After a decade-long strike against their record company, XTC were finally released from their contract with Virgin. The question was how to present the material they had stockpiled over the preceding years. This was to escalate into a rift that ended with Dave Gregory leaving the band, as he disagreed with Andy’s notion that two separate albums had to be released. He did play on the first of the two discs that were to be issued, and he was credited as a session musician. The disc was named “Apple Venus Part 1”, and Andy has described its sound as “orchoustic” – acoustic instrumentation mixed with elaborate orchestral arrangements. This is evident the second the disc starts spinning, as “River Of Orchids” couldn’t be described using better words. A whimsical tune, a multifaceted tune, a lovable tune. An XTC tune in all its essence. Andy deals once again with his hatred of automobiles in a string-led song that takes up 6 minutes of layered vocals and a permanent crescendo where climax after climax is reached.
The song is immediately counterbalanced by “I’d Like That”, the one cut that everybody liked on the record when it was issued. Because the album had some detractors that were expecting a harder sound, and when they finally got that in the shape of “Wasp Star” the following year they were to eat humble pie and admit that the sound of Apple Venus was far more suitable to this mature stage of the band. “I’d Like That” is a very jumpy track, running through a plethora of chords in which only three strings are strummed most of the time. Only the E chord that is played after the “Sunflower” bit is played in full. Andy slaps his thighs as accompaniment, and his wordplay is delirious, dropping the names of famous couples in a tale of unrequited love that is just an inch from materializing – hence the overall optimism. Continue reading