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  • After a seven-year recording hiatus induced by contract strife, XTC returned with a vengeance, apparently trying to make up for lost time. Just a few months after the release of Apple Venus, Vol. 1, and a few months before Vol. 2, the band released a third full-length CD. Homespun is a collection of demo recordings laid down at bassist Colin Moulding's home. The track list and sequence are exactly the same as Apple Venus, Vol. 1, and most of these recordings are so close to the finished products that a casual listener might not even be able to tell the difference. Upon first listen, the impression is of a nearly identical album lacking only a smidgen of polish. Closer examination, however, yields revealing glimpses into the band's creative process. For instance, the Moulding tune "Frivolous Tonight," performed on piano in the album version, receives a brisk and choppy acoustic guitar treatment on Homespun. As one might expect, "Greenman" was improved significantly by the presence of a full orchestra on Apple Venus, but the demo contains a few subtle pleasures of its own, including a vigorous rhythm guitar backing (apparently provided by a Romanian nylon-string guitar belonging to Andy Partridge's daughter) and a sort of Hari Krishna-esque background melody at song's end that didn't make the final cut. The CD also contains extraordinarily detailed liner notes and handwritten drafts of each song's lyrics. (Look closely: There are several illuminating discarded phrases.) But the most valuable nuggets on Homespun are minute-long embryonic takes of "I'd Like That" and "Harvest Festival" recorded hastily by Partridge in the process of writing the songs. The tunes are there but the lyrics are still fragmentary, and in both cases he sounds like he's doing a Paul McCartney impression. These "mumbled mono cassette sketches" are far more intriguing than the demos and are worthy of a Homespun release unto themselves. ~ Evan Cater
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