wanted to make a record that sounds like no other record you´ll hear
this year - because it comes from no other place", says Prefab Sprout
leader Paddy McAloon of his group's latest Epic album, "From Langley Park
And with its 10 styllistically divergent tracks and a multiple musical cast
including Stevie Wonder, Pete Townshend and the Andrae Crouch Gospel Singers,
Prefab Sprout´s third album may sound too unusual to U.S. ears.
Though the album reached top five status in the group's U.K. homeland and
sold over half a million copies in Europe during its first 10 weeks of release,
it has yet to work similar magic upon U.S. listeners. Since its April 20 release
here, in fact, both of the tracks Epic has offered radio - The Golden
Calf, aimed at album-rock stations, and Cars and Girls, the
sole commercial 7-inch single - have enjoyed limited success at best.
The irony, as McAloon sees it, is that the album has been viewed in some U.K.
circles as being Prefab's "American" album. With a lyrical reference
to "Brucie" Springsteen on Cars and Girls and with such
other cuts as The King of Rock'n'Roll and Hey Manhattan,
he says, "It's my fault. All the clues point toward it, with the American
titles. They think it's about America, and therefore the implication is Prefab
Sprout wants to crack America.
"And I have to tell everyone in Europe we don't sell records here,
really - pityful records for a band on their third album. And you don't crack
America by raising any kind of controversy about Bruce Springsteen or tackling
Manhattan when you don't live there."
In fact, he adds, if he'd really wanted to record an "American"
album, he would have asked someone like Russ Titelman to produce it. As it
stands, the 10 cuts on "From Langley Park To Memphis" are produced and
with Jon Kelly or Andy Richards and Thomas Dolby. McAloon initially planned to
use 10 different producers, he explains, but ultimately deemed that a
The partial return to Dolby, who in 1985 produced Prefab's previous album
(dubbed "Two Wheels Good" in the U.S., "Steve McQueen"
elsewhere) and who McAloon deems "brilliant", came as surprise to fans
of the band who'd been watching. Scattered reports in the U.K. press at the time
had it that the universal acclaim garnered by that second Prefab album - which
was lavishly produced by Dolby - was going to result in a quickly issued,
scantily produced follow-up album dubbed "Protest Songs".
"It didn't happen," says McAloon, "because CBS didn't want to
make us another record. They said if we released another one that year, sales
forces across the world will stop working "Two Wheels Good" and go to
the new record. And unlike Prince and his "black" album controversy,
says McAloon, "our stature in the music business is not big enough to allow
us to do those sort of arrogant things."
Thus, instead of a rootsy successor to "Two Wheels Good," Prefab's
"From Langley Park To Memphis" echoes - at least in terms of
production style and scope - its predecessor. Scattered critical accusations
that the band has opted for slickness irk McAloon, who sees the new set as being
"even more out there somewhere."
"I've been written a better bunch of songs than this one," adds
McAloon. "I know that for a fact. I think the songs on it are my favorites.
"And as for the texture of it, that's something that, you know . . .
" He pauses. "Rock fans don't have very broad horizons."