the band, a "second volume" that, to many long time fans, sounded more like the XTC of old.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - "Playground" opens with a single guitar and some drums bring up the verse. The unmistakable vocals of Andy Partridge come in strong. The song has a good tempo to it. Come the chorus there are some nice harmonies. On the back side of the first verse, if you listen close you hear a nice bass fill run down. The second version a lot of nice harmonies, with some call and responses. A strong opening track. A heavily compressed guitar brings up "Stupidly Happy". This was a track that was released some some American radio stations. The vocals are clear, but a little light compared to the crunch of the guitar. Moulding takes the first verse and then Partridge takes a run at it. The song sort of keeps with the same guitar riff up through a distorted spoken word portion. About 1:40 in a second guitar, a little lighter comes up over the top, but the bottom guitar run remains. On the Moulding penned, and sung . "In Another Life" the band takes a little harsher direction. The vocals are a little more gruff at least in terms of an XTC song, but its off set up horns and what appears to be a harmonica (I can't find a credit on who played in in the liner notes so I could be way off base here). Vocals bring up "My Brown Guitar" from the outset. The drums are a little chaotic as well, before the verse begins. It remains pretty even keeled, almost plodding a little honestly. Its not overly interesting until a good minute in to the track when the band spruces things up and gets a little fun with the vocals and musical feel. Honestly, if you can get past the sort of odd ball first minute the song is really very strong. Opening with dual acoustic guitars and some foot stomps "Boarded Up" begins. Another Moulding penned and sung track it sounds a lot like a song Warren Zevon would do. It just has a Zevon feel to it. It keeps the solo vocal and guitar through out. A stop start intro starts off the infectious "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love". One must love songs that open with the chorus. The acoustic guitar is high up in the mix and the bass fills are fun to listen to as well. The vocals are very strong and this is the track that you'd play from this record if you were trying to get someone to hear what XTC is all about. A terrific song. "We're All Light" opens up with a simple drum beat before the vocals come up. Partridge shines vocally on this track, hitting the higher notes with ease. The guitars give a buzzy swirl as the song progresses. The backing vocals are also really strong, at times you almost hear him laughing during singing as he seems to be having a lot of fun. The final Moulding track where he takes lead vocals is "Standing in for Joe". He whispers the first few words before the song comes right in. The track has more of an orchestral feel to it. The bass line "walks" well during the verses. "Wounded Horse" follows and falls a little flat. The vocals seem forced and the music also feels pushed, never really getting anywhere interesting and fun really. A tight reggae feeling "You and the Clouds Will Still be Beautiful" is a welcome return to the uptempo XTC. The drums have a tight punch to them. The guitars are pushed up on this track and have a bright chime to them. Vocals are right up on "Church of Women" before there is an acoustic guitar break down. A sort of "canned" drum beat is laid underneath. The song has a horn section and is an interesting song musically. There are a few flashing of guitar solos but the overall feel of the track never strays from it planned goal. The album closes with "The Wheel and the Maypole". The guitar has a cool sound, with a basic drum beat to start off. The vocals come up and its a clean sound. About 35 seconds in the track really gets going, a full sound of bass, guitar, drums and great backing vocals spruce up the track that later gets the layers of strings. The song, overall, is very strong it has great musicianship and the bounce in the vocals is a lot of fun.

Where are they now?
- This was the bands last studio album, at least to date. In 2007 Andy Partridge reported that he had lost contact with Colin Moulding and said he was 'not interested in music anymore, and doesn't want to write'. So, who knows? Partridge is also busy with various solo projects and has been doing some interviews about his songs, and plans to release a book based on the interviews in late 2008.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - Andy Partridge has severe stage fright that began in the early 1980s. Since the "early 1980's equate out to my age being 10-13 the chances of me seeing them live are growing slimmer and slimmer.

FDF Overall Take - Most new fans to XTC would be very happy with a "best of" collection at the outset. This is a very strong studio effort from the band and it is a shame to think this might be "it". They were so prolific for so long one could only hope they are just on a hiatus.

Links -

Official XTC site

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!

***all mp3's have been removed***

My Brown Guitar
I'm The Man Who Murdered Love
We're All Light

Those tracks are all from "Wasp Star: Apple Venus Volume 2" which you can buy here

Bonus download!!!

This live version of Respectable Street was taken from "Urgh! A Music War", which is way out of print, and could be yours for as low as 49.00 here

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request


At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice. Never know what you're going to pull (always a great surprise). Never would have guessed XTC (even if you'd hinted New Wave).

Love "Playground." That line about leaving school but it never leaves you is so true.

Nice choice. Have to seek this out and give it a spin. thanks for the mp3s to get started.

At 4:39 AM, Anonymous matt said...

great band, great CD

who's this alan moulding character though?

At 1:19 PM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Brian - glad you dig. There are 2 volumes 1 and 2, and I was sort of 50/50 on both..this one just "won" this time around.

Matt- thanks for the heads up. There really is an Alan Moulding...i googled him! Oh well, I had "Colin" in the other places..its fixed..thanks

At 11:54 PM, Blogger JamieSmitten said...

I love XTC! I thought My Love Explodes was the most romantic song ever for years. Of course, that may be more of a commentary on me than how great a band XTC is.


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