Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen
Want a record to make your hi-fi sing? Easy to get? Cheap? Pick up this one. It turns up in every 2nd hand record shop here for a few euro. That's on the European side of the Atlantic. I don't know how ubiquitous it is on the US side. But I do know its got a different name over there. Its called 'Two wheels good' and its just as brilliant. The album is produced and mixed by Thomas Dolby and sounds simply gorgeous.
The band's second album was a huge improvement on Swoon, the debut and is a textbook in songwriting skills. Its an album full of songs about broken relationships, self esteem and err blueberry pies. Paddy McAloon, the songwriter, also was never one to offer a great melody when several would do. Each song has so much to offer.
'Faron young' kicks off at a teriffic pace and sounds the perfect road song. Fast paced and relatively rocky, great guitar riff. Strangelky it mixes a country twang in with the rest, complete with steel pedal and harmonica.
'Bonny' sounds perfect. Light drumwork, beautifully strummed guitar and Paddy McAloon's hushed vocals(they're nearly always hushed). A melody to die for and Wendy smith's angelic backing vocals.
'Appetite'.......ahhhh, more like a feast. Gorgeous sounding drums, the same breathless vocals, chiming guitars.
The most famous song, and probably the best, on the album is a tale of that worst part of a relationship, as its breaking up. 'When love breaks down' reached a massive #25 in the UK charts. Their biggest hit until 'the king of rock'n'roll' reached #7 in 1988. It starts off real slow before speeding up into a lively and deceptive pace. It deliciously details the way you feel and the way you act when your lovelife is collapsing all around you. Simply beautiful.
'Goodbye Lucille #1' would be a great song on any album. Here it actually pales a bit in comparison to what went before. But on its own merits its a great song, rockier than most of the album. Paddy even gives us a scream. But again, a great chorus, and some tasty fret work.
'Hallelujah' finishes side one. Its not a Leonard Cohen cover. Its a very polished pop song. Or almost electro funk. Somehow it reminds me of Robert Palmer's addicted to love. But I promise you, its not that shallow. And it namechecks George Gershwin.
Side two starts off in soft rock form again. 'Moving the river' is as hard as it gets in Prefab Sprout territory.
'Horsin' around' sounds, surprisingly like an easy samba. Or more correctly, Bossa Nova. Its light and enjoyable. Again it offers us a lush sound to die for. Just to keep those surprises coming, the song changes into a blues style workout and introduces some brass to keep us going. It makes for a great track. An unexpected treasure.
'Desire as' is ambient jazz. Whatever that is. Its dreamy, jazzy and very lovely.
'Blueberry pies' is short and bluesy. Just like this line.
'When the angels' ends the album on less an angelic tip and a more jazz rocky one.
Bog standard pressing that sounds really good. Its a case where the thinness of your vinyl doesn't necessarily have a bad effect on the sound. Although theoretically it could warp more easily. Its got a fabulous sound and more ideas and twists than ten of today's so called indie albums. Standard outer and inner picture sleeves.
Oh my, oh my, have you seen the weather ...
Excellent review. Even better choice of album.
There are but a few similarly smart and fun albums. Back here it was much bigger hit than in UK ... Several singles topped the local charts any any brokenhearted sod knew the "When Love Breaks Down" lyrics.
I've read somewhere that Paddy tried to become UK version of Steely Dan. I beg to differ. I think he hit the pop side of the nail much more accurately than dildo guys. They, on the other hand, did the jazzy part more elegantly.
The same Steely Dan theorist also wrote that albums like this never made us be ashamed for listening to pop records. That one he nailed perfectly ...
"When love breaks down
The lies we tell,
They only serve to fool ourselves,
When love breaks down
The things you do
To stop the truth from hurting you"
Thoroughly enjoyable ... Only complaint goes to the lack of lyrics on the inner sleeve (mine is Italian copy). 23 years on, it still sits in the front row by the spinner. Way to go, Paddy.