Can a group that conjure up ugly buildings and vegetables conquer the world? Do they want to? MARK COOPER meets the makers of ‘Steve McQueen’
Paddy McAloon pursues the art of the popular song. An admirer of the Broadway tradition that stretches from George Gershwin to Stephen Sondheim, McAIoon neither writes musicals nor, as yet. chart toppers His group Prefab Sprout hail from Newcastle and have just released their second Kitchenware LP ‘Steve McQueen’.
Produced by hyperactive Thomas Dolby, it‘s a cool and witty collection that shadowboxes with desire’s disruptions and comes out just the right side of arch. The LP’s warm critical reception has so far done little to capture wider public approval. The new 6-piece Sprouts are currently hitting the boards again to prove they can rock as well as riddle.
Unashamed of his intelligence or his education. McAloon hates to be tagged as ‘clever’. His belief in the Sprouts is clearly affronted by such faint praise and resentful of the implication that their music lacks passion.
Half jealous of the artistic freedom provided by their current cult status. McAloon remains determined to make Prefab Sprout a household word as a quality product. Yet the incongruity of such an ungainly name achieving wide usage probably appeals to him even more than the lure of fame or fortune.
‘The kind of music we make is perhaps best served by obscurity,’ he muses. ‘That is, we‘re not easily captured in a few words. The name itself is totally misleading to the uninitiated—it makes people think we’re like Splodgenessabounds or one of those groups.’
As McAloon admits, Prefab Sprout could have done themselves a lot more favours in the pop market. Yet he refuses to believe that pop has to be inane and he champions the ‘ambiguity of emotion’ in Sondheim’s ‘Sorry/Grateful’ – about going to a disco with your girl.
Distrusting the ‘noble savagery’ of a writer like Springsteen (‘Innocence now is a studied thing.’ he argues), McAloon refuses to play down his knowledge of popular music’s past. Instead he intends to be an innovator while proving that Prefab Sprout provide fun for the body as well as the mind.
‘Yes, we are more complicated than Boney M but I don‘t think we’re that cerebral. I chose “Steve McQueen” for the album title because he’s not Robert de Niro. he’s not the method. His films are romantic and instinctive and that’s what I want. I don’t spend all day with my head in Roget’s Thesaurus trying to puzzle people. I want to entertain them.’