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XTC – Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999)

October 24, 2014

[Album 354/1001]220px-Apple_Venus

I was chatting with a friend recently about the group James, specifically their album Laid.

He made an interesting point: with that album (and only a handful of others), he insisted on full running-time listening sessions.  Every song was a keeper, the track-list worked brilliantly, and even if individual songs stood out, he refused to skip anything to get to them.

If time did not permit a full listen, he’d have to choose a different record; partial Laid listening experiences just wouldn’t work.

Which, as you might imagine, got me thinking about what some of my all-or-nothing records might be.

Apple Venus Volume 1, though new to me as of this year, might one day meet that criteria.

This morning, I was singing Easter Theatre (track 3) to myself and felt inspired to play the individual track.  Though when I tried to cue it up, I couldn’t do it; it just didn’t feel right unless it followed River of Orchids & I’d Like That.  And I couldn’t stop there because Frivolous Tonight was coming up soon.  But then I couldn’t miss Your Dictionary a song or two after that.  And so it went!

Overall, it’s one of those delightful records whose year of origin is hard to pinpoint.  XTC’s influences have been well documented but they still manage to produce an orchestral sound unlike any other group.

Throw in two lead singers & you’ve got a combination that is, to borrow a Robert Palmer song title, simply irresistible.

Naturally, I’m curious as a cat (some of my friends call me Whiskers) – what are your all-or-nothing/full running-time only albums?!

From → 1990s

  1. I grew up on LPs and cassettes, as did several others here, I’m sure. I never skipped ahead. I just let the thing play. So my listening experiences, even today, tend to be to just put the record on and let it play. I might make a mental note and later pull tracks out for a mix, but if I’m gonna sit down to listen, for review or just to listen, it’ll be the whole record. All of side A, all of side B.

    Also, I get your friend’s point about Laid. That’s a great record. And in another sense of the word i understand it too – you just can’t rush it when you’re getting Laid. 😉

    • Tat’s a good point about LPs and Cassettes – now that I think about it, I’m fussy about some records having a side A/side B.
      (or C & D with doubles!)

      For example, Summer of ’69 shouldn’t be track 6 on a cd, it’s the opener of Reckless’s side B!

      • Exactly! That’s the perfect summation.

        I dunno, I think it’s because I never had the cassette deck that would scan forward to silent patches, so fast-forwarding to a specific song was a real pain in the tookus. So, I never did it. Just put it on and let ‘er rip.

        But yeah, those were formative years because whatever the format now, I still just let it all play. B-sides, filler and all.

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    “Urban Hymns” would perhaps be one. “Laid” as well. Maybe The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut. Lowest of the Low’s “Shakespeare my butt”. These are a few of my favourite things…

  3. Interesting question but I don’t want to take the focus off Apple Venus. Good that you have found yourself in orbit around this perfect planet. Perhaps the last truly great album of the 20th Century? Or at least the last great XTC album!

    • There are twenty-one albums from 1999 on the list – from what I’ve reviewed so far, this would be an affirmative answer to your question. Though I’ve heard ‘soft bulletin’ is something special too.

      Either way, the great album label is accurate!

      • Ha! Too True Mr Geoff. The Soft Bulletin is ab brill. (tho may require a few listens for its charms to infiltrate).

  4. Man, I am so out of the loop with XTC. Oranges and Lemons is very listenable from top to tail. I was my top 5 albums I listened to my first year at UWO. Skylarking and Nonsvch are also good, but not as favourited as Oranges and Lemons. But, I haven’t THIS album! Will definitely need to check it out!

    Also, listening to the entire album of any album was quite normal for me until I got an mp3 player.

    • From what I understand, our beloved UWO has been rebranded as Western University.
      Skylarking is the only other XTC I’ve heard so far but I’m quite intrigued now by Oranges & Lemons, thanks!

  5. I’m still annoyed with myself for missing them off my list of X artists!

    Full listen LPs? Paul’s Boutique and Underworld ‘Second Toughest..’ Are the ones that leap to my mind right here, right now.

    • Not to worry – it’s often the most obvious ones that get overlooked!
      I’ll second Paul’s Boutique, haven’t heard the Underworld record yet but it’s on the 1001 – so at some point in the next 7 years, I hope to agree!

  6. XTC has always been like one of my complicated friends- I appreciate them for their intelligence but don’t like to go on a road trip; they are too much.

    • Fair enough – admittedly, at the rate I’m going through music in this project, I don’t always delve too deeply into the lyrics. It was the arrangements & the idea of ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ that really appealed to me here.

      • I do like some of there music even though I feel them a bit preachy….no argument over the instrumentation, always top shelf.

  7. ianbalentine permalink

    What a great album, and what a great question! Skylarking is the XTC album I have to listen to straight through. A few others would be Revolver (Beatles), The Wall (Floyd),Boo Radleys Giant Steps, Arthur (The Kinks), Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Flaming Lips), Deserters Songs (Mercury Rev), Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman, God, so many others….

    • My Beatles one like that is Abbey Road, especially side B – how could I start the medley and leave it unfinished?!
      Nice call especially on Arthur, that’s one I heard early in the project that I keep going back to

  8. For me it would have to be Mathew Sweet’s Girlfriend album, Interesting enough most all of the albums everyone has mentioned tends to be rather sweet and poppy.

    • That is surprising, considering ‘pop’ is supposed to be instantly likeable but with diminishing returns.
      Glad that’s not always the case!

  9. arsenalfanmsp permalink

    Great post, and timely for me as well. I just picked Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2 the other day, and am enjoying it quite a bit. I sadly am missing Apple Venus Vol. 1 along with Mummer & The Big Express, so I can’t comment on that one yet, but I am a huge fan of their other albums and enjoy them all.

    As for the question, already mentioned: Abbey Road is definitely a start to finish album for me, as is XTC’s own Skylarking. I would also add The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society as a personal choice, along with Ziggy Stardust, Low & Heroes (Bowie), Tea for the Tillerman (Cat Stevens) & Forever Changes (Love), to name just a few.

    • I don’t have that Love album but zero arguments with the others – Low is such a good side a/side b experience. And Tea for the Tillerman, it wouldn’t be complete without listening all the way through to the end of the brief but brilliant closing title track!

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  1. 1999 | 1001albumsin10years

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