Wasp Star (Apple Venus Part 2) (XTC) – Album Review (Part 1)

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on January 27, 2010

"Wasp Star" Was Released In The Year 2000, Roughly A Year After "Apple Venus" Was Issued

"Wasp Star" Was Released In The Year 2000, Roughly A Year After "Apple Venus" Was Issued

XTC’s swan song, and a very powerful moment even when taken separately from it companion album, the critically-lauded “Apple Venus”. As I explained when reviewing it, this is the one disc that was meant to “rock” a little from the pair. Hence, fans often call it “the disc that everybody was waiting for”.

“Playground” and “Stupidly Happy” are positioned at the forefront of this “return to form” or whatever you want to call it. The truth is the previous disc was not a departure but an assertion of the sound that was manifested on songs like “Wrapped In Grey”, and which had began insinuating itself as early as “Sacrificial Bonfire” from “Skylarking”.

“Playground” is another interesting look at childhood, and one that joins “Let’s Build A Den” in its theme of the world of children mirroring the world of adults more than we care to admit. It has the memorable line “You might leave school but it never leaves you”, and Andy’s daughter Holly (yep, she from “Holly Up On Poppy”) supplies backup. “Stupidly Happy” is defined by Andy as “The great Keef Richard riff that never was”, and it was derived from the “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” riff. It is catchy like little else, with that simple but engrossing riff being gradually fortified by bass, tambourine, drums, handclaps…  Andy alliterates a lot on the lyrics, echoing the narrowness of thought he wishes to convey, and the effect when taken as a whole with the instrumentation is fabulous.

Colin has three songs on the disc; the first comes after “Stupidly Happy”. It is called “In Another Life”, and it has some good lyrics that deal with mid-life romance with his tongue firmly on his cheek. He also takes a somehow humorous approach on “Boarded Up”, a composition about recession hitting his hometown that is rendered on acoustic guitar with some percussion that comes across very vividly. His final song is “Standing In For Joe”, an adulterous tale that shows he could still write after his lapse of skills on the previous CD. Still, it is clear now why he threw the towel soon afterwards – his voice was shot, he couldn’t really be enjoying himself any longer. And he later said he had had it with songwriting. A long, long time before he cited the lack of live performances as something which was damaging him as a writer.

The other seven tracks by Andy I haven’t mentioned yet are mostly good, although the bluesy “Wounded Horse” gets on my nerves (Andy admitted he was just having fun. Good for him, but the plodding melody does not come across as that entertaining to most people I know) and I don’t really dig the reggae of “You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful”.

A song that has a nice built-up a la “Stupidly Happy” is “My Brown Guitar”, yet another penis-inspired tune, and yet another fine one even though “Pink Thing” is unbeatable. And “I’m The Man Who Murdered Love” is one of the most accessible songs Andy wrote in a long time as far as melodies are concerned.

Leaving aside “The Wheel And The Maypole” and “Stupidly Happy”, the tune I like best from the album is “We’re All Light”. It has one the most outrageously absurd sets of lyrics for a composition who is saying “kiss me now, while there is still time”. And that is the charm of it. And once you learn about the rhymes Andy wrote and didn’t use (they are listed on the collection of demos named “Homegrown”), then you are going to be in hysterics for a day or two.

The final two songs deserve a page of their own. They are “Church Of Women” and “The Wheel And The Maypole”. What a way to close a disc they are. And they also stand as the obvious way their career was to end, even if they didn’t know this disc was to be their last release.

Continue to the second part of the review.

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Wasp Star (Apple Venus Part 2) (XTC) – Album Review (Part 2) | MusicKO
January 28, 2010 at 11:34 am

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