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This is the second installment of songs that quirky popticians XTC have been hoarding throughout the '90s, when contractual hassles saw them lay low and bide their time. Whereas last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 was acoustic and pastoral, the new release is not only plugged-in, it features more loud drums and wires than anything the (now two-member) band has done since the mid '80s. Better yet: it's not over-produced, leaving Colin Moulding's trademark loping, Sgt. Pepper-ish bass, Andy Partridge's unmistakable power-pop riffs and the duo's always impeccable harmonies center-stage, where they belong.

Partridge is in vintage XTC form on "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love," "The Church of Women," and the Keith Richard knock-off "Stupidly Happy," while Moulding's three offerings include the hilarious and catchy "Standing in for Joe." That said, the policy of segregating their recent songs into one acoustic and now one electric album seems misguided -- it didn't work for Richard Thompson a few years ago, and XTC's idols the Beatles knew better than to try to foist that kind of dichotomy on the listening public.


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