clears out the residue of unpublished songs Partridge and Moulding had written between 1995 and 1998.
Instead of the grandiose orchestral textures of Apple Venus
, this collection stays in more conventional pop/rock territory. And it's nowhere near as interesting as Apple Venus
- the songwriting is decent enough, although "My Brown Guitar" comes across as a crap Supergrass rip-off.
The major issue with Wasp Star
is that it lacks musical conviction The rockers don't rock as much as they should, and XTC's traditional instrumental characteristics are sadly lacking, for while Partridge does a competent job at soloing, Gregory's deft touches on guitars and keyboard are sadly missed, and Moulding's bass is inexplicably down in the mix (my parent's stereo has a ridiculously loud 'Dynamic Bass Boost' function, and Wasp Star
is unusual in that it doesn't threaten to destroy the house's foundations).
The paucity of instrumental firepower is the primary reason why Wasp Star
doesn't stand up to repeat listens particularly well. Still, while Moulding's songwriting sucked badly on Nonsuch
and Apple Venus
, he does regain some semblance of his previous ability here - his songs are designed to be low-key, so Gregory isn't missed as badly as he is on Partridge's songs.
I particularly like the twangy little acoustic riff on "Boarded Up", while "In Another Life" and "Standing in for Joe" are quaint and charming. Meanwhile, the first two minutes of Partridge's "The Wheel and the Maypole" is arguably the most commercially viable piece of music XTC ever created, although the 'Maypole' part isn't as interesting. And "Playground", "Stupidly Happy", "We're All Light", and "Church of Women" all have their moments, although the rock potential of the first two isn't milked adequately.
So while it's initially enjoyable, Wasp Star
doesn't fulfil its potential, lacking the depth of previous XTC releases. Still, it is a commendable shot at a rock album for two ageing Englishmen, and is probably a tad better than my rating suggests, which is partially due to my disappointment with the album.Rated:
by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia
(blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct]