Monday, September 2, 2013
Prefab Sprout Devil Came A'Calling. I do not often read my blogger statistics page closely. I will admit to a certain frisson when the peaks are obvious but then I notice the traffic, that it is mainly for the very short posts where I say nothing at all rather than the loquacious entries where I say just as little. Brevity is key. I should start a twitter account. There was a not clever person on I Love Music who sold a box set of his twitter reviews. He's a small business owner. Now he's editor of Spin possibly. Paul Krugman should release a box set of his music reviews. I came across an entry of his concerning the Civil Wars recently and it was much more compelling than his economics pieces. If only politicians were wise enough to believe in the fantasy of the multiplier effect and spend 100 trillion dollars per year so that we would have an economy 1.8 times that size. And we'd all own New Zealand jet packs and first editions of Moose's Honeybee with the free seven inch inside. Paul Krugman's territory on the interwebs is called Conscience of a Liberal and he's devastated by the split of the Civil Wars. I am as well. But this is not the space for cynicism. This is about the new semi-unofficial record by Prefab Sprout. We were in pause, we were waiting for a new Sally Seltmann record to recharge our depleted wells of optimism and then this album appeared. Theoretically. Will I be committing some sort of egregious breech in protocol by expressing my love for this record? I haven't yet even discussed the last lost record that came to the surface a few years ago. Paddy Mcaloon was always, in interviews, discussing the roster of records he had recorded and abandoned and we laughed and dreamed and thought he's mad, he's really laying it on thick. But then these records have arrived. late. In the shadow of detached retinas or cataracts or deafness or tinnitus or any other catalogued harrowed disability that stalk the constantly infirm, whichever. First track is Adolescence and it's marvelous. I have just read an interview with him in Uncut and he states that he alone produced this album. None of the others are able to play on the record because his ears have let him down. But have they? No. This is marvelous. How does this boyish charm remain so effervescent and glowing even in the wake of apparent darkness and misfortune? There are electronic sounds that are abounding and just twinkles of electric guitars, no real percussion, but it's marvelous. Truly and effortlessly marvelous. Digital horns now at the end and it's marvelous. Like a brilliant novelist who has lost the use of his limbs dictating the genius that he can not contain within through a voice box to the undeserving world. Why will the world persist with its ignorance in the face of this? It's amazing. I am mad, truly. But song two is playing and there is a synthetic??? harmonica now and it sounds like a rush, as if he feels time's stalk over his shoulder, through shadows attached to even the day's brightest hours. His children had to learn silence. But then the house may have been filled with The BEst JEwel Thief in the World which means their home and hearth is blessed with joy. The last record was from 1992 or 1993 and it was filled with romance and paens to his optimism and ability to find beauty in the ordinary world of the ordinary. Strangely, for demos, that record seemed more ambitious than this record. This is smaller, closer to something like Protest Songs. THird track now, Devil Came a Calling. I was listening to a lecture by Daniel Barenboim and he had the same vitality in his voice as Paddy conveys in all of these songs. He must know that there is not anyone writing songs like this these days. There is David Scott, yes, but I don't know if David Scott is as self aware as Paddy Mcaloon, as comfortable in his brand of genius. David Scott is still the shy troubadour trying to win her over with his next song more beautiful than the last. There is a new Pearlfishers album soon as well, woo! But Paddy inhabits the characters that he creates so vividly in all of his songs, he's the Lothario, the winsome lover, the story filled outsider that somehow captures a moment pure and distilled with only a quick glance. Billy now. And he sticks with the music. He doesn't comment on the larger world. Are we let down by his reticence? I don't think so. Daniel Barenboim finished his lectures with some utopian nonsense about how music can build bridges because he has a tiny orchestra filled with the caring dissidents among the blood thirsty. Music can't change the world, sorry Paddy, sorry Daniel. And there is in our world only grievances paved over, grievances still simmering but only political correctness keeps us blind to these differences as if somehow we could just listen to Tristan and Isolde with new ears and a thoughtful posture we'd awaken to a brave new world. But it will not happen. I will play Billy to my co-workers, I won't actually, and they will abuse me for my lack of masculinity and the world will continue to spin on its current axis. The artist will never slay the wicked. It is the sad truth of reality. But when the wicked rest it is these monuments of grace and beauty which allow us to have a reason to stand up against the tyranny of darkness. We will blow up buildings in Syria and eventually force Assad from power by bribery or deceit but the root cause of this current disease will not be cured and Prefab Sprout will hopefully continue to release songs as strikingly loving as Grief Built the Taj Mahal. The veil of genius is what attracts me. I have been downloading many pleasant country albums recently to share with my bride and I wouldn't label any of them genius. Certainly not. But truth is the new Leann Rimes record is really rather brilliant. It's as if she had to become a dreadful home wrecker in order to discover the darkness that resides in her soul that allows her music to become embedded with a new passion and resonance. She's justifying her treachery through her art. In a modern world we would pay artists as proxy's to speak for us in their works of creation instead of boorish empty suits like John Kerry who is so consumed with the postmodern reality of not believing anything that he can't create a single cogent thought that could convince anyone of the rightness of even the most righteous crusade. Paddy would be my diplomat in these stakes and we would be run over by a silly tinhorn dictator the next day when his jolly tales of magicians and their assistants weary of being sawed in two creep over the airways through the official channels of diplomacy. I would double Paddy's pay however and he would write an inspiring patriotic anthem about he nostalgia of childhood spent in freedom in the lap of tyranny and we would fend off the invaders and park our Specialty bicycles on the graves of the vanquished and plant flowers as a requiem. MYsterious now, amazing. It's jaunty and cheerful and fills my heart with sweetness and love. I am as happy as I have ever been. Happiness has become a habit and I don't need reminding of its joys but then there is music such as this, or Sally Seltmann or Romantics Anonymous and I realize that habits need reinforcement. A tender kiss, a tender word, a tender thought shared in a turbulent moment can hold sway even as the world seems to collapse all around us. The Dreamer. I was a dreamer. This website was my own proxy in my struggle with life. I shied away from the difficult process of living, the connectedness of the living appalled and I hid alone with my nose in a book, my head in a pop song but now the Push Kings are nearly 40 and we've realized that Michelle Williams is a dreadful actress and many of the things we had hope of have turned to dust. Once I would close my eyes and like the protagonist of this song "become the dreamer" but I want now to sleep little, to welcome our child to the miracle of life and play Prefab Sprout records for our babies and have them grow up open minded and cheerful and optimistic and libertarian. And I would like then to be Mariners fans. I think. It seems off kilter enough for a child in Denver to grow up a fan of the Seattle Mariners, well versed in their history with posters of Tom Paciorek, Julio Cruz and Floyd Bannister on their walls. And when the impossible happens and the Mariners win a World Series they will celebrate only quietly and with a spin of The List of Impossible Things. My children will love Prefab Sprout, this will be our mantra as parents. And they will believe that magnets have souls and in Pythagoras as a reasonable alternative to divinity. This is glorious. Honest. There is Graeme Downes, there is Steven Millhauser, there is Pierre Mondou and there is Paddy Mcaloon and they represent the world's greatest sins of nescience. But we few will treasure their edifice of majestic inspiration and will pass it on to the generations coming and write in uninspiring sentences of the greatness that was Prefab Sprout. "Really, you should have heard the first four songs of Steve Mcqueen, for a college student cast adrift they meant everything...and even more".