Monday, January 29, 2007

Prefab Sprout - Moon Dog (Jordan: The Comeback, 1990)

I got my first CD player in 1989. In 1990 I was 18 years old. In retrospect this turned out to be a very poor combination. Between 1989 and 1991 I bought at least one CD a week. If you add it up, I'd have bought somewhere between 150 and 200 CD's during those three years.

The problem is that although my tastes were no doubt dubious before I acquired the CD player, too, I bought quite a few classic pop and rock albums on vinyl that I still enjoy listening to. But when I switched to CD it seems I only went for new stuff. So today I own about 175 CDs dating from 1989 to 1991 which I never listen to anymore. It's probably my least favorite period in popular music.

The thing is, I sort of understood, even back then, that this was some poor stuff. All the sequencers, the synth pads, the sterile productions and the general lack of purpose in popular music at the time was just too obvious to ignore. Yet I was a young man, hopelessly caught in the wicked web of popular taste.

But underneath those layers of poor judgment, you could discern the man I've grown up to be. There are a few records from this period I'm really proud of. "Jordan: The Comeback" by Prefab Sprout is one of them.

Prefab Sprout didn't avoid the pitfalls of 1990, by no means. Objectively, the arrangements sound very dated, but still, what a brilliant album it is. It's a smorgasbord of musical styles exquisitely laid out, and with some incredible lyrics. It's much more varied musically than their previous efforts, which I also like immensely. I never get tired of listening to this album. It's the only record I can listen to and actually ignore those phony synth horn parts.

We chopped a billion trees to print up eulogies
But guys we should have guessed
The girls would say it best

Isn't that just brilliant? Paddy McAloon's offbeat pop lyrics... I'm not a native English speaker, but I've always been in love with the language. And as a listener I'll never get all the subtleties of the language but judging from my impression of McAloon's lyrics, this must surely be a poet at work.

Of course, Moondog refers to Elvis Presley, more specifically to his funeral and a wonderful image of Elvis biding his time on the moon. At the same time it takes a wry and nostalgic look at the 1950s. I'm not able to identify any particular musical references to Presley, only a small sample at the end of the track (then again, I'm no Presley expert - so please correct me here if I'm missing something.)

The verses are dreamy and ethereal, the chorus has a hard-hitting piano/synth riff and McAloon's voice is a marvel, as are his words. And, I must add, some very effective use of Wendy Smith's voice on this one. Thomas Dolby produced it, and, listening to it right now, it's a perfect production. You can hear it's all 1990, but Dolby and McAloon actually turned that into a good thing here. Impressive.


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