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Indie Pop - Released October 17, 2005 | Columbia

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Pop/Rock - Released February 1, 2019 | Sony Music UK

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Sixteen years after its release, I Trawl The Megahertz has resurfaced as a remastered edition. In 2003, it was released as Paddy McAloon’s solo album. In 2019, it returns under the name of his illustrious group Prefab Sprout. However, nothing here sounds like the luxurious pop from their 1985 album Steve McQueen with its wonderful singles When Love Breaks Down and Faron Young... Originally, the British songwriter created this unique record when he was on the edge of blindness and spent his days listening to the radio. In the early 2000s, McAloon recorded the spoken word vocals of the narrator Yvonne Connors and dressed his 22-minute opening track (I Trawl the Megahertz) with a score full of violins and classical brass. It’s a sound that’s rather intriguing and really quite elegant. The rest of the resurrected album is mostly instrumental, resembling the symphonic score of a feature film that was never shot. Fluctuating between classical, orchestral pop and film score music, the album carries you away by timeless themes that prove that Paddy McAloon is not just another pop artist. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Indie Pop - Released February 13, 2001 | Epic

A belated American release of a two-disc set released in England in 1999 as The 38-Carat Collection, The Collection is a sublime overview of Prefab Sprout's remarkable career. Disc one is all of the group's singles (minus 1983's "The Devil Has All the Best Tunes"), beginning with their self-released 1982 debut, "Lions in My Own Garden (Exit Someone)," and continuing through 1997's Beatles tribute "Electric Guitars." The decade-and-a-half's worth of singles chart Paddy McAloon's growth from an Elvis Costello disciple with a fondness for obscure religious metaphors to a gifted songsmith in his own right, whose occasional comparisons to Cole Porter and Paul McCartney are more than deserved. Whether as simple as the rueful adolescent misery of "Johnny Johnny" (called "Goodbye Lucille #1" on 1985's Steve McQueen) or as lush as the richly symphonic "We Let the Stars Go," these songs are brilliantly melodic and lyrically evocative gems. The second disc proves that McAloon's album tracks are in many cases better than his singles. Culling two to four tracks from each of Prefab Sprout's six 1984-1997 albums, this disc covers McAloon's more challenging or non-commercial material, from the opaque, knotty "Cue Fanfare" to the glorious "Andromeda Heights," possibly the most genuinely beautiful song of the group's oeuvre. Though no collection can truly cover all of Prefab Sprout's high points -- at least three of their albums, Swoon, Steve McQueen, and Jordan: The Comeback, are simply essential -- this set is much better than 1992's single-disc compilation A Life of Surprises, and it contains several songs from 1989's Protest Songs and 1997's Andromeda Heights, neither of which were ever released in the United States. ~ Stewart Mason
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Indie Pop - Released October 2, 1990 | Epic

Jordan: The Comeback is Prefab Sprout's largely successful attempt to embrace the breadth of popular music; wisely reuniting with producer Thomas Dolby, Paddy McAloon freely indulges his myriad ambitions and obsessions to weave a dense, finely textured tapestry closer in spirit and construction to a lavish Broadway musical than to the conventional rock concept LP. Over the course of no less than 19 tracks, McAloon chases his twin preoccupations of religion and celebrity, creating a loose thematic canvas perfect for his expanding musical palette; quickly dispensing with common pop idioms, the album moves from tracks like the samba-styled "Carnival 2000" to the self-explanatory "Jesse James Symphony" and its companion piece "Jesse James Bolero" with remarkable dexterity. Dolby's atmospheric production lends an even greater visual dimension to the songs, which -- with their tightly constructed narratives and occasional spoken-word passages -- seem almost destined to someday reach the stage; indeed, Jordan: The Comeback is like an original cast recording minus the actors, or a rock opera without the silliness and bombast -- a truly inspired work. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Indie Pop - Released September 29, 1999 | Columbia

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Indie Pop - Released June 16, 1989 | Columbia

Protest Songs was recorded by Prefab Sprout in 1985 in the wake of the masterful Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good, but shelved in favor of the subsequent From Langley Park to Memphis; it finally surfaced to little fanfare in 1989, appearing almost as mysteriously as it was abandoned four years earlier. It's a wonderful record, but perhaps too close in sound and spirit to Steve McQueen for comfort -- From Langley Park, for all its flaws, is a much more adventurous effort, and with the benefit of hindsight, it seems reasonable to assume that Paddy McAloon wished not to stick with the tried-and-true but instead attempt something new and different, successful or not. That said, fans who loved Steve McQueen and its gossamer pop beauty will find much to savor here -- songs like "A Life of Surprises," "Talking Scarlet" and "Diana" (the latter an evocative portrait of the late "people's princess" and her effect on British society) rank alongside McAloon's finest, informed by the stately grace and ingenious wit which remain the hallmarks of every Prefab Sprout record. By no means a lost masterpiece, it's still an essential piece of the puzzle. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Pop - Released June 30, 1992 | Epic

Prefab Sprout was always too good for the radio. Hearing the band's immaculate, gorgeously crafted pop songs alongside disposable, unimaginative records seemed like blasphemy. Perhaps many American radio programmers felt the same way, as most of this best-of compilation is obscure to U.S. listeners. While Two Wheels Good and From Langley Park to Memphis are superior purchases, A Life of Surprises is an engaging introduction to a group that is nowhere near as bizarre as its name. Much has been said about Paddy McAloon's warm, comforting voice, but like Paul Heaton of the Housemartins and the Beautiful South, his soothing croon can sometimes hide some pretty depressing lyrics. "When Love Breaks Down" is classic '80s new wave heartache: teary-eyed synthesizers, downtrodden basslines, and McAloon's whispery talk create a film noir atmosphere of deep sadness. The lyrics are sharpened by his adult observations. "When love breaks down/You join the wrecks/Who leave their hearts for easy sex," McAloon sings. The brutal honesty of those lines easily elevate "When Love Breaks Down" to the top class of breakup songs. Even more powerful is "Goodbye Lucille No. 1 (Johnny Johnny)," sung from the perspective of a man trying to make a close friend get over a girl who has rejected him. The words are frank and painfully realistic as McAloon doesn't sugarcoat the dialogue. McAloon rips into his buddy's futile romantic fantasies and lets the hard light of reality shine upon him: "Ooh Johnny Johnny Johnny you won't make it any better/Ooh Johnny Johnny Johnny you might well make it worse." If this sounds dreary it should be noted that Prefab Sprout isn't one of those grim British raincoat bands. The group has a number of wonderfully upbeat moments, such as on the exhilarating "Hey Manhattan!" and "Cars and Girls," a clever commentary on Bruce Springsteen's preoccupation with automobiles and women. ~ Michael Sutton
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Pop - Released March 8, 1988 | Columbia

As suggested by the title, From Langley Park to Memphis is Prefab Sprout's spiritual journey into the heart of American culture; obsessed with rock 'n' roll ("The King of Rock 'n' Roll") and Bruce Springsteen ("Cars and Girls"), fascinated with gospel music ("Venus of the Soup Kitchen") and locked in a love/hate relationship with New York City ("Hey! Manhattan"), Paddy McAloon turns an iconoclastic eye to the other side of the Atlantic in order to make some sense of it all. An airy, lounge-pop feel permeates the record, which also sports cameos from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Pete Townshend. Still, while ambitious in both concept and execution, From Langley Park to Memphis pales in comparison to its masterful predecessor Two Wheels Good -- a shortcoming acknowledged by Prefab Sprout themselves with the title of their next album, Jordan: The Comeback. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Pop - Released December 30, 1985 | Epic

Smart, sophisticated and timelessly stylish, Two Wheels Good (titled Steve McQueen throughout the rest of the world) is a minor classic, a shimmering jazz-pop masterpiece sparked by Paddy McAloon's witty and inventive songwriting. McAloon is a wickedly cavalier composer, his songs exploring human weaknesses like regret ("Bonny"), lust ("Appetite") and infidelity ("Horsin' Around") with cynical insight and sarcastic flair; he's also remarkably adaptable, easily switching gears from the faux-country of "Faron" to the stately pop grace of "Moving the River." At times, perhaps, his pretensions get the better of him (as on "Desire As"), while at other times his lyrics are perhaps too trenchant for their own good; at those moments, however, what keeps Two Wheels Good afloat is Thomas Dolby's lush production, which makes even the loftiest and most biting moments as easily palatable as the airiest adult-contemporary confection. ~ Jason Ankeny
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Pop - Released September 30, 1988 | Columbia

Paddy McAloon had not yet found the key to the elegant compositions that made Prefab Sprout distinctive when it came time to record their debut, Swoon. He certainly tries hard to make his sophisticated contemporary pop sound distinctive, but the problem is that he does too many things at once -- the lyrics are overstuffed, and the music has too many chord changes and weird juxtapositions, as he tries to put white-funk beats to carefully crafted melodies. A few moments work, such as "Couldn't Bear to Be Special," but Swoon is primarily of interest as a historical item, since it only suggests the promise the band later filled. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine