Fuzzy Warbles Volumes 3 & 4 (APE)

To a XTC fan, what is the next best thing to a new XTC album? Well, how about the latest instalment of Andy Partridge’s demo archive series, Fuzzy Warbles? Yes sir, that’ll do nicely!

Volumes 3 & 4 continues in the same vein as their predecessors, featuring previously unheard demos not recorded by XTC, nascent versions of familiar XTC songs or instrumental doodling meant purely for it’s creator’s amusement (until now, that is).

Let’s get right to it shall we?

Volume 3 opens with the righteously retro “My Train Is Coming” rejected previously from both the Buster and That Thing You Do films – their loss; “Lightheaded” is a sweet tune containing such choice lines as “We’re all little lightbulbs like the ones inside God’s head, popping with the choice of paths to take;” “Goodbye Humanosaurus,” if you can ignore all the deliberately contrived rhymes and the melodic fragment from “There She Appeared” is a sprightly gem; the “Humble Daisy” possesses a disarming charm that amazingly surpasses the original off Nonsuch; Partridge describes “You Like Me” as “disco music from 1920’s Shanghai” – nuff said, I think; the inclusion of the “Great Fire” demo is mystifying as it is rather poor; “Work” is a funky exercise; the “Collideascope” demo finds Partridge putting on his best Lennonesque larynx; “When We Get To England” is a lovely pastoral piece; the demos of “Train Running Low on Soul Coal” and “Holly Up On Poppy” are interesting within their own contexts (i.e. curiosities); the note-for-note cover of “Strawberry Fields Forever” is phenomenal when you understand that the backing track was home recorded by Dave Gregory; “Autumn Comes Around” like “When We get To England” was written for “Skylarking” and it is a shame that the pair was never fully developed in the studio; “Child’s Crusade” is all rhythm guitar & percussion; the “Little Lighthouse” demo contains wondrous fuzzy guitar work that never quite survived the studio process; “This Is the End” was intended as the closer for Oranges & Lemon and whilst it is a great anthem, can’t hold a candle to the track that did finish the album, the magnificent “Chalkhills and Children” and the acapella “Put It On Again” would bring a smile to Brian Wilson’s face, not only for its vocal arrangement but for its humour.

In the same vein, “Tunes” opens Volume 4; the punchy “Bumpercars” continues Partridge’s analogy of life as a funfair; the Kinksian “The Art Song” celebrates um art; the rather throwaway “I’m Playing My Fano” sounds like a poor man’s King Crimson; “Zonked Right Out On Life” is just irritating rap; the McCartneyesque ballad “All I Dream Of Is A Friend” yet another which never quite made it for James and the Giant Peach – what a soundtrack that would have been; the noodly “Peck the Ground Like a Chicken” never quite knows where it’s going; the lusty “That’s Really Super Supergirl” demo turns out to be the superior version (what was Todd thinking with the keyboard overkill) especially with the harmonica fills; not so with the “Brainiac’s Daughter” demo which is best forgotten; the intricate “Blue Beret” is yet another case of a fine song that deserved better; the noisy “Gangway, Electric Guitar is Coming Through” contains a memorable riff; the electro instrumental “Mechanical Planet” (with Dave Gregory) doesn’t really go anywhere; the vibrant “Helicopter” is vintage XTC in a 1979 session; the “The Ugly Underneath” demo doesn’t add much to your enjoyment of the awesone original; the jaunty “Where Is Your Heart” is a pleasing romp through Partridge’s skewered vision of love; the “Season Cycle” demo has a freewheeling psychedelic quality and the seasonal “Countdown to Christmas Partytime” is best never mentioned ever again.

Four albums on and Partridge hasn’t even come near to scraping the barrel! An amazing feat. Roll on volumes 5 and 6!!! A