Rather like those school mathematics exams in which you were expected to hand in all your arithmetic doodlings as well as your final answers, Homegrown is XTC proffering the various porta-studio jottings and embryonic ideas which eventually added up to the Wasp Star--Apple Venus Volume 2 album (a pass with flying colours, lest we forget). Songs don't write themselves. Even seasoned scribes like Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding need to put a bit of elbow grease into it. Thus, every fumbling bedroom troubadour in the land will empathise with Partridge as he mutters and busks his way through a gestative "Wheel and The Maypole" or signs off an early draft of "The Man Who Murdered Love" (nothing like the final version) with a self-questioning "yeah, there might be something there". Rest assured--demos or not--this is a highly listenable collection of quality pop with illuminating sleeve notes from the composers in question. Colin Moulding's marital strife flavoured "In Another Life", for example, was inspired by Stanley Holloway, Andrew Gold and 1970s sitcoms like George and Mildred. --Kevin Maidment
The booklet is both informative and fun to read. A pity that TVT wasn't able to keep the two Japanese only bonus tracks. Bumper Cars and Didn't Hurt A Bit are both minor Xtc classics and deserve a wider audience beyond the Japanese import.
Some of the pieces are pretty much complete in these demo versions and the deltas between the original and the recordings on here is minimal ("Wounded Horse"), although particularly given the sound of "Wasp Star", sometimes the demos do a better job capturing a sense of urgency than the album tracks do (the rollicking demo of "Playground", which I prefer to the album version). There's also a handful of tracks that we get an opportunity for a really intriguing look into their development-- Colin Moulding's "Standing in For Joe" and Andy Partridge's "I'm the Man Who Murdered Love" are first presented as acoustic guitar and voice demos before a full demo is presented (the former's acoustic demo also apparently is from before lyrics were written as the vocal is wordless) and some of the pieces are dramatically different-- "Some Lovely" (which became "My Brown Guitar") has a pronounced ska influence that hearkens back to early XTC that, while it would be somewhat more recessed on the album release, paints a nice picture of how it came to be).
Admittedly, given its format, this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea-- as an obsessive music fan, I find this sort of portrait to be downright fascinating, but this isn't the kind of thing that everyone is going to enjoy. But for me, the insight this provided allowed me greater enjoyment of "Wasp Star".
As a songwriter myself, "Homegrown" is an intriguing look at the growing experience that is writing a song. I'm often inspired and impressed when listening to this album and reading through the notes. Not groundbreaking listening for the lay-person I imagine, but the album is a cool source of knowledge and a nice lesson for me. Hope you like it.