Born of various acrimonious situations surrounding the band's five-year hiatus (leader Andy Partridge's divorce, squabbles with record labels Virgin and Geffen, and the departure of longtime guitarist Dave Gregory), "Apple Venus Volume 1" could be the most necessary -- and gratifying -- album of XTC's 15-year career.
For a band of admitted art-rock obscurists, the grand flourish of an orchestral concept album can be a bit risky. Luckily, Partridge has always been a bit classical in his complexity. Partridge's sing-songy musings seem at home here betwixt the chambered indulgences (courtesy of woodwinds, brass and strings) and the high-end sonic contributions of chief collaborator Colin Moulding.
Still present are the simple ironies of pained realization. "H-A-T-E, Is that how you spell 'friend' in your dictionary?" croons a hurt Partridge on "Your Dictionary." "K-I-C-K pronounced as 'kind.'"
XTC have gone one better than their previous quirk-pop leanings, crafting something completely new by using the old musical trick of orchestral instruments.