Prefab Sprout Seven Years On
ENOUGH! A chord to bring an end to the long silence. Paddy returns, a little more rotund in comparison to the time of “Jordan: the Comeback”. “Andromeda Heights” is yet another evolution of the Prefab Sprout mystique, so far from current market trends that it seems unreasonable. Yet there is something extraordinary in the melodic joy, something that eludes the mainstream and moves us away from the “times”. And Paddy also explains to us why there are so many stars.
Paradoxically, seven years away from everything have honed the already immense talent of Paddy McAloon, who is talking of himself, the world, the stars, and the new Prefab Sprout album.
“This ghost is here to stay”, sings Paddy McAloon in the chorus of “A Prisoner of the Past”. But who is this ghost haunting contemporary music? “Phil Spector, whose name sounds like ‘spectre’ or ghost in English, is that ghost. He’s one of the greats, lost but still present, living out of time.”
And Paddy knows how to show his gratitude. The start of the song celebrates the drumbeat of the “wall of sound”. A “Be My Baby” for 2000.
The past hypnotises Paddy “To be a prisoner of the past is to enjoy more freedom than to live as an architect of the present”. He has been away from everything for seven years. As someone so sensitive to the mythology of his youth (Electric Guitars is a history of the Beatles, but right at the last minute Paul McCartney was unable to play alongside Paddy), he has rejected the torments of the contemporary music business. “But I’ve never lived so intensely musically in these years when I haven’t bought or listened to records.”
Seven years during which Paddy was writing at breakneck speed, song after song, almost all inspired, almost all coherent. Many records completed and never offered to anyone. One, “Let’s Change the World With Music” which Sony “politely refused, proving themselves to be very patient in waiting for me to come back with this new album.”
The record is “Andromeda Heights”, a gallery of the joy of existence. Twelve very grounded, earthly themes, and from that aspect you cannot but admire the stars: “I use the word ‘stars’ because the sound of the word carries me away, seduces me to the point where I can’t detach myself from all the fantasies mankind has built over the centuries regarding the stars. It’s as if you perceive all the overlapping meanings, but in harmony with each other, the astrological which unites the past with the future, the spiritual, something linked to starlight, that which that isn’t eternal but we, in our passing, believe is forever. The stars are to ‘Andromeda Heights’ what God was to ‘Jordan: the Comeback’, an element of overarching mysticism but not strictly religious, something that unites human beings in the world they live in. I can’t do anything more than write songs. It’s my contribution to making the world a little better, because at the end of this millennium we need a little sweetness, so the opening of the next can be even more beautiful.”
Paddy and his past. You might as well be talking about Prefab Sprout’s future. “For years I’ve wanted to redo some of our old songs. ‘I wanted to rewrite ‘Elegance”. I would leave ‘Cruel’ as it is. I’m not embarrassed by it, I have no regrets, but there’s no closure with what was done.”
Or indeed with what is now: “I don’t know how many young people will be attracted to Andromeda Heights. But I remember when I was a kid being told to listen to such and such a thing, then at home, in the record stores I’d see Frank Zappa albums and wondered what they were, and no one ever told me they weren’t for me. So I wonder to myself if it’s not possible that this will also happen to Prefab Sprout: there’s maybe something that keeps young people away but they’d like to come closer.”
Prefab have many fans, but not enough to fill the shops; “I write what I’d like to find in a record store, if I was the customer. But I’m not. In practice I’m writing to ensure the shops can boast a richer catalogue.”
Richer even than that mysterious revolution melody brings. “People are scared of it, as they fear everything that in times of haste and quick replacement doesn’t age. But what’s the rush? Who sets it? The real changes are provoked by emotions, which no one controls because no one can intercept them. The music steals through the air. It’s impossible to stop it. It passes through us.”
It passes from star to star, through the Spring branches.