Sunday, 7 July 2013

Prefab Sprout: Crimson/Red - review...

We Will Rock You: The Mysterious Prefab Sprout Album You Might Never Hear

by Jon Hunt
Wednesday 3 July 2013

On June 8th, a user named “ExitSomeone” (number of posts — 1) appeared on SproutNet, the online home of Prefab Sprout fandom, with a link to a Soundcloud page (originating from an equally-mysterious someone named “ICIMUSIC”) containing songs that purported to be a new Prefab Sprout record. “Do my ears deceive me?” he asked, knowingly, “Or is this really what I think it is?” He then buggered off and posted nothing more. Predictably, the fan firestorm began immediately. Was this real? A clever pastiche? Where did this mysterious user come from, where did these songs come from, and could this really be the work of reclusive genius Paddy McAloon?

A little background: if you’re not familiar with the Sprout, do take a moment (well, a month, at least, if you’re being fair) to acquaint yourself with them. They’re perhaps most known for the cult 80s record Steve McQueen (called in the States, for legal reasons, Two Wheels Good), a glorious combination of Bacharachian pop songwriting and pure British soul, but their career contains many highlights (the underrated gem From Langley Park to Memphis, the comprehensive Jordan: The Comeback, the recently-released-but-recorded-in-the-early-90s Let’s Change The World With Music among them). Honorifics such as “our best living songwriter” are frequently applied to McAloon, and quite fairly so, but he is perhaps equally known for his eccentricities — like Prince, he has, supposedly, dozens of finished but unreleased albums lying around his house, and he’s become somewhat reclusive of late — health problems (encroaching sight and hearing problems primarily) have kept him at home, and reports that he was “finished with music entirely” continue to crop up. His last new album — fully new, rather than a release of something from the 90s — was 2003′s solo turn I Trawl The Megahertz, a strange (but fascinating) album that bore little resemblance to the Sprout of old.

Fans had all but given up hearing another peep from McAloon when this album cropped up, so naturally, many were skeptical. Cries of “pastiche” were heard amongst the praise being lavished upon the album — was this just a clever imitator who’d drawn from his obviously deep knowledge of McAloon’s songwriting and lyrical quirks? And who possessed a clearly McAloon-ish voice besides? If so, came the reply, it’s the best pastiche artist ever, and he’s written a batch of songs that are melodically and lyrically the equal of anything McAloon himself had ever penned. More likely, says Occam’s Razor, it’s simply an unreleased Sprout album, leaked by whomever (McAloon himself? A “friend?” A record label exec?) to an underused corner of the internet, and when nobody stumbled upon it, pointed at quite loudly in the most likely place for it to generate hype and excitement. Confirmation of its legitimacy came when SproutNet was politely asked to remove all links to the work by someone (possibly former Sprout member Wendy Smith, who is still close to McAloon) close to the band. All Soundcloud files subsequently vanished, and all but one song (“Billy“) were removed from YouTube as well...