Supporting the Paul Brady Band.
“WITH their uncluttered swathes of beautifully poised guitar and Astleyan keyboards, the Sprouts play calm, dextrous, remarkable songs counterpointing convention and temperament, and incidentally make an evening in Belfast feel like a hot spell-soaked night in Tunisia.
“As a piece of kitchenware they impress with an earthen as opposed to Tupperware quality, eschewing the bulk of pop’s plastic, bio-degradable elements in favour of a more abiding approach to versification. Not exactly what one might have expected in the midst of all the exuberant hype, but the Sprouts (the one green you can eat between meals without jading your appetite?) represent quite a bijou revelation – urban existential jazz crooning crosscut with just the right amount of acoustic guitar rock grit. All in a mix that lets the songs meander playfully but purposefully round the seashell clip and clap of the drums to engaging effect.
“Occasionally the palsied, queer rhythms become a tad too convoluted (if one subjects the material to the close textual analysis it probably deserves) and then an irritating sense of the instruments all conniving together and somehow being lea astray sets in, especially when the accompanying vocal sequences start sounding like representative academic gobbets from some new Penguin anthology of modern verse or worse still the lyric sheet to the next Julian Cope album.
“But such moments were relatively scarce during a set that had to be played in the totally deadened atmosphere of a seated hall with the band playing support and, according to the tickets, second fiddle to risible old farters the Paul Brady band. Mostly, though, the fervent delicacy of songs like “Lions In My Own Garden”, “Cruel”, and “I’ll Never Play Basketball Again” maintained the Prefab’s refined, urban pitch, against the hopelessly partisan old-guard rockers comprising most of the audience.
“On this showing it’s pretty obvious that for all their being mentioned in the same breath as any number of other tame indie-to-major penny dreadful bands, Prefab Sprout aren’t simply just another A&R accredited odd pop deviation.
“They’re worth 50 mega-duds like the Icicle Works largely because there really does appear to be an inspiring new kind of cerebral blues at work in their compositions. A blues easy on conventional genre pride and prejudice but hard on sense and sensibility.
“Swoon? Prefab Sprout are the giddiest turn I’ve experienced in months!”
ADRIAN MADDOX, MELODY MAKER, May 12th 1984
“Loved this band ever since I heard Lions in my Garden on John Peel. He said ‘I got this single from a band calling themselves Prefab Sprout, they reecorded and pressed it themselves. At first I thought Oh it’s gonna be another one of those songs [not sure what he meant by that tbh] but suddenly it seems to change into something rather beautiful.’ I’m paraphrasing here as it was a long, long time ago; anyway fell in love with it right away.
“I was still at school when Swoon came out, think I nicked it out of Caroline Music in Belfast as I didn’t have a lot of money, my mum was a single parent and cleaned houses part-time and money was scarce so I had to do what I could to feed my music fix.
“They came to play in Queen’s University Belfast and my wealthier schoolmates all got tickets to see them, I couldn’t afford them so decided to go down to Queens during the day and hung around the student union bar hoping to get lucky. Sure enough, an hour or so later, Paddy, his brother Martin, Wendy and their manager, a lovely bloke whose name escapes me annoyingly. I gets chatting to them, they are all brilliant, friendly chatty, so I pluck the courage up and ask if I can get on the guest list. Their tour manager says, yes no problem, takes my name and 20 minutes later or so I go.
“Anyway, I comes to the gig and tell my friends what happened, they call me all the lucky so-and-so’s and we queue up to get in. The guy at the door looks at his sheet and says, ‘No, you’re not on the list, you can’t get in!’ My friends laugh and take the piss and run on into the gig! I’m both embarrassed and pissed off. I was about to go home, when I thought what the hell and go up to the university reception and ask them if they can page the tour manager (I knew his name) a few minutes later he gets there, when I told him he got angry and said, right, come with me, we go straight past the queue to the front, the bloke at the door looks at me and says ‘No…’ their manager ignores him and says, ‘Go ahead John, go in’ ignoring the guy who has now stood up, he pushes him down and waves me on in.
“My friends are at the front and I run up telling them what happened, next thing, the lights go down and on come the Sprouts.
“Paddy comes to the microphone and says, ‘This one is for John O’B, the first person to see us here in Belfast’, points down to me, winks and they start into ‘Don’t Sing’ One of the proudest nights of my life, we met them after the gig, gave me an address to send my album cover to and promised to sign whatever I wanted.
“About a week or 2 later, I got the album cover back along with 3 copies of Lions in my own Garden on the original Kitchenware label!”
John O’B, Facebook