"Let's reveal our childlike nature.
And leave our stocks and invoices to rot.
Let's go to pot."
Sometimes I wrongly ignore a band simply because of their name. That’s ridiculous, I know. However, when the name of a band gets under my skin, I just can’t work with them.
XTC isn’t the only band I’ve skipped for the longest time. The band, Jesus and Mary Chain, took awhile for me to get on-board. System Of A Down comes to mind quickly. Whatever. Eventually, I do get around to giving the irksome named band a listen and occasionally, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
With this in mind, allow me to introduce you to a very underrated album. A 1999 release of “Apple Venus Vol. 1” by the unfortunate named band from Swindon, England…XTC.
The regrettable title may give the consumer the impression that this album is an accumulation of leftover tracks and B-sides that perhaps were not strong enough to make it on one of the earlier albums. This could not be further from the truth. Until this offering from XTC, it had been 7 years since they were in the studio, allowing the band primo time to write and arrange this classic collection of songs.
XTC, now basically a two man band made up of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, have had label problems ever since the band stopped touring due to founding member, Partridge, suffering from severe bouts of stage fright and battling some other mental issues. The only upside to this dilemma is Partridge, a well-known genius in the studio and free from the burden of touring, spent hours creating some of the most melodic and breathtaking work ever.
Apple Venus Vol. 1 is filled with mostly orchestral strings, acoustic guitar, trippy horns and multi-layered vocals and it is gorgeous.
Leading off the album is the highly ambitious track, “River of Orchids” which is a spout against automobiles. “I want to see a river of orchids where we had a motorway. Push your car from the road”. The song begins with single drops of rain and gradually builds to what sounds like traffic done with strings and horns.
“If we'd all breathe in and blow away the smoke. New life.” (Easter Theatre), celebrates Easter (the Goddess not the holiday) with a sound that easily could have been a leftover from “Sgt. Pepper…” and just one of many highlights from the album.
“What was best of all was the longing look you gave me. That longing look across the hymnbooks and the canvas chairs”. (Harvest Festival) is Partridge reminiscing about a school moment early in his youth.
“Green Man” is a great song with a Renaissance/Mid-Eastern funky feel that has Partridge and Moulding adding different melodies over each other that works surprisingly well.
Partridge and Moulding have often been compared to Lennon and McCartney with Partridge being the more acerbic, ala John, while Moulding being more lightweight, ala Paul.
Partridge lays down a wonderfully bitter paean to his ex, reminiscent of “Working Class Hero”, filled with a few profanities that he smartly avoids speaking on “Your Dictionary”. Very Clever.
Moulding, on the other hand, is a little less complicated. On the track “Frivolous Tonight”, he wants to enjoy some small-talk while avoiding any business blather, as he sings “Let's reveal our childlike nature. And leave our stocks and invoices to rot. Let's go to pot.” This song is easily my newest guilty pleasure.
“And when I say I can't own her, I don't mean to buy her. It's nothing at all to do with money. I simply want her in my arms”. (I Can’t Own Her) is an opulent ballad filled with great lyrics and is quite beautiful. As for the rest, one senses that tremendous care was given to each song and there are no throwaways.
For an album that only made it to #106 on the Billboard album chart, Apple Venus Vol. 1 is a great piece of work. My only regret is that I will never experience hearing this CD for the first time again. However, since this is a CD that gets better with each new listen…my babies...I’m already way ahead of you.
XTC-->"Frivolous Tonight" off Apple Venus Vol. 1 (1999)