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CD Review

Fromer XTC founder cleans his song closet for this boxset.

Andy Partridge - Fuzzy Warbles Collector's Album

By: Scott Homewood

Ape House Records\par One half of the final incarnation of the mighty, poppy, groundbreaking band XTC re-emerges with a demo retrospective boxset with nine (count them!) CDs full of fully fleshed out songs that sound fantastic. But, tantalizingly, not fantastic enough for an XTC CD proper. At least, according to Partridge, who seems increasingly wary to let anyone connected with the corporate music business get ahold of his music. And if you know anything about the last fifteen or so years of Partidge and his band's dealing with the major label suits, you'd know why he is so leery of them.

After years of disrespect from their former label Geffen and then a relatively minor skirmish with the band's next label TVT, Partridge and bandmate Colin Moulding decided to take their business elsewhere. Unfortunately, it has also meant XTC is pretty much XT-tinCt. Partridge, for one, has been marking time compiling and putting the finishing touches on this set of demos while rumors persist that Moulding has given up the music business for good. Despite Moulding's obvious talents, this boxset proves Partridge does not need his possibly ex-partner to come up with clever songs or to flesh out arrangements, which are already fleshed up quite capably by Partridge himself seeing as he plays every note on this set.\par Originally, the demo CDs have come out two at a time for the past few years on Partridge's own label Apehouse. Packaged with a postage stamp motif, the boxset itself is designed to look like a sort of stamp collecting booklet. Quite a clever idea, actually, which is to be expected from one of the most clever and witty songwriter of his generation. To commemorate the end of the series, Partridge put the last two CDs out simultaneously with this boxset which collects all the sets for those who missed them the first time and adds a special ninth disc of additonal rarities. For those who are wary of demo releases due to perceived poor sound quality and lackluster songs whose unreleased status seems deserved will find a boxset full of surprises. Out of nine CDs chock full of quirky pop songs there is a surprisingly high sound quality as well as nary a song not worthy of an XTC album or some sort of release. While I would love to review each CD of the set one by one, space and time do not permit it. Suffice to say I was floored with amount of potential hit songs that could be culled from this set. Not only is the production radio ready but many of these songs are so cool their melodies will not leave your head for days. Forget the term 'Odds and Sods', these set is strictly 'Hits and More Hits'. If these would have went on an XTC album I have no doubt people would be writing reams about them ala the songs from Skylarking or the Apple Venus/Wasp Star albums.

Anyone into XTC is going to love this, as well as any fans of melodic, Beatle-y songcraft. Partridge is a top-flight songwriter whose band has never gotten it's due despite the legions of fans who still clamor for any morsel, new or old, released by the band or it's members. One hopes that if XTC is going to end, whatever constraints the band put upon Partridge will fall away and he will be free to put out albums of his own at a better pace than his former band was allowed to. His songs are simply to great to languish, and this box set proves it in spades. It is a popfest in a box.



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