Could Prefab Sprout be the new Lloyd Cole and the Commotions? If you like your songs poetic and melodic, Paddy McAloon’s your man
The man sitting across the table sporting a beard and chatting amiably is Paddy McAloon, singer, songwriter and driving force behind Prefab Sprout, just about the hippest group to come out of Britain since, oooh, the last hippest group to come out of Britain.
Since emerging from Newcastle a couple of years back, forests have been slaughtered to supply paper for all the rave reviews they have acquired.
Their latest and second album ‘Steve McQueen‘ (“I like the sound of his name”) has been called ‘the finest album you will hear this year‘ and ‘brilliant’. This sort of thing could turn a young man’s head but not, it seems, Mr. McAloon.
“If we’d sold millions of records,” he says in his gentle Newcastle accent, “then I’d be in a completely different position and it may have totally affected me.
“At the end of 1983 we were really hip. Then a few pre-release copies of ‘Swoon’ [their ﬁrst album] went out, Elvis Costello starts saying Cruel’s the best song he’s ever heard — then everybody started talking.”
The birth of Prefab Sprout was unusual. The group’s bassist and other founding member is Martin McAloon, Paddy’s younger brother.
“It grew out of childhood,” explains Paddy. “One day you’re out there playing football and the next you’ve got a guitar.
“Our mum was taking guitar lessons – my brother was 7 and I was 12 — and we just started playing. We hijacked it and she didn’t learn anything.
“Pretty early on, about 13 or 14. I started to write songs, and even now I’m puzzled by why I did it. When you’re 13 it’s a strange concept to grasp.
“I remember for months and months trying to write my first song and not knowing where to start.”
It was during this early period the ‘band’ was given that name.
“It means nothing.” he says. “l was a kid looking at the names of all these pop groups and thinking all the words you didn’t understand meant more than anything else.
“I remember sticking two insignificant words together and thinking I was being very profound. When I was old enough to realise it was all hogwash, I kept it because it was fun and reminded me of my innocence.”
Now in ‘1985 the Prefab Sprout line-up seems to have settled with Paddy and Martin on guitar/ vocals and bass respectively, Wendy Smith on backing vocals and Neil Conti playing drums. They’re augmented by extra musicians when they play live – in fact, Conti and Sprouts additional guitarist Kevin Armstrong both played in David Bowie’s band for Live Aid, on the Dancing In The Streets video and on Bowie’s work for the upcoming film ‘Absolute Beginners’.
And despite the fact Paddy is no great lover of playing live, the group are undertaking tours of Britain, Europe and, all things being well, Australia, in the very early new year.
“The big attraction for touring was Australia because we’d never been there. It should be sunny, it’s different and a promoter wanted us. The boy who doesn’t like touring, will be coming on tour.”