Prefab Sprout Website: A Life of Surprises

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38 Carat Collection

October 23th, 1999

Where  most clever bands offer pretty simple certainties, Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon is the real, eccentric deal. A wordy rival to The Smiths in the Eighties, he spurned indie credibility in favour of charting featherlite pop songs steeped in American pop culture. 

Latterly, he’s written songs for Jimmy Nail. In short, Paddy, as this collection of songs shows, is not one of us. he’s possibly the most talented songwriter has had in the last twenty years. For under that faultless sheen, Paddy has a way with wise words and complex arrangements. 

Country and Western, Gershwin or slick funk, to give a few examples, have all been integrated into the PS sound, characterised by Paddy’s thin-but-charismatic voice and his uncanny ability to tap into God’s own melodies. 

The world has moved on, and with Paddy doing himself no favours (the only exclusive track here is the theme to ITV’s Where The Heart Is) PS are as uncool as ever, but still essential to those who are under their spell. 

4.5 / 5.0





Jordan The Comeback

August 18th, 1990

Nuclear  powered Walt Disney themes produced by Trevor Horn. That’s how Paddy McAloon imagines his songs will pan out in their transition from bedroom fantasy to recording studio reality. Apparently, his musical wishes rarely come true, and he’s often dissatisfied with the results. Modest chap. ‘Jordan: The Comeback’ is so good McAloon would be quite justified in shouting his mouth off for the rest of time. 

My favourite Prefab Sprout story is this: someone goes into a record shop and asks to hear a track from ‘Steve McQueen’, just to see if it’s as fine as the reviews have been saying. The assistant plonks the needle down randomly and, after five seconds of music, the album is sold. Like ‘SM’ and ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, ‘Jordan: The Comeback’ is about as elaborate and complex as the most ‘serious’ rock you care to mention, yet it offers pleasure as immediate as the frothiest chart pop around. Producer Thomas Dolby has yet again been called upon to transform Paddy McAloon’s pretty tunes into little palaces and, yet again, it’s impossible to see the joins, work out how it’s all done, get to the bottom of this twosome’s magical alchemical equations. Scritti’s Green once said of Haircut 100 that they were far better than they knew, and Prefab Sprout have, alongside their knowingness and intelligence and postmodern deliberation, a certain incidental beauty that could never be contrived. 

McAloon’s genis is his ability to take those few breathtaking seconds from your favourite record - the thrilling intro or swoonsome chorus that you play over and over - and construct whole songs out of them. On this hugely ambitious and astonishingly consistent 19 track album, there are numerous instances of Paddy’s ability to sustain freak moments over three or four sublime minutes, All The World Loves Lovers, We Let The Stars Go, Doo Wop In Harlem and others, possess the emotionally disruptive twists and swerves of the most challenging music, yet they retain the exquisite accessibility of the best airbrushed MOR. ‘Jordan: The Comeback’ is an LP of brilliant foreground muzak. 

You wanna know the highlights? You got all year? Wild Horses makes a mockery of rock’s mythical hard edge and suggests that detractors should never trust the soft outer layers of Prefab pop. Jesse James’ Bolero shows how McAloon can be at his most personally revealing when he’s writing about someone else. And Carnival 2000 encapsulates the feelings of nostalgia for the future that seeps out of every PS tune.Elvis, Prince, Michael Jackson, Howard Hughes, they all get mentions here. On the title track Paddy plays God, and on Michael he’s the devil. Like David Lynch’s forthcoming mega-soap ‘Twin Peaks’, the words are often cliches piled on to disorientating, surreal effect. McAloon as pop’s next crackpot eccentric weirdo? Who knows. Maybe Prefab Sprout’s sixth album will be a triple. Right now, anything is possible. The limit of your dreams.