Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2)

Always one of the more interesting and innovative of the post-punk/pop crossover bands...

Always one of the more interesting and innovative of the post-punk/pop crossover bands, XTC blighted their reputation a tad with a series of overheated, overbearingly quirky singles in the early-'80s, before an acrimonious split with Virgin consigned them to the wilderness in the early-'90s. Here they still are, however, in the early-'00s with an album of well-constructed (if unreconstructed) guitar songs, many stockpiled from previous efforts to get an album together.

Frontman and lovelorn loudmouth Andy Partridge is still a wee bit overheated and quirky - 'I'm The Man Who Murdered Love' is typical of the sort of blustery and fussy powerpop that's out of kilter with present-day trends, while 'You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful''s frantic reggae tinges bring to mind... (uughh) Sting.

All that said, this is a surprisingly decent album, as good as anything they've ever made. Bassist sidekick Colin Moulding's songs add a touchingly prosaic counterpoint to Partridge's offerings. 'In Another Life', with its gently asthmatic guitar accompaniment, is a nicely turned paean to married life, while 'Boarded Up' is an excellent, glumly evocative lament for present-day gig venues on their uppers. Partridge scores with the anguished 'Wounded Horse' but especially with 'Stupidly Happy', a superb summer slice of sonic Prozac built around a clipped, insanely repetitive guitar riff which is worth the price of the album alone.
7 / 10

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