Here's suggestion: perhaps a brave band from Swindon sacrificed their existence so the rest of civilization could survive Y2K? The panic seems downright quaint now, but planes could have fallen from the sky due to a flaw in COBOL. Malt mixers could have reversed with hideous consequences! Maybe? In any case, the human race didn't end up facing an H.G. Wellian rounding error tragedy, but they did face a Y2K XTC problem. Apart from the swan song "Wasp Star" and a few scraps the new millennium has remained devoid of the second, but far less acclaimed, fab four. Or three. No, wait, two. See? Y2K! See the sacrifice they made?
OK, well, those of us who still mourn the passing of one of the most intelligent and fun bands of that last past century have to find coping mechanisms. Thankfully, Andy Partridge provided a better avenue than empty myth-making or self-flagellation. He opened his cornucopia of demos that have piled up over the years and that surely burst forth from his closet like a rainbow Krakatoa. Hence the "Fuzzy Warbles" series. Though Colin bowed out and contributed no demos of his own, he nonetheless appears here and there.
Volume One must have seemed like an oasis covered with pudding and Turkish Delight to those wandering aimlessly in the vast XTC desert that Y2K brought on - it must have. Volume Two continues the giddy show with more incredible unreleased tracks - though some had appeared on XTC fan club collections.
"I Don't Want to Be Here" features an undubbed and raw Andy and Colin cranking out a (new) classic song for an AIDS benefit album that appeared in 2002. This one is the definite money track of this disc. "Young Marrieds," another exhumed goodie, presents the miserable side of a marriage gone wrong. Most of us have had relationships like the one described sardonically here, especially back in the "stay at home and watch a video" days. A few "Skylarking" outtakes grace the set list, including the very un-Skylarking sounding "Obscene Procession" and the slightly lyrically confounding "Ra Ra for Red Rocking Horse." Then the extremely optimistic because it was written for a children's movie "Everything'll Be Alright" provides enough life affirming pick me up to end suicide for a generation. The good but not atom-splitting "It's Snowing Angels" and "Ship Trapped in the Ice" round out the set nicely.
The flip side of these collections are the demos of already recorded songs. Insane fans will of course love these for the most part, but some may like them more than others. As with volume one, plenty more appear here. "Summers Cauldron" and "All of a Sudden" probably remain the most interesting since they differ the most from the released versions. Some interesting instrumentals with great titles such as "Goom" and "Miller Time" also weave throughout the collection.
Volume Two repeats the format of Volume One, though with probably only slightly, very slightly, no more than a mere nano-intensity than its predecessor. XTC fans, once again, will break their legs dancing with spastic joy at these manna from heaven releases. They let us all know that even more great stuff was happening apart from the band's spellbinding releases. If only more would appear. Though a follow-up to "Rag And Bone Buffet" was proposed on Partridge's APE records website, it has yet to appear. And supposedly the band has surmounted their squabbles. Maybe? Some twelve years on, things don't look optimistic. So enjoy these Warbles just in case.