Prefab Sprout: Classic Or Dud

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heh, I meant "Swoon" when I said "Cruel" above (the latter's a song on the former).

Jeff W, Friday, 10 January 2003 11:55 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I've always found Swoon pretty much impenetrable - it stopped me enjoying PS for a long time (I bought it first because it had the best title). All that oblique wordplay.

Tom (Groke), Friday, 10 January 2003 11:56 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I wouldn't defend the lyrics, Tom. Generally lyrics are just not very important to me. I seem to remember some of the images added a nice weirdness to the proceedings and worked sonically, but I'd never have been interested in thinking "what exactly does that mean?"

(This reminds of a comment Elton John made in an interview in the aftermath of Blur releasing "The Great Escape" (to great critical acclaim) and Oasis releasing "What's the Story" (critically rubbished). EJ said the critics were going to end up with egg on their face, partly because they were too obsessed by the lyrics, but also because they did not understand how lyrics worked. Oasis's lyrics might be rubbish in terms of meaning but they sounded ok so they did the job. EJ obviously isn't indifferent to lyrics or he wouldn't employ Bernie Taupin, and pay him a huge royalty share: he wasn't saying lyrics don't matter. He was saying they mattered in a different way than the critics thought.

This stuck in my mind because I agreed with his him both on how lyrics worked and on the relative merits of the two albums (not that I was a particularly fervent admirer of the Oasis album, but it did have some very good tunes while the Blur album IMO was obviously rubbish. Even Blur's lyrics, sixth-form poetry shot through with a celebrity's contempt for the rest of us with our boring jobs and lives, were much more offensive than Gallacher's mere awkwardness.

EJ turned out to be "right" at least in the limited/provisional sense that WTSMG outsold TGE by a huge multiple and the critical consensus shifted hugely in its favour as well.

ArfArf, Friday, 10 January 2003 12:52 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Neil Tennant made a very similar point re. Blur/Oasis lyrics, and I think he and Elton were probably right. My interest in lyrics flickers on and off - if they don't attract my attention I won't judge them. With Swoon though it seemed to me that the lyrics were drawing attention to themselves quite a bit, leaving me little choice but to pay some kind of attention. And often they left me feeling rather irritated.

Actually thinking about it this happened with the backing vocals more than the lyrics - something like "When Bobby Fischer's plane touches the ground" is interrupted by that pert little "(plane, plane!)" in the backing, and for whatever reason it infuriates me every time, draws attention to the lyrical quirkiness. I hate that feeling when I'm listening to music and suddenly find myself thrown out of the record thinking "But why on earth is *that* there?". The "Doh-bee. Doh-bee." stuff at the start of 'I Couldn't Bear To Be Special' has the same effect.

Tom (Groke), Friday, 10 January 2003 13:01 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Again, I wouldn't want to defend these specific instances. I'd agree that some of the quirkiness/archness is irritating and obtrusive. But in terms of liking the album overall it obviously didn't bother me so much.

ArfArf, Friday, 10 January 2003 15:33 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

one year passes...
Revive - if only because, after years of unrequited like from both parties, they suddenly seem to be the band my mid-thirties were waiting for. 'Nightingales' just came on iTunes and it's like Heidegger rewritten by Dietz and Schwartz.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 18:46 (fourteen years ago) Permalink


Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 18:50 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I am also... touched at Dr C.'s precognitive typo throughout this thread... where he types PF instead of PS... repeatedly!

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 18:53 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I also think there is an unmatchable b-sides collection to be compiled here - 'Girl I'm Here' and 'The End of the Affair' (unbelievably, a couple of b-sides from different editions of the ok 'Electric Guitars' single) alone are worth the price of admission.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 19:02 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I found them to be CLASSIC until "Langley Park" which is unbelievably DUD. My little brother looooves them, go figure once again

Donna Brown (Donna Brown), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 19:14 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I must listen to the 2CD best of thing tonight to see if I like them yet. I sort of want to like PS.

Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 20:10 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I agree with Donna Brown's little brother!

And -- while I expect disagreement -- I think Dolby/Prefab (or Dolby/McAloon) was a genuinely great partnership. Yes, sometimes an otherwise lush production suffers from a synth patch too scrappy or anemic -- or conversely, a pad too thick and sludgy -- to serve its intended purpose. But Dolby had a knack for giving each track its own sonic vocabulary, and if you forgive the occasional lapse it's possible to get really caught up in the creativity of the arrangements of even the lesser songs -- the punch, rubbery percussive sounds in "Knock on Wood," the spacious acoustic and nicely timed delays on the backup singers in "I Remember That," the Gregorian chant/drone in "Michael," and so on.

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 20:51 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"the punchY, rubber percussive sounds"

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 21:16 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Anyone remember the song "Donna Summer" that came (only I think) with the double-single release of 'When Love Breaks Down"? God, that was wonderful. It also came with a different version of "Diana" that was on "Protest Songs" (my favourite Sprout LP I think)

LondonLee (LondonLee), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 21:43 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

No, but I really liked that song "Spinning Belinda" that was on the Debut magazine/record combo and apparently no other Sprout record. Thanks, Paddy.

Donna Brown (Donna Brown), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 22:35 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I had forgotten all about Debut magazine. I had an issue that had Danse Society on it.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Wednesday, 10 March 2004 22:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

there are some great songs on Jordan, the Comeback too and that album hasn't been mentioned so far ( i dont think) Mercy is maybe his greatest song. "I'm 49" from I trawl the Megahertz is very beautiful too.

jed_ (jed), Thursday, 11 March 2004 02:12 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

jordan is the best song. andromeda has been unfairly maligned in this subject too, it was a pretty classy comeback album. never heard the last one. i liked that andromeda was dedicated to a couple of carpenters. the judybats were like the american version of prefab sprout, they were classic as well.

keith m (keithmcl), Thursday, 11 March 2004 02:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Judybats were TOTALLY classic

Donna Brown (Donna Brown), Thursday, 11 March 2004 02:45 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I like a few tracks on Andromeda Heights but it was a disappointment overall. I'm glad I didn't give up on it too quickly or I would have missed out on the glorious title track at the end -- glorious despite the ill-conceived instrumental verse.

(Anomie & Bonhomie is another album where you might well bail out early on an artist whose best years are probably behind him, but you'd miss the best track if you did.)

And yes, "Im 49" is beautiful. Depressing as hell, but beautiful.

Never heard of the Judybats -- in what ways are they similar? Sound? Quality of songwriting? Or...

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Thursday, 11 March 2004 03:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Classic. I was just playing the first side of 'Two Wheels Good'/'Steve McQueen' today.

As for Elton's praising Noel Gallagher's lyrics, didn't Christgau once cite "You know I can't think straight no more" as a key to Bernie Taupin's state of mind?

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Thursday, 11 March 2004 04:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I think Andromeda Heights is fantastic! A much more "mature" sound than any of the other albums, but I wouldn't want to have to chose my favourite between that one, SWOON and Protest Songs.

The Gunman & Other Stories on the other hand was a disappointment.

I Trawl The Megahertz is.... interesting.... I'm not sure, haven't really made my mind up on that one yet. I've enjoyed it to the 2 or 3 times I've played it but I don't feel any great urge to keep going back to it like I did with Andromeda Heights.

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Thursday, 11 March 2004 10:34 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Swoon, McQueen, Langley Park, Protest Songs and Jordan infused my teenage life so that McAloon could never in the future put a foot wrong. Of course he did, but I've ignored it in the main. Ok, I haven't- Andormeda Heights, some great songs aside, is swamped by saxophone and slush, and Gunman just doesn't sparkle. Megahertz has a good six songs' worth of filler, but 'I'm 49''s perfect and the opener is touching, stitched together or not. That said, it does sound a bit like my American friend rambling 'meaningfully' over her ex-boyfriend's crappy noodling, but I try to shut that out.

Buffalo Stan, Thursday, 11 March 2004 16:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I don't know what Dolby and iTunes are.

re. lyrics, how about wanting to be the Fred Astaire of words?

I like PF.

the bluefox, Thursday, 11 March 2004 16:54 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Dolby = Thomas Dolby, who produced and played on Steve McQueen

iTunes = an antique jukebox in a cafe in North London that only plays PS and PF records

(possibly one of these is wrong)

zebedee (zebedee), Thursday, 11 March 2004 17:17 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Thomas Dolby also produced and performed on parts of Langley Park and all of Jordan

Paul in Santa Cruz (Paul in Santa Cruz), Thursday, 11 March 2004 19:45 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

You know what? I quite like the idea of McAloon - this hyperliterate exquisite loner - gradually moving toward what, some might call, slush. Oddly, it's a sign of adventure. He desparately wants to write the 'Long and Winding Road' of his generation, and I think there's something weirdly admirable about his attempt to stifle his peculiar singularity in search of a standard. In a funny way, he's Jimmy Webb in reverse.

I also love what I have heard of the Megahertz record. It's brave and magnificent.

Does anyone know the state of Paddy M's eyesight now? And whether he is likely to release any of his mad folly concept lps or is ever more determined to explore the lonely furrow connecting the BBC world service and Berlioz?

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Thursday, 11 March 2004 21:07 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I'd like to switch my year-old vote to dud if I may. I couldn't even get through a third of Two Wheels Good or Jordan: The Come Back last time I tried. Though I still dig "Looking For Atlantis."

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Thursday, 11 March 2004 21:32 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Any excuse to use this picture...

I don't think any of these supposed concept lp's (18 at the last count) exist anywhere other than in his head but it's nice to know that there may be a concept album about Zorro the Fox or Michael Jackson arriving sometime in the next 5 or 10 years.

Sadly he's shaved his beard off

Billy Dods (Billy Dods), Thursday, 11 March 2004 22:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

He kind of looks like Jess now.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 11 March 2004 22:22 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

does jess read every thread? cos...

cozen (Cozen), Thursday, 11 March 2004 22:28 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Funnily enough, I think they do exist - ie the great lost PS concept lps - it's just he only wants them to come out after he's dead. It would be a typically McAloon touch.

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Thursday, 11 March 2004 22:48 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I just want an acoustic Paddy album. Him and a guitar, his songs, no eurovision production. Errr -demos, I suppose. Think "Dublin" off Protest Songs.

Oh, and Classic, if only for Steve McQueen.

David Nolan (David N.), Friday, 12 March 2004 01:28 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i always think of prefab sprout when i listen to the judybats, they are a pop band from the southern US but they made the same sort of dramatic, polished, adult pop as prefab sprout. the singer was playing a role, much like paddy did in a lot of his songs, and the judybats singer was pretty fantastic. they aren't quite as polished as prefab and definitely more guitar based but i think they share a bit of the same shared collective consciousness musically and lyrically. maybe.

keith m (keithmcl), Friday, 12 March 2004 02:07 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Funnily enough, I think they do exist - ie the great lost PS concept lps - it's just he only wants them to come out after he's dead. It would be a typically McAloon touch.

hmm, i doubt this, in fact. If they did exist he would have released some "songs" rather than putting out "i trawl the megahertz". it seems to have more than a little of the Truman capote/answered prayers about it.

jed_ (jed), Friday, 12 March 2004 03:36 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

"This is a man who records concept albums in his spare time, just as a hobby"

I am touched by JtN's new obsession.

Just thinking about the music to Bonny makes me a bit teary.

N. (nickdastoor), Friday, 12 March 2004 09:43 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I seem to recall the title "I Trawl The Megahertz" being mentioned in connection with one of these lost albums years ago....

Personally I think the albums do exist. I certainly want to think they do.

Probably not as completed, polished recordings; maybe not even as completed songs; but certainly as fragments of tunes and lyrics like bits of jigsaws; some may be just a couple of bits of sky that wouldn't mean anything to anyone other than Paddy; others may be substantially complete apart from a last couple of elusive missing pieces to be located and slotted into place.

I'm sure Thomas Dolby's mentioned mentioned that Paddy's got shelves and shelves and cupboards full of tapes - but again I suspect sifting through them all to sort out the useable fragments would be a dauntingly gargantuan task for anyone to undertake.

Maybe that's why Paddy hasn't done it himself.

Stewart Osborne (Stewart Osborne), Friday, 12 March 2004 09:44 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Just rebought Jordan after not having heard it for 10 years or more. Glad to say it totally stands up and is wonderful. Love most of the rest of their stuff too although The King Of Rock n Roll, their big hit I can do without. I never really grasped hold of the Gunman, it felt odd as though it wasn't a proper PS album. Seemed to disappear the moment it was released and I never see it in the shops anywhere. The version I have is a promo. Andromeda Heights has some lovely songs but as mentioned elsewhere suffers from saxamaphone overload.

As far as I know Paddy had an operation that fixed his sight problems so hopefully he's back to full vision and we'll get a new PS album.

mms (mms), Friday, 12 March 2004 10:04 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Nothing worthwhile to say but I think he actually looks kinda fantastic in that photo

Mr Mime (Andrew Thames), Friday, 12 March 2004 10:06 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

A Megahertz preview article (in the Scotsman, I think) mentioned a 'new Prefab Sprout album later this year'. Which was, er, last year. It did seem a little fanciful.

I've heard tell of people who've listened to bits of 'Earth: The Story So Far' etc., which suggests some of these lost albums (or parts thereof) have been recorded. Also, bits of 'Zorro the Fox' are apparently on Andromeda Heights.

Buffalo Stan (Buffalo Stan), Friday, 12 March 2004 10:50 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

i'm with David, classic.

eleki-san (eleki-san), Friday, 12 March 2004 11:59 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Swans was from Zorro The Fox apparently

mms (mms), Friday, 12 March 2004 12:36 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I am touched by N's new touchiness.

the bellefox, Friday, 12 March 2004 13:02 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I am not touchy.

N. (nickdastoor), Friday, 12 March 2004 14:06 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Are you feely?

Jerry the Nipper (Jerrynipper), Friday, 12 March 2004 14:14 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I am not touchy

Have you spoken to A-ha about this?

Me I'm touchy
Touchy touchy you
Me I'm touchy and you know what to do

Rob Bolton (Rob Bolton), Friday, 12 March 2004 14:19 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

two months pass...
Imagine: if Prefab Sprout had written, or recorded, 'Bachelor Kisses'!

the bellefox, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 12:57 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Except -- then, the Go-Betweens' output would be so much diminished in quality?

the bluefox, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 12:57 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

I did, as I said I would, listen to the 2CD best-of back in March. My position remains the same - I like the *idea* of Paddy Mac, I want to like them, I occasionally think I *do* like them, then it turns out that I've lost interest and 5 tracks have gone by unnoticed.

Dr. C (Dr. C), Wednesday, 19 May 2004 13:51 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

Like the Go-Betweens!!

the bellefox, Wednesday, 19 May 2004 14:10 (fourteen years ago) Permalink

try "cars and girls"

a but (brimstead), Friday, 25 November 2016 18:53 (one year ago) Permalink

word, i will!

xp ha i thought that lyric was "absence makes the heartless wager," which i'm not sure makes sense but the real lyric is better

flappy bird, Friday, 25 November 2016 18:56 (one year ago) Permalink

"A Life of Surprises" is seriously about the best advice song ever, makes Steely Dan look like whiny teenagers

albvivertine, Friday, 25 November 2016 19:08 (one year ago) Permalink

yeah, I love his penchant for advice - there isn't much like it in pop, I think, since at its best it seems actually wise - Life of Surprises is the high point but also love that scolding 'She is a person too / She has her own will' in Goodbye Lucille* - really the key thing to be telling moping lovelorn boys. In fact, all the way through to 'Girls, have some fun' at the end of Adolescence.

He's really profoundly uncynical I think. Even seeing through things, in anger or bitterness, he's very humane and very scrupulous about emotion.

*also 'what are you - 21? The world is a million'

woof, Monday, 28 November 2016 11:30 (one year ago) Permalink

three weeks pass...

finally, a second poll:
Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen / Two Wheels Good poll

woof, Monday, 19 December 2016 22:02 (one year ago) Permalink

All this Prefab talk made me queue up my compilation of b-sides. I think this is complete, not counting remixes. It's not all gold but there's lots of gems here:
Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
Radio Love
The Devil Has All The Best Tunes
Walk On
Spinning Belinda
Donna Summer
Diana (single version)
Oh! The Swiss
Real Life (Just Around The Corner)
The Guest Who Stayed Forever
Old Spoonface Is Back
Nero The Zero
Dandy Of The Danube
Tin Can Pot
Bearpark (demo)
The Sound Of Crying (full version)
If You Don't Love Me
Just Because I Can
Where The Heart Is
The End Of The Affair
Girl I'm Here
Never Trust A Spell
I'm A Troubled Man (demo)

I also include these unreleased cuts from a fan bootleg:
Constant Blue (demo)
Cherry Tree (demo)
The Glass Slipper (demo)

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Wednesday, 21 December 2016 16:42 (one year ago) Permalink

Agreed on the gems, like "Donna Summer" and "Bearpark". We might own the same compilation, if "When the Angels (Instrumental)" is on yours, too. Wish there were more out there to collect. For better or worse, they're left to their original releases. The Collection included "LIMOG(ES)" as did one of the later singles, but that's pretty much it, I think.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Wednesday, 21 December 2016 20:44 (one year ago) Permalink

two months pass...

Just gorgeous...what an absolute hero he is

X-Prince Protégé (sonnyboy), Friday, 3 March 2017 15:00 (one year ago) Permalink

They got Santa for their new video?

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Friday, 3 March 2017 15:12 (one year ago) Permalink

paddy has looked recently-descended-from-a-mountain for like... over a decade now?

the raindrops and drop tops of lived, earned experience (BradNelson), Friday, 3 March 2017 15:17 (one year ago) Permalink

Has he ever "explained" his appearance recently? So hard to reconcile the voice on the early records with this Gandalf looking figure

calstars, Friday, 3 March 2017 16:26 (one year ago) Permalink

How do you explain sth like that?

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Friday, 3 March 2017 16:28 (one year ago) Permalink

Think his 'look' is at least partly related to the terrible eyesight problems he's had over the last ten years or more.

Bernie Lugg (Ward Fowler), Friday, 3 March 2017 16:30 (one year ago) Permalink

yeah "i trawl the megahertz" was like 2003 and he looked the same... who really cares though?

clouds, Friday, 3 March 2017 23:55 (one year ago) Permalink

yeah, wow, ask Paddy what gives--I'd love to hear that response

Iago Galdston, Saturday, 4 March 2017 00:41 (one year ago) Permalink

Yeah, Paddy's looked like this for a long time now... I'm surprised that people are surprised about this now?

Coolio Iglesias (Turrican), Saturday, 4 March 2017 00:47 (one year ago) Permalink

people should explain themselves when they grow beards

a but (brimstead), Saturday, 4 March 2017 01:26 (one year ago) Permalink

LOL Tom Scharpling used to do a segment where he adjudicated whether bearded callers had "earned their beard"

Iago Galdston, Saturday, 4 March 2017 02:49 (one year ago) Permalink

don't know if this has already been posted, but

soref, Saturday, 4 March 2017 11:49 (one year ago) Permalink


My guess is it's the public expression of a self perceived sea change of identity.

calstars, Saturday, 4 March 2017 12:59 (one year ago) Permalink

Or a way to not be recognized in public by his fans who I'd guess to be somewhat obsessive

calstars, Saturday, 4 March 2017 13:02 (one year ago) Permalink

Or a plea for attention but that doesn't seem to be his style.

calstars, Saturday, 4 March 2017 13:17 (one year ago) Permalink

thanks, Soref--perfect

Iago Galdston, Sunday, 5 March 2017 23:52 (one year ago) Permalink

goddamn his voice sounds great in that new video

flappy bird, Monday, 6 March 2017 01:56 (one year ago) Permalink

one year passes...

"I told myself, 'one a year'. But if I did one thing a year, I'd be 60 by the time I cleared eight of them. And I have a lot more than eight." Clear-eyed, twinkle-eared, coulda-gone-deaf-and-blind Paddy McAloon, the sanest maverick and most engaged recluse in music, chuckles. At himself, at his situation, at the world.

This from a 2009 interview. Funny how one a year is spoken of as not making a dent in his projects, yet 9 years on, nothing new released. Haven't even heard any good rumors. The most recent mentioned a reissue of _I Trawl the Megahertz_ in the works, but nothing on that front sadly. If there's an album worth of additional tracks for that, I'd weep.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Wednesday, 26 September 2018 19:41 (three weeks ago) Permalink

The Independent interview, which is probably somewhere upthread.

the body of a spider... (scampering alpaca), Wednesday, 26 September 2018 19:44 (three weeks ago) Permalink

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