Monday, 10 August 2009

Return Of The Mac

My interview with Paddy McAloon appears over two pages in the new issue of The Word, which is crammed full of features on similary gifted, misunderstood and extravagantly bearded culty pop gents (not least, the wonderful Robert Wyatt); copies should be in the shops in the next day or so. The Word has a great website but magazine content rarely appears on line, so here’s a brief taster from the piece.

“McAloon – you really shouldn’t need reminding but possibly do, given that he has the kind of public profile that makes Scott Walker look like a Heat-whore - is one of Britain’s truly treasurable songwriters. A Catholic Seminary boy from County Durham, he modelled himself on Sondheim and Berlin back when all the cool kids were aping Strummer and Bowie, creating mini pop symphonies in which his ambition sometimes outstretched his reach, but which equally often were poised, funny and very beautiful. Heathens mocked the preciousness; the rest of us swooned.

His band, Prefab Sprout, were never quite proper pop stars. Atypical songs like "The King Of Rock'n'Roll" and "When Love Breaks Down" slipped under the fence, but McAloon’s vision was too arch and idiosyncratic for mass consumption. He fought on the fringes of the pop battlefield, but it transpires even those skirmishes made him feel deeply uncomfortable. He looks at old photos of himself from back then – hair bobbed, slim, shaking hands with Minnie Mouse on Portuguese TV – and sees someone else. Playing live, which the Sprouts did only rarely, he had the overwhelming sense that he “had been sent along to a wedding in place of the groom.” What’s this all about? “I don’t quite know,” he says. “Perhaps because the records mark time so clearly, which is a dreadful thing, I just think, What a waste. I really wish I could feel more philosophical about it and tell myself I had a good time, but for some unfathomable reason I get very melancholy about it.”

Also in this month’s issue, I review new albums by Yo La Tengo, Riceboy Sleeps and Jesse Dee. All human life, indeed.


Robinbrevard said...

Thanks very much for the taster; I look forward to the full course!!

Anonymous said...


Read the interview this morning. Beautifully written, though very sad and poignant. What is your opinion og the 'new' album?

Thank you, Ben

Graeme Thomson said...

Hi Ben,

I'm reviewing the album for the next issue of the Observer Music Monthly so can't say too much here.

Broadly, I'm really enjoying it, but I suppose it's fair to say that the more you listen to it, the more you hear the ways in which a) it's *very* 1992 and b) it could - and would - have been improved in the 'proper' recording phase.

But some of the songs (particularly 'Earth: The Story So Far') are just gorgeous.

Cherry Hinton Blue said...

This is no ordinary new album's a Prefab Sprout new album. At my age I shouldn't be getting so excited, really. But great piece on Paddy (and indeed it was a great issue of the magazine, I have to say).