Apple Venus, Vol. 1

Apple Venus, Vol. 1

Coming seven years after its previous studio release, (1992’s Nonsuch), 1999’s Apple Venus, Pt. 1 represents the continued growing weirdness of rock music’s most intellectual and meticulous pop group. (Leader Andy Partridge insisted the collection be released in two parts, causing the chagrin and eventual departure of keyboardist David Gregory.) XTC slowly evolved into the Steely Dan of alternative pop, as its quest for the perfect catchy hook was superseded only by its desire to fashion the perfect collective sound. Here, Partridge still breaks out the acoustic guitar for what sounds like a quick, impromptu run through of “I’d Like That” before opening into carefully constructed harmonies that reveal the group’s Beach Boys fascination. Partridge’s main focus is always on the arrangements, whether it’s the intricate weave of “River of Orchids” or the orchestral sawing of “Easter Theatre.” Fellow songwriter Colin Moulding interjects “Frivolous Tonight” and “Fruit Nut,” tunes that establish his worthy presence. Yet Apple Venus still sounds much more like a Partridge solo outing than even many of the group’s previous records.

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