Friday, 25 January 2013

Desert Isalnd Discs 61 Apple Venus by XTC

61 Apple Venus Vol 1 by XTC 1999

Xtc had seemingly been in an endless dispute with Virgin records and seven years on from Nonsuch Apple Venus appeared a bit out of nowhere. Dave Gregory had left the band feeling that the orchestral direction had left him nothing more than a session musician.

You can see what he meant as the lush string arrangements and layered harmonies make this the best example of chamber pop (if such a thing exists) out there.

The lyrics range from the wide screen eco politics of River of Orchids and the Last Balloon that book end the lp to the gentle reflections on getting old and settling down of Colin Moulding's contributions. There is also Andy Partridge's bitter song for his ex wife in Your Dictionary with its death of a marriage

 Now your laughter has a hollow ring
But the hollow ring has no finger in
So let's close the book and let the day begin
And our marriage be undone

The bulk of the album though is centred on the English countryside , be it the local pub , the harvest festival and a celebration of nature.

It is normally the kind of stuff that would have me running for the hills but only one track Frivolous Tonight strays too far towards twee.

Listen to these two examples and get carried along by the ambition , the harmonies etc and just wallow in the shear lushnes of it all

Harvest Festival - XTC

Easter Parade - XTC

You can buy a copy of one of the lost gems of an lp here


  1. XTC will be in my list but there are a few albums in the running. All earlier ones. It will be a hard decision.

  2. Apple Venus Vol. 1 is such a successful album. I can't say anything negative about it, where, with Skylarking, I could find fault in some things - mostly the tension caused by the oil and water of Partridge and Rundgren. AV-V1 is Skylarking with a maturity and ease of recording and thus a very important companion to Skylarking.
    It is a completely English record in similar way to English Settlement, but maybe not as expansive as the latter. At the same time it deals with so many personal and everyday themes; themes that Partridge and Moulding are just expert at encapsulating in song.

  3. I was only a casual fan of XTC until I stumbled across this nice surprise. Lush... you bet. And spectacular! Easter Theater, Green Man, I Can't Own Her, Frivolous Tonight my favorite cuts...

    # 61 - AFTER ALL - How High The Moon (1988)

    - Vancouver based band released one solitary but grand album in 1988 which critics loved, but record company didn't promote. I don't know who they sound like... James/Cure/Modern English/U2??? An obscure gem of catchy, well-produced 80's pop/rock if you can track it down...

    Really disappointed I can't find better clips for the wonderful single "Shadows Of A Dove" which sounds a little like James. You have a choice between garbled video that someone Betamaxed off TV, or a trebley audio clip recorded from an old scratchy LP. Mary's Eyes & Boat Leaves Sunday sound clean though...

    The Color Of Mary's Eyes:
    Shadows Of A Dove (scratchy record version):
    The Boat Leaves Sunday:
    Shadows Of A Dove (dodgy Betamax video version):

  4. Great choice David; I went for Nonsuch but it could really have been 2 or 3 others (including this).
    Echo Echorich about the 'Englishness' of it all; without the obligatory 'mockney' accent; more of a pastoral pleasure. Partridge and (lets not forget) Moulding were the Ray Davis of their generation; classic melody makers with a keen eye for the mundanities that most folk miss, take for granted and need reminding if...
    TT; can't hear the band, only their influences; need to live with it a while...

  5. I'm very much the casual listener when it comes to XTC. I only have 'Fossil Fuel'( singles compilation ). Keep meaning to delve deeper.
    # 61 Roxy Music - Manifesto. Ferry took the disco beats of the time and made them sound cool.

  6. Hi Seamus - I really on got in to them late on (English settlement and beyond)

    Hi Echo - i agree I love skylarking but think that it starts so well with all teh songs merging and then the concept seems to lose its way a bit

    Hi Tim see what you mean re the james comparison ( think it is the trumpet that does it ) the other tracks or okay but dare i say do lack a bit of "personality"

    Trev - Non Such and Oranges and Lemons (although the later could have done with some editing)are both excellent as well

    Hi phil - I'd start with apple venus 1 and skylarking next. Manifesto is great as is flesh and blood but Avalon just pips it for me of the 2nd phase roxy lps

  7. Roxy became so familiar that it was easy to take the their innovative brilliance for granted.
    That said, it's the more seemingly pedestrian 'Avalon; for me too...


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