Call for Music Critics and Music Bloggers


It’s been seven long years since British pop meisters XTC have graced us with a dose of their sublime art. The long wait after Nonsuch was the result of the band striking against their former employers, Virgin, in an effort to extricate themselves from a less than favorable contract. Well judging by Apple Venus Volume 1, it was more than worth the wait. Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding used their time off well, lavishing extra care and attention on this set of tunes that rank among the best music they have ever produced.

Dubbed “orchustic” for the almost total reliance on orchestral and acoustic instrumentation, the record begins slow and organically with a solitary violin plucking before spiraling into a melange of syncopated horns and multi-tracked voices on “River Of Orchids.” It is similar in spirit, but not sound, to the opening of Das Rheingold. It’s not many pop bands you could liken to Wagner, but then it’s also not many pop bands that claim show music like My Fair Lady to be of equal influence on them as the Beatles.

Settling down for the McCartney-esque acoustic love song “I’d Like That,” XTC keeps the off-kilter rhythms going, while moving onto the lush, trumpet-ornamented “Easter Theatre,” that positively reeks of the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home” on the chorus. I could go on forever about Apple Venus, but the long and the short of it is that this record is a shoo-in for one of 1999’s best records, and XTC isn’t even finished this year, promising a rockier, electric Apple Venus Volume 2 later in the year.

Meanwhile, if you need a bigger XTC fix, Transistor Blast is an irresistible treat that collects 52 live tracks from 1977-1989 on four CDs. These live performances, many from the vaults of the BBC, show a band at the top of their game, before Andy Partridge’s legendary stage fright drove XTC to become the brilliant studio gods they are now.

Sarah Zupko is a former Executive Producer at Tribune Media Services, the media syndication arm of the Tribune Company, and a 10-year veteran of Tribune Company. Aside from writing novels and plays, she devotes most of her time and energy to running and formerly, as well as research in the fields of Slavic and German history, and general European cultural and intellectual history. Zupko studied musicology, film, and drama at the University of Chicago and media theory at the University of Texas, where she received her M.A. in 1995.

Related Articles
19 Apr 2007
Now, as middle age meanders across Partridge's considered cult career, it's obvious he's looking for another, more solemn outlet for his talent.
By PopMatters Staff
27 Oct 2006
27 Oct 2006
Having worked for years in a hinterland between obscurity and popularity, Andy Partridge has finally hit the fulcrum as he's gained his artistic freedom, and recognition of his band XTC's influence on pop history has suddenly blossomed.
21 Feb 2003
So, as an album, Skylarking is beautiful and whole and just shy of perfection enough that it doesn't come off as too clean.

PopMatters is pleased to offer commenting via Disqus. All historical comments, including those made through Facebook, are being imported and will be visible later this week.

Now on PopMatters
Today Recent Popular
The Top 5 Suspects in AMC's 'The Killing' (Channel Surfing) [Fri, 10:00 am]
'Submarine': A Bit of an Affectation (Reviews) [Fri, 9:00 am]
'X-Men: First Class': Being Like Us (Reviews) [Fri, 7:35 am]
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Reviews) [Fri, 6:50 am]
This 'X-Men' Is 'First Class' All the Way (Short Ends and Leader) [Fri, 6:30 am]
Levon Helm: Ramble at the Ryman (Reviews) [Fri, 1:00 am]
Killer Mike: PL3DGE (Reviews) [Fri, 1:00 am]
  1. The 25 Best Progressive Rock Songs of All Time (Features)
  2. The 10 Greatest War Movies of All Time (Short Ends and Leader)
  3. Anyone Can Play Guitar: The 15 Best Radiohead Songs of All Time (Sound Affects)
  4. Prince: Chaos, Disorder, and Revolution (Features)
  5. Lady Gaga: Born This Way (Reviews)
  6. When Superheroes Die (Features)
  7. What's the Value of Ownership in the Age of Cloud Computing? (Columns)
  8. Hip-Hop's Heartbreak: Kanye West - "Say You Will" (Sound Affects)
  9. 'Dragon Age: Origins' and A Few Notes on Class (Moving Pixels)
  10. “Where Will We Live?”: Terrence Malick’s Fugitive Edens (Features)
  11. Ranking the Greats: The 11 Classic Films of Stanley Kubrick (Short Ends and Leader)
  12. They Won't Stay Dead: The Changing Guises of Horror Film and Censorship (Columns)
  13. "Kill Yourself for Recognition": The Odd Future of Young Celebrity (Columns)
  14. Counterbalance No. 35: Talking Heads’ 'Remain in Light' (Sound Affects)
  15. Comics Superheroes Leap Across the Great Cultural Divide (Columns)
  16. Making Peace With an Emo Past: An Interview with the Get Up Kids (Features)
  17. Death Cab for Cutie: Codes & Keys (Reviews)
  18. David Tennant Will Be the Breakout from 'Fright Night’ (Mixed Media)
  19. Is 'Glee' the New Elvis, Really? (Columns)
  20. Amon Tobin: ISAM (Reviews)
  21. Art Brut: Brilliant! Tragic! (Reviews)
  22. My Morning Jacket: Circuital (Reviews)
  23. Eddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs (Reviews)
  24. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi: Rome (Reviews)
  25. Friendly Fires: Pala (Reviews)
  26. Wikiocracy, or We're All Doomed... Citation Needed (Moving Pixels)
  27. 'Kung Fu Panda 2': Havoc Wreaked (Reviews)
  28. Boris: Attention Please / Heavy Rocks (Reviews)
  29. Share the Stage, 'Glee' -- TV Feels a Song Coming On (Columns)
  30. 'Third Star', Making the Festival Rounds, Pits Benedict Cumberbatch Against a Taboo Topic (Features)
PM Picks
Music Archive

10 - The Best of the Best

9 - Very Nearly Perfect

8 - Excellent

7 - Damn Good

6 - Good

5 - Average

4 - Unexceptional

3 - Weak

2 - Seriously Flawed

1 - Terrible

© 1999-2011 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc. and PopMatters Magazine.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.