Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)
Every song that Andy Partridge or Colin Moulding writes is somehow aimed at being a masterpiece pop gem, and at some point they usually achieve this, but several times over within each song. As they write, they discover so many interesting musical means along the way, and they’re not shy about sharing them with us. Thank goodness for that, since that is what sets XTC apart from the endless flock of unchallenging pop and its perpetrators. For those who demand more than the top of the pops’ daily blue plate special, Andy and Colin reward us with bountiful ladles full of infectious catchiness, filling each passage through each song until at least slightly overflowing, if not just plain gushing.
Longtime fans will notice a larger space left by the departure of Dave Gregory this time around (some of his last contributions left their mark on Apple Venus Volume 1, last year’s “acoustic orchestral” release). The absence of Dave’s luxurious and twisty guitars and arrangements is filled on Wasp Star by upping the ante for XTC’s trademark silky vocal interweaving, harmonious teasing, and rumbling, rolling bass lines. Still, overall, the musical arrangements are simpler and thinner than usual. Of course, the songwriting remains impeccably strong, better for the wear and reflecting their more recent personal and professional tribulations.
Happy. “Stupidly Happy” – track 2. Wasp Star is just obviously happy, as Andy gleefully sings “I’m the Man Who Murdered Love” and throws in a McCartney-blues scowl on the closest ever to blues for XTC, “Wounded Horse.” With a George Harrison’s slippery melodic ease, Colin is “Standing In For Joe” by satisfying his best friend’s wife. Marriage dissolves, music halls get “Boarded Up,” and we just romp and roll along.
On the other hand, falling in love, the playground of life, worshipping women, and the hyper-upbeat “We’re All Light” all provide plenty of positive bridges between any various bits of happy desperation.
Fans will hear a huge blend of certain aspects from every phase of XTC’s near 25 years. Everyone will hear a mesh of vocal quirks, a wide variety of hand picked rhythms, and colorful melodies in compositions rising above and beyond the call of duty.
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