O riginally released in nine separate volumes between 2002 and 2006, Fuzzy Warbles (now reissued here in three separate box sets) comprises an unprecedented and lovingly curated trawl through the archives of perennially unsung XTC founder Andy Partridge, ranging from the most primitive and throwaway of studio noodlings through to some of the most beautifully detailed and painstakingly crafted pre-production demos ever heard by the human ear.
Anyone questioning XTC’s legitimacy as a presence in the prog world could do worse than dive into this opulent treasure trove; at least half of these 173 offcuts and lost gems amount to exquisitely melodic progressive rock symphonies condensed down to the refined brevity of archetypal pop singles. Partridge’s meticulous but steadfastly eccentric approach to songwriting ensures that even something as daft as ornate answerphone jingle No One Here Available brims with wide-eyed excitement at the process of conjuring music from the ether. The bona fide XTC catalogue will, of course, provide a fuller picture of what the band achieved during their extraordinary 30 years of activity.
But in lieu of any new material from Partridge – let alone his reclusive former sparring partner Colin Moulding – this is essentially the Holy Grail for devoted fans. Moments of twinkling brilliance come thick and fast, ranging from early versions of revered deep cuts like Miniature Sun, Holly Up On Poppy and Train Running Low On Soul Coal through to countless songs never fully realised or released elsewhere.
Highlights include the skewed psychedelia of 2 Rainbeau Melt, a ludicrous skiffle version of Dear God and, perhaps most telling of all, a five-minute collage of vocal booth tomfoolery, That Wag, that confirms that Partridge is equal parts comic surrealist and silly bugger. The demo version of That Wave (from XTC’s 1992 album Nonsuch) that follows is just one of innumerable moments here that also confirm Partridge is a big, fat genius.