Although Prefab Sprout never made much of a splash stateside, it’s 1985 album “Steve McQueen” remains a landmark of 80’s songwriting and production prowess.
The lush production is courtesy of one Thomas Dolby who adds space and air to songwriter Paddy McAloon’s dense, sometimes obtuse pretensions.
The first 6 songs are absolute classics, and although the techniques Dolby uses are utterly of their time the songs themselves remain oddly timeless. ‘Faron’ is a rockabilly shuffler and a great way to start the album but is not quite representative of the remaining tracks which have a connection through the lyrics primarily that deal with the human conditions of loss, regret and redemption.
‘Moving The River’ is truly a wonderful song and the lyrics are some of the finest of McAloon’s career.
“You surely are a truly gifted kid
But you're only good as
The last great thing you did
And where've you been since then
Did the schedule get you down
I hear you've got a new girlfriend
How's the wife taking it ?
If it's uphill all the way you should be used to it by now
You must know me, Father it's your son
And I know that you are proud of everything I've done
But it's the wonders I perform,
Pulling rabbits out of hats
When sometimes I'd prefer
Simply to wear them
Movin' the river, money for jam, and it takes such an effort to stay where I am…”
‘Bonny’, ’When Love Breaks Down’ and especially ’Appetite’ are standouts of pure sophisticated pop music, and the remaining, while perhaps not immediately as affecting, are no less gems in their own right and grow on you like a fungus.
This album has spawned numerous fan sites and inspire a fanatical following worldwide. I myself have owned this album in it’s vinyl form, on cassette, cd (two copies!) and in MP3 format.
Paddy recently released a re-mastered edition of “Steve McQueen”, which was re-titled
“Two Wheels Good” in North America due to legal issues with the actor’s estate, with a generous helping of gorgeous acoustic editions of some of the tracks. I would definitely recommend you hunt down this edition. It’s really worth it.
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