XTC's Andy Partridge – Fuzzy Warbles, Vol. 1 (2003)

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So you like XTC, right? So why don’t you own Andy Partridge’s Fuzzy Warbles?

What are Fuzzy Warbles? Andy’s intensive attempt to provide the XTC-devotees with legitimate, high-quality versions of the much-bootlegged XTC demos they’ve traded and unfortunately paid for over the years. Free of the reigns of a major label, Andy has decided to unleash disc after disc after disc of demos recovered from the Partridge/XTC closets.

It’s unfortunate that bassist and fellow vocalist Colin Moulding opted out (according to him, his demos are much more rough than Andy’s polished, near-release quality efforts), since Colin’s contribution to the group is generally underappreciated. Over the years, I’ve also come to realize that he is a fantastic bassist who injects XTC songs with not only expressive and thoughtful basslines, but also humorous ones, too.

For the XTC fanatic, these volumes are a necessity. Besides being a glimpse into the creative process behind one of the most intelligent pop groups of all time, these demos allow the listener to hear the songs in their most primal state, before producers and the band spit-shined the compositions and recordings to the glossy pop sheen we all appreciate. In some cases, it’s just a chance to hear a bit more of the band’s unique and subversive humor at play.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Mike Keneally talks with us about his 2012 collaboration with Andy Partridge, and the lingering influences of Frank Zappa.]

Take “That Wag,” from Volume 1, for example. Instead of hearing a straight-reading of “That Wave,” a Nonsuch tune, listeners are rewarded with a series of humorous takes in the studio where Andy indulged everyone present with his impressions of Bob Dylan and others taking a stab at “That Wave.” For itchy fans, the demo for the real song follows, with a scorching guitar solo (which I would presume is ex-XTC bandmate Dave Gregory, but he is credited only with guitar on the joke-demo preceeding.) Of tempting interest to longtime fans are the inclusion of Andy’s offerings to the James And The Giant Peach soundtrack, which were subsequently, and mysteriously, rejected.

In between are dozens of different takes on XTC classics both known and unknown — and even a few Dukes Of Stratosphear. As demos go, there are a few questionable additions, such as the “avant-garde” experimenations in the form of the “MOGO” alternates, of which there are apparently many, and are probably the least entertaining parts of each disc. For the most part, however, the demos offer as much entertainment and hold your interest as well as any studio album the band has put out, and function as a much more interesting collection than 2002’s four-disc A Coat Of Many Cupboards boxset, which mixed some demos with studio tracks.

After hearing some of the unreleased songs, you will be left wondering why these gems never saw the light of day in the first place. I know I was.

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Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson has contributed to Blogcritics, and maintained a series of stand-alone sites including Known Johnson, Everything is a Mess and others. He studied both creative writing and then studio art at Arizona State. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Tom Johnson
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