You just have to listen to a couple of Paddy McAloon’s statements to realise there is a common thread. And you only need to experience a few of his songs to find evidence he’s an uncommon talent. McAloon is the main part of Prefab Sprout, an English quartet who, with the release of “Steve McQueen” (produced by Thomas Dolby) has become one of the most important revelations of last year.
Paddy McAloon is fascinated by words, is passionate about playing with language, moving from one topic to another, dodging answers, digressing, asking questions, and above all very clearly and eloquently summarising concepts, just as well as he writes songs. Elvis Costello would really like Paddy McAloon, who is also worshipped by his fans for great songs that evoke the night, passion, with rhythmic jazz and measured prose. Paddy McAloon formed Prefab Sprout; he is founding member, its composer, guitarist and lead vocalist. He formed the band fifteen long years ago when he was thirteen, along with his younger brother Martin, who remains a member of Prefab Sprout, along with Neil Conti and Wendy Smith.
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Some describe him as a clever dick, an eccentric, a genius, and “perhaps the best songwriter on the planet,” as he puts it.
“Unlike what many people think, I’m not a snob. I am physically fragile. I am also guilty of being poor,” he says.” So the records I recorded in the past didn’t have very good sound. I had no money to buy a good guitar. I’m not eccentric. I’m probably direct in the things I do. I’m not a clever dick. I admire genius, but what happens is that that word is misused in music. Rather, it’s overused. Has there ever been a genius in the history of pop? Lennon and McCartney’s music, or perhaps Brian Wilson, who was actually an eccentric. To call that genius was a mistake, because it broadened the definition…
“How they could they have come up with the clever dick idea?” McAloon begins to play with ideas.
“They’ve written so many stupid things about us, but that’s something I can do nothing about. I try to be honest and write from a point of view that is consistent with the things I did with my education. I can’t write as if I had brought up in the street, because it is not the case… That’s where things get complicated. Black music uses the language of the poor and doesn’t have much meaning. No-one cares to use rich expression, but rather simple, direct language. But I’m white and I feel identified with that, as Daryl Hall would say, I have to resort to other “tools.” Anyway, I don’t think people my age can use that kind of language, we don’t have the vocal intensity. So I have to put the emphasis on the content and structure of the music. Everything I say sounds so academic!
“Actually I have nothing to do with teaching,” he says, “except for the fact that my father was a teacher. As far as I’m concerned, the only job I had, besides this was serving the public in a filling station. Typical rock and roll. Like Springsteen. Well I don’t know if Springsteen did that once, but if I did and I can say it’s rubbish.”
Paddy McAloon spends his free time listening to Prince, to Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Webb Bob Dylan and Neil Young. Prefab Sprout, which despite its name with avant garde connotations joins the line traversed by Sade and Style Council, has just released their second album, produced by Thomas Dolby, entitled “Steve McQueen” in England and “Two Wheels Good” in the United States . The critics generally agreed it’s one of the best albums released in the last twelve months, and a work much more direct and sensitive in comparison to “Swoon” the Prefab Sprout debut.
“It is true that it has nothing to do with Steve McQueen, but I like the sound of the name. Actually many of the things I do are random.”says McAloon.
“You can say that in his films McQueen is honest and simple and not intellectual, and that it is what I hope is true of the album, but the reality is that this isn’t why I chose the name. There’s no question of choosing American references because I have any special liking form them. There’s none of that. I find musicians who are so bitter they need to go round the world looking for somewhere special for inspirations and compose songs unconvincing. That’s what Bowie does. I don’t travel the world for anything. I think we have imagination.”