Sunday, September 13, 2009

the last of the great romantics

If you, like me, are a longstanding admirer of the recorded work of Prefab Sprout, you'll probably think that Paddy MacAloon is a songwriting genius. You'll certainly have been interested to read the many interviews in the press recently and maybe heard the man himself, gracious and self-deprecating as ever, talk to Stuart Maconie and Mark Radcliffe a couple of weeks ago.

You'll be familiar with the story of a compulsive songwriter whose addiction to his craft has meant that, in addition to the albums which have sporadically appeared over the last twenty-five years or so, he's also amassed a huge collection of songs which have, tragically, never seen the light of day. You'll also have heard the sad story of how severe health problems mean that the recording process is now a massively laborious one for him and live performances an impossibility. You'll have seen photos of a man in dark glasses, bushy beard and purple suit hugely at odds with his appearance as a handsome, clean-shaven twenty-something.

Thankfully a recording of at least some of the songs from the McAloon archive has now finally hit the shops. "Let's Change the World With Music" is the pared-down version of a possibly very overblown concept album first put together in 1993 and which consequently met with record company rejection.

These are songs of another time in many respects--they're imbued with the naive optimistism of a younger man and often saddled with rather out-dated arrangements. But they're great songs and, as is typical of Prefab Sprout albums, repeated listenings reap rich rewards. There are some great tunes: the chorus of "Music is a Princess" (below) is particulary majestic I think. "Falling In Love" is all the more heartfelt for its simplicity. The lyrics are clever and relentlessly upbeat. In "Last of the Great Romantics":

Here comes the last of the Great Romantics
Not tortured, not racked, illusions intact,
Undiscouraged by the facts.

He's a master songwriter. In "I Love Music", he claims his hero is "the unnerving unswerving Irving Berlin." You can see why.

Here's hoping for more from the vaults soon...

Links:Recommended Spotify listening:


Cocktails said...

I was wandering around youtube last night, as you do, and came across this channel of old interviews, including one with Mr MacAloon which you might be interested in:

Everyone is so young!

I've never really got into Prefab Sprout (not for any particular reason, I've just never progressed beyond that LP with Cars and Girls on it). Really like this tune you've posted though. He has an excellent, yearning voice.

Hoops Hooley said...

Thanks for that link Cocktails. Another interesting PM interview which I hadn't seen before. (Haven't heard mention of a Christmas album before. Wonder what happened to that?). Plenty of other stuff for me to pick through as well at some stage.

I agree he's got a great voice. His appearance has changed so radically over the years though (if you do an image search on Google you'll see what I mean) and it's weird to hear the same voice coming from such different faces, if you know what I mean.