In Part One of this review series we looked at the 1999 release from XTC called Apple Venus. In this portion we will explore XTC's Y2K companion called Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2). In many ways this is a more straight ahead rock oriented affair than its more pastoral and acoustic driven sister release so it is a somewhat simpler listening album. That doesn't mean it is any less enjoyable but it does have a different vibe than the first volume's more orchestral flair.
Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) rocks the light electric with chiming Stones-y guitar riffs and big drums played by the likes of The Tubes' Prairie Prince. Wasp Star is an inherently brighter sounding release and the new LP reflects that sonic optimism.
The opening track, "Playground," benefits nicely from the new LP presentation, delivering a better sense of amplifier tones than I could hear on my original CD. "My Brown Guitar" is one of the bigger sounding songs on the album with fat raw amplified electric guitar finger plucking on the strings before the drums kick in and the song goes off into rock 'n roll heaven. That's a really a beautiful guitar tone there, ripping with the presence of overdriven tubes. "The Man Who Murdered Love" also rocks real hard on this new vinyl edition.
Again, I can now play this album real loud and it still sounds good to my ears. I couldn't really do that using the old CDs, at least on my home stereos (in the car, well thats another thing entirely) as the textures sort of fall apart and get increasingly harsher as the amplifier volume control approaches 11.
My favorite track on Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2) is the wonderful album closing medley "The Wheel and The Maypole." It is a two-part tune collage that starts out somewhat pastoral -- there are orchestral elements in this song! -- but the song ends up in taking you on a jaunty dance across the English countryside. Warning: this song may make you want to get up from your couch potato sweet spot to jump around the room naked as it celebrates planets falling apart and the collapsing world around us! It fabulous how the two parts come together at the end, especially as Colin Moulding's beautiful Brian Wilson-worthy choral harmony vocals kick in. There is a fun fan-made video for the song up on YouTube which really encapsulates this song's joy in many ways, if perhaps a bit too literally. (Click here for that)
And so it goes on this fine reissue of Wasp Star (Apple Venus Vol. 2). This release of course only further whets the palate for the eventual 5.1 surround sound versions (perhaps they will be released in 2019, fingers crossed). The LPs come with a lovely plastic lined full color sleeve promoting the entire XTC catalog with indicators about "further releases planned for 2019/2020."
Yup, we're "Stupidly Happy".