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Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

4.1 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 23, 2000
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Product Description

'Wasp Star' is the eclectic follow up to the critically acclaimed 'Apple Venus Volume 1', featuring the return to the incisive guitar pop that made XTC legends. 2000 TVT release.

Sidelined by a decade-long "strike" against their former record label, XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding nonetheless kept themselves busy writing songs and recording demos during the 1990s. The resulting body of work was divvied up stylistically, with the more pastoral/orchestral pieces consigned to Apple Venus Volume One (and Homespun, its accompanying home-demo collection). The brash electric guitar flourish that launches Wasp Star's "Playground" heralds a collection that leans toward the jangly guitars and jagged rhythms of the band's Black Sea and English Settlement prime. Adorned with ornate harmonic flourishes and their trademark pop sophistication, Wasp Star finds creative mainstay Andy Partridge in a distinctly upbeat, romantically intoxicated state of mind (as witnessed by the virtually irony-free "Stupidly Happy"), yet one in which history-bred suspicions die hard. It's Moulding who seems the most melancholy here, with the gentle romantic prodding of "In Another Life" and in the downright gloomy take on his hometown's future, "Boarded Up." Known for occasional pointed social jabs, XTC's focus has become a bit more philosophical with age, Partridge and Moulding perhaps gleaning the wisdom that the hardest battles are sometimes fought on the home front. But if music this joyous and rewarding is the result, it's been the noblest of struggles. --Jerry McCulley

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Playground
  2. Stupidly Happy
  3. In Another Life
  4. My Brown Guitar
  5. Boarded Up
  6. I'm The Man Who Murdered Love
  7. We're All Light
  8. Standing In For Joe
  9. Wounded Horse
  10. You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful
  11. Church Of Women
  12. The Wheel And The Maypole

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 23, 2000)
  • Original Release Date: May 23, 2000
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Tvt
  • ASIN: B00004SWHU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,782 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Okay, I know what you're thinking. Anyone who would have the Uffington Horse (English Settlement cover art) tattooed over her heart has to be some kind of demented, rabid, XTC fan. (not to mention that I've a HUGE crush on the retiring Mr. Partridge.) You're right. But, that doesn't mean that I give every XTC album glowing praise. I personally was never all that happy with Nonsuch, though it had its moments. Wasp Star fills a spot left empty since the Oranges and Lemons days. Andy's happy again, and the music shows it in tracks like "We're All Light" and "My Brown Guitar". And who could miss his joy in "Stupidly Happy"? I found myself cranking up the volume up and singing along, almost in spite of myself, especially to "The Man Who Murdered Love". After one listen, I'm hooked - literally. The songs won't get out of my head! Colin's "In Another Life" is one of the sweetest spots of the album, and one of the most touching, as he tries to cheer his wife. Who could resist? What do you say - let's turn on the CD player, push play and get stupidly happy together. You'll be glad you did.
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Format: Audio CD
After being "on strike" from their contract with Virgin for about seven years, this band finally came back with two releases in quick succession. I was disappointed with the pastoral, orchestral extravaganza that was Apple Venus vol.1, but perhaps that was just because I was expecting a continuation of the pop tradition of previous albums. Vol.2 or "Wasp Star" restores my faith. If you liked "Nonsuch" and "Oranges and Lemons" you will also love this. It is the most accessable thing they have ever done and it is instantly likeable.

In fact, it is SO instantly likeable that there is a danger that after hearing it only twice, you will start skipping tracks because your mind is going "Yeah, I love this but I know how it goes..." in the way you might skip an old Beatles classic. However this, like the Beatles, is not "disposable pop" -- each song is a melodic lolly you can enjoy over and over again, each time you can suck out a new nuance of pop flavour that you may not have noticed the first time around. There are hooks galore in these songs, and they get their hooks into you nice and early.

When I say "they" what I really mean is just two guys: Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Dave Gregory quit during Apple Venus vol.1. Hence we are left only with the two songwiters who were with the band since it's inception. They haven't played live for over twenty years, so can we really call them a "band" anymore? It's just two songwriters pissing about in the studio with the occasional studio musician. In regards to the way they work, they are now the British equivalent to Steely Dan. Same thing across the Atlantic: Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, reclusive studio freaks.
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By A Customer on May 24, 2000
Format: Audio CD
"Wasp Star" is XTC's most direct and accessible work yet, but don't let those crunchy guitars and booming drums fool you -- this is anything but a "simple" record. These songs bear repeated listening. I know, because I've been pushing "repeat" on my CD player ever since I bought it. The production on this album is astounding -- from the stomping-on-the-floor percussion in "In Another Life" to the theremin flourishes in "We're All Light" to the magnificent harmony vocals everywhere (the vocals on this album are enough to make Brian Wilson bury his head in the sandbox and weep) -- "Wasp Star" is one of those rare albums that sounds just as good blasting out of your car stereo as it does while lying on your back on the living room rug with the headphones clamped on.
Most bands reach their creative peak around album number three, but somehow XTC managed to put out a record as good as anything they've ever done some twenty-odd years into their career. For that, they deserve a room in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a spot on Hollywood Blvd., a VH-1 "Behind the Music" special, and their own line of action figures.
Noel Gallagher just quit the Oasis tour, and I think I know why: he heard "Wasp Star" and realized how much work he has to do.
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Format: Audio CD
It's inspiring that a couple guys in their mid-40s can deliver material that lives up to the consistent quality of their career, spanning a dozen or so albums going back over 20 years. Though Wasp Star is laden with many excellent songs, I'd give this album 4 stars in the context of XTC's catalog, but I gave it 5 stars since it far outshines must of the pop/rock out there these days. (Of course I'm a biased life-long XTC fan.) My fave tunes after a few listens are "Playground", "Standing in for Joe","We're All Light", "You and the Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" and "Wheel and the Maypole".
The main criticism I have is that most of this material is really nothing new for XTC, nothing they haven't done before, musically or lyrically, except now they've got their production & arrangement technique down to a fine art, not over-producing like they've sometimes done on albums like Orange & Lemons or Nonesuch. To be fair, at least Colin's three songs here show a new songwriting direction for him.
I'd rate their last year's album Apple Venus 1 better over all, simply because of the more expiremental, more acoustic canvas they were working on, and so confidently.
As for the departure of guitarist Dave Gregory, he doesn't seem to be missed all that much, surprisingly. In fact, Andy's "looser" guitar style makes the music feel more spontaneous and not so anal, not like every single note and nuance had been worked out. However, I did read where Dave Gregory said that if they'd put Apple Venus 1 and 2 (Wasp Star) together into one album, as he'd wanted, and left out the weaker songs, that it would have been "XTC's finest hour.
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