Monday, 7 September 2009

'hey, Jules and Jim, I wrote the hymn to ecstasy'

'I look around me, and I see
Folks leading more constructive lives than me'

Granted, it is no too-good-to-be-true reunion with Martin, Neil, Wendy and Thomas - but then it probably couldn't be. Noted is the tangible melancholy in Paddy's liner notes and his interview in Mojo magazine, projects and the prospect of realisation slipping away, while the number of songs composed continues to mount. The record company rejected the demos for this album in 1993, apparently partly due to religious themes in the lyrics; presumably they'd never listened to his lyrics before - indeed on a certain 1990 opus. 'Tis a vision of music as The Sublime, as God - hardly a hectoring advertisement for Christianity. Closer indeed to Smile:

'Children don't you cry because
he, he said "let there be music!"'

The synth organ chords that open 'Ride', sigh... and the staccato arpeggiated undertow. Just what is it that this critic doesn't get, dismissing music this moving and urgent?
Rather, this second track becomes immense - the finest use of the harmonica I have heard in aeons - the europhile beat insistently hooking you in.

And then. 'I Love Music' - a jazzy cantering rhythm, playful, near-techno organ stabs, meting out the devout. Fairlit sounds dotting about, that old delay on his vocals 'hell - hell - hell'.

'She's richer than money and bigger than fame
and love is the reason I'm playing this game'

Like Wendy, Martin and indeed Neil Tennant, he has not left the north-east. It is about the music, not appealing to an audience - a shame, as devout Sproutists such as myself yearn for many more releases.

There is brilliant scansion - 'Who's my hero? The unnerving, unswerving, Irving Berlin' - and love expressed for diverse geniuses:

'I love music! Nile and 'Nard
Pierre Boulez, guru of the avant garde'

Such beauty. The synth-strings following this, and the raindroplets of piano. I won't elaborate much more for the moment on the rest, but 'Music is a Princess' is glorious and 'Earth: The Story So Far' expansive, intimately grand.

It forms a junction between Jordan: The Comeback and Andromeda Heights, appositely enough considering the music was written from autumn 1992, and I am bound to luxuriate in that. J:TC I have often claimed as my all-time favourite record - ever an inspiration and consolation on one particular occasion - and this is the finest Prefab Sprout or McAloon album since that one.

No release from McAloon is without merit; I Trawl the Megahertz is an engaging world's service symphony (appropriately promoted via a Mixing It interview), the acoustic Steve McQueen recordings of 2007 are at times breathtaking; Andromeda Heights contains, amid its rather halting, slow progress, some of his very finest songs ('Swans', 'Weightless', 'A Prisoner of the Past') - even the maligned Gunman has a few that cannot be denied.

Let's Change the World with Music does attain a grace and sublimity, as McAloon says was aimed for in the liner notes. Divine chord changes abound and the sound is prime Prefab Sprout, albeit without Dolby. It does indeed sound like the original 1992 recordings embellished a little, sensitively. People could talk about things being 'dated' and then I'll stifle a yawn, as the J:TC sound is immortal. Another taste of it is glorious after the somewhat more conventional sound palettes of the last two PS records; the material here, with wrenchingly heartfelt use of electronics, matches Todd Rundgren's Liars (especially 'Afterlife') and John Howard's The Dangerous Hours albums - two more formidable 'comeback' records made in this decade.

All is right with the world in the duration of listening to new Pet Shop Boys and Prefab Sprout albums like we've had this year!

Telling interview, overlapping with the Mojo one: