Song Of The Day 6/29/2014: Prefab Sprout - "Adolescence"


New Music Week: My favorite album of 1985 was called Steve McQueen, though in America it was called Two Wheels Good because the estate of Steve McQueen apparently didn't want the memory of the beloved action actor besmirched by literate, inward examinations of fidelity, poetic romance and longing. The album was from Prefab Sprout, who were from Durham near Newcastle in Northeast England, which partially explains why they sounded so removed from what was happening in the rest of UK music at the time. While new wave castoffs were starting to have to plan for their autumnal existences without the help of synthesized nurses, Prefab Sprout songwriter Paddy McAloon sounded like the only person with the proper haircut who'd heard Burt Bacharach. Steve McQueen (which I actually bought in England) was everything a hysterically confused, preternatural sweater-wearer like myself needed at the time.

Prefab Sprout made some more albums I enjoyed (Jordan: The Comeback) and some I groaned at (From Langley Park to Memphis), but never again made an album that I adored as fully as Steve McQueen. Until now, and considering how drastically the circumstances have altered for all of us, it's interesting how Crimson/Red sounds like classic-era Sprout. McAloon's voice has not changed; it's still that boyish, cultivated croon who still sounds cautious about certain syllables. Strange, too, because at 57 years old he now physically resembles a slightly more hydrated Leon Russell.

"Adolescence" nails the subject matter by re-squeezing clichés to the point where they're relevant again. Staying with the Romeo & Juliet theme, making it mean something else beyond the folder tab summary, takes adeptness. McAloon even gets out of comparing adolescence to a "psychedelic motorbike." I don't know how he does it, but he does. I suppose it's because Prefab Sprout had at least a moment in the sun of my own adolescence that I find this song unmentionably moving.

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