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Saturday, October 07, 2006



CHERRY PICKING FUZZY WARBLES


I adore Andy Partridge. From the moment I first heard “Senses Working Overtime” way back in 1982 over the BBC World Service I knew he was special.
XTC is, of course, one of the finest bands in the history of pop but it has always bugged me that in the twenty years since my introduction to the band, there have only been eight proper albums (nine, if you include Psonic Psunspot).
So, it is a little ironic that Partridge has released all eight (nine, if you include Hinges) of his Fuzzy Warbles demo archive series in a mere four years! Of course, we are talking apples and oranges here (or oranges and lemons) and you cannot really compare releasing proper albums and collections of pre-existing demos. Can you?
In any case, Partridge has released the final volumes of the series viz. Volumes 7 and 8 and has also made available a special collector’s album (see above) that houses all 8 volumes in a cool package. As a bonus the album also comes with Hinges, 9 extra tracks from Partridge’s demo archive.
I must honestly say that the music found on Fuzzy Warbles was probably never originally intended for public consumption and some might argue should never have been made available to the general public. XTC fans may differ in their judgments over the relative value of Fuzzy Warbles as musical documents but one thing is clear to me – considering the hard time Partridge has had in his musical ‘career’ with dodgy managers, dodgy record contract and the fact that sickness probably cost him (and the band) greatly, in tour revenues (and consequential record sales) since 1982 (!), I would not begrudge the man the opportunity to get a return from his genius when he is finally in financial control of his musical destiny.
So yes, to every XTC fan out there, I would highly recommend you get yourself down to the APE shop now (http://www.ape.uk.net/acatalog/compact_discs.html) and pick up the whole shebang and make Partsy a very happy man!
Here’s eighteen reasons why –
Hinges - “Reign of Blows”: Markedly different from the recorded track found on The Big Express which was mangled somewhat in the mixing process. Less metallic, the strength of the song shines through. “Jump”: Demo of the Mummer B-side has a stronger Beatlesque focus than the final product. Counter-pointed by the subtle Caribbean rhythmic underpinnings. It does feature a soothing melody line though.
Volume 8 – “The Bland Leading the Bland”: Meant for Warp Star but never quite making the grade, “Bland” begins with a wistful synth line and culminates in a gorgeous chorus. Would have made for a wonderful XTC track. “I Gave My Suitcase Away”: A breezy number written for Jane Birkin (rejected for being too jolly – Birkin’s loss!). The perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Volume 7 – “Sonic Boom”: Great power pop song that would have fitted snugly either on Nonsuch or Warp Star. Nice way of description the power chord – “Sonic boom goes the killer chord from my guitar.” Yeah yeah yeah! “Open A Can of Human Beans”: Not strictly a Warble, so Partridge informs, think of it as a Dukes of Startosphear outtake. Resplendent with ‘sitar’ guitar courtesy of the great Dave Gregory, “Human Beans” is a treasure.
Volume 6 – “I Can’t Tell What Truth Anymore”: Partsy does yet another genuine Macca impression with a tuneful number that would have lighted up Nonsuch. “The Tiny Circus of Life”: Yet another Nonsuch escapee is a jaunty piece with some Bacharach chords and the circus motif (think: “Dear Madam Barnum”).
Volume 5 – “Young Cleopatra”: Intended for Mummer, this catchy little ditty, may have been shelved due to the ‘paedo’ slant of the lyrics. Though, Partsy assures us that “I too saw myself as 14-years-old in the song.” “My Land is Burning”: Epic in scope and orchestral in execution, mystifying why Partsy did not record it for Apple Venus.
Volume 4 – “Bumpercars”: this punchy number continues Partridge’s analogy of life as a circus. “That’s Really Super Supergirl”: this lusty demo turns out to be the superior version (what was Todd thinking with the keyboard overkill) especially with the harmonica fills.
Volume 3 - “My Train Is Coming”: Righteously retro and rejected previously from both the Buster and That Thing You Do films restored to its proper place of prominence. “Autumn Comes Around”: A lovely pastoral moment written for Skylarking, never fully developed in the studio – a shame.
Volume 2 - “It’s Snowing Angels” (circa 1990): Lovely and enigmatic. “Ship Trapped In the Ice” A powerful and vivid track written to reflect XTC’s Virgin dilemma.
Volume 1 – “Dame Fortune”: A delightful ode, inextricably left off Apple Venus. “Summer Hot As This”: A chirpy 1984 demo with erstwhile XTC member Dave Gregory on guitar, a bonus!
And still there’s more… nine albums of intense enjoyment… hopefully our XTC fix will not be delayed for that much longer…

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