Top 10 Songs by: Prefab Sprout

  • Someone said that you only really like a band if you have real trouble deciding what your top 10 songs of theirs are. Good point. It turns out that not as many acts meet that criterion as I would have thought. But when I remember one, I make up a playlist for it! These are my favourite Prefab Sprout songs, nothing more, nothing less. Very few people will have anything like the same top ten. That’s why music is so wonderful.

10. The Best Jewel Thief In the World

“A creation only McAloon could summon, a professional cracksman at the top of his game, scorning the little folk (“what do any of those assholes know?”)” • Danny Eccleston, 2013

9. We Let The Stars Go

“There was always something of Bacharach and David or even Irving Berlin in Paddy McAloon’s songwriting. So many of his songs would have been at home in most decades of the 20th century.’We Let The Stars Go’ is a case in point, a gorgeous confection that is sweet without being cloyingly so.” • buzz.ie, 2016

8. Earth, The Story So Far

“Paddy has quite the facility with words, and one might expect a song with a title like that one to have ended up being rather on the lengthy side. But that’s where the taste interacts with the talent. McAloon outlined planet Earth’s story so far merely by asking three questions” • Sean Curnyn, 2009

7. Andromeda Heights

“It’s a solar system, it’s about two lovers who decide to build a house. It’s a very simple idea, actually. The difference is that they use only natural materials: iron, wood, glass… They have respect for what they are constructing, and when they’ve finished, they call it “Andromeda Heights”, because in England people give names to their houses, often linked to how high up they are situated, but also in relation to the stars, to the galaxies that surround them.” • Paddy McAloon, 1997

6. Scarlet Nights

“The penultimate track on the seminal Jordan: The Comeback album and perhaps somewhat overlooked amid the embarrassment of riches and wealth of musical styles explored thereon. Scarlet Nights begins quietly with synth organ dripping with reversed chords and Thomas Dolby’s knob twiddling, then suddenly changes tack and launches itself squarely at full-on stadium glory by firing off some scintillating geetah before romping home in breathtaking style with big drums and bigger hooks to counterbalance a typically bitterwseet lyric and yearning vocal from Mr Macaroon.” • GoldfishNation, 2021

5. The Mystery of Love

“One can use the most banal phrases and still give them dignity, which they otherwise would never achieve. Take songs such as ‘The Mystery of Love’ …just platitudes. If I’ve succeeded in making them bigger than real life, I’ve hit the target.” • Paddy McAloon, 1995

4. I Remember That

“(While) The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll… (is) a catchy signature tune that is atypical of the artist who spawned it, more representative, perhaps, is I Remember That as it encapsulates Paddy’s Broadway fixation as a big number brimming with brass, a gospel choir, and his own crooner-style vocals. The song stops short of being completely schmaltzy on account of the sobering subject matter. Here’s a heads up, then, to think about what memories you want to take to your deathbed, on what is, of course, “a journey to dust”. • Adam Mason, 2019

3. Looking For Atlantis

It’s hard to choose individual songs from Jordan. “These are the best of times for Prefab Sprout. No one has yet suggested that ‘Jordan’ is anything less than a contender for the album of 1990, and Paddy (who admits to not like making records much) says he loves it, and with good reason. ‘Jordan’ contains some of McAloon’s most affecting work yet. And if the album’s first single, ‘Looking For Atlantis’, wore its FM pop heart too much on its sleeve, and suffered accordingly, songs like ‘Carnival 2000’ and ‘Doowop in Harlem’ are every note the equal of ‘When Love Breaks Down’.” • Andrew Harrison, 1990

2. Hey Manhattan!

“I write things that I think I shouldn’t sing, as opposed to things I think the group shouldn’t do. l rarely set out from the beginning to write something tor two voices, because I don’t really like duets. So when I sit down to write I try to forget the limitations of my voice or the fact that I’m writing for a group. I’ll think: ‘Write something Sinatra would cover, or something you could sing it you had a voice like Ray Charles‘. But then the cold day comes when they’re the only songs you’ve got and they have to be on your album. ‘Hey Manhattan’ was something I’d wanted to be recorded like it was for a movie, with strings and maybe…” • Paddy McAloon, 1992

1. When Love Breaks Down

“From the opening swathe of keyboard notes that illuminate and a wandering bassline, ‘When Loves Breaks Down’ is immediately inviting. Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout possesses a sublime voice at once bristling with regret and wistful soulful, an excavation of how the ties that hold a relationship together can distintegrate due to distance. “Absence makes the heart lose weight” sings McAloon, his words dipped in the tender brittleness of a man who has felt the pain of dissapointment and heartbreak. When the chorus hits, it swirls fleet-foot into a wonderful jazz-flecked crescendo with the aid of pianos, percussion that unfurls from clipped, glacial guitars, and Wendy Smith’s sighing backings. “When love breaks down/The lies we tell/ They only serve to fool ourselves” emotes McAloon; it’s a vivid moment of clarity and unversality, a melodic peak that raises the hairs on the back of the neck every time I hear it. It’s also a timeless and peerless pop song.” • Bill Cummings, 2020


All Top 10s in this series…