Friday, November 10th, 2006
The Mayor Of Simpleton
There’s no making sense of XTC’s recent output, so don’t even try. After going on strike against their label for seven years following 1992’s Nonsuch, they released two albums in Apple Venus and Wasp Star, albums of demos for those two albums (Homespun and Homegrown) and then a box set collecting those four records plus a couple new songs (Apple Box). Also released over the past seven years was a career-spanning box set (Coat Of Many Cupboards) as well as a series of demos dubbed Fuzzy Warbles.
Released under Andy Partridge’s name (Colin Moulding chose not to contribute his naked baby photos to the set) but still really XTC in all ways that matter, the original issues were eight individual CDs, released over the past four years and obtainable only as import or via the XTC website so very much for collectors only. But now that the set is complete, it has been collected together as the Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album in a glorious philately-themed box set along with an extra bonus disc and copious liner notes for a total of nine – NINE – CDs of XTC ecstasy.
Keeping in mind that I’ve only waded through maybe just under half of this set, I can say that while there are the requisite number of walkman-fidelity sketches, hissy bedroom throwaways and general goof-offs that are mandatory with sets of this size and nature. But the good material – and there’s a lot of it, ranging from early versions of album tracks to songs that are as good as anything that did make the album cuts – are superb and the overall level of quality is really quite remarkable though not surprising considering Partridge’s perfectionist nature. It’s a bit cliche to say but even Partridge’s castoffs are compositions that a lesser songwriter would give his left arm to have written.
Interestingly, you can’t easily pinpoint from what era each song comes by its sonic signature as Partridge has taken the time to polish up the goods before putting them on display – relics from their early New Wave days could well sit side-by-side with ideas that will appear on the next XTC record or a forthcoming Partridge solo record. It’s a glorious, technicolour pop adventure that’s not turning out to be nearly as overwhelming as I’d feared – though check back with me when I onto disc seven or so. I may well have gone insane by then, but what a way to go.
And you too can now die of XTC overload. I have a copy of the Fuzzy Warbles Collectors Album box set to give away and it can be yours. To enter, leave me a comment telling me what your favourite XTC album is and why (if you want this box set, I’m assuming you’re a genuine fan and therefore would have a favourite album), and be sure to use your correct email address. The contest will run for one week and close at midnight, November 17. Get cracking.
PopMatters has an expansive interview/podcast with Partridge about his and XTC’s past, present and future that’s definitely worth reading while the Los Angeles Times also talks to him about the box. And you want media? Here’s one new song from the Fuzzy Warbles box, another that was included with the Apple Box and the theme from the late, lamented Wonderfalls, for which Partridge composed the theme (segue – Comic Book Resources recently talked to creator Bryan Fuller about many things including the rise and fall of Wonderfalls. There’s also the complete original unaired pilot available on YouTube, see below). I’ve also dug up a slew of XTC videos – though Partridge and co gave up live performance many many moons ago, they made up for it with some brilliant promo clips. “The Disappointed” is gorgeous – both sonically and visually – but I couldn’t find the one for “Peter Pumpkinhead”. Alas.
MP3: Andy Partridge – “Sonic Boom”
MP3: XTC – “Spiral”
MP3: Andy Partridge – “Wonderfalls”
Video: XTC – “Are You Receiving Me?” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Making Plans For Nigel” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Life Begins At The Hop” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Senses Working Overtime” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Mayor Of Simpleton” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Dear God” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Grass” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Disappointed” (YouTube)
Video: Andy Partridge – “I Wonder Why The Wonder Falls On Me” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “The Road To Oranges & Lemons” (YouTube)
Video: XTC – “Fuzzy Warbles commercial” (YouTube)
Video: Wonderfalls unaired pilot
One of Partridge’s projects this year was working with fellow Englishman Robyn Hitchcock, including co-writing “‘Cause It’s Love (Saint Parallelogram)” off of Ole Tarantula, which Hitchcock will be performing tonight at the Mod Club. eye has an interview with Hitchcock, who is apparently a fan of the TTC, as does The Toronto Star, who gets him to declare his love for his Venus 3 and The National Post, to whom he shrugs off the “British eccentric” label assigned to him (and Partridge).
And in completely XTC-unrelated news… NEW SPIDER-MAN 3 TRAILER. Jinkies! It’s got the Sandman, symbiote costume… whew. Bring it on. And one to file under, “yeahbuhwha?” – Alan Moore to guest star on The Simpsons.