A Song For Saturday: Don’t Sing by Prefab Sprout

 
An outlaw stand in a peasant land, in every face see Judas.
The burden of love is so strange.
The stubborn beast and the whisky priest, are hiding from the captains.
The burden of love is so plain.

Are they happy to see you?
No, you always bring trouble.
Cast a shadow on Mexico-denial doesn’t change facts.’
Don’t Sing.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, apparently. Which is why the first song on an LP is so important.
Prefab Sprout’s 1984 debut  kicks off with Don’t Sing ,a song based on Graham Greene’s classic novel The Power And The Glory so, you know, you can’t say that you didn’t know what you were getting into.
Prefab Sprout’s songwriter is  Paddy McAloon who was born in Durham in the north of England which is a very good thing indeed.They  started off on Kitchenware Records, the Newcastle based post-punk indie label that also gave a home to the splendid Martin Stephenson – although they were really only ever on nodding terms with ‘post-punk’ or indeed rock music.
The Sprouts first single had the perplexing title of ‘Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)’ and was about songwriter Paddy McAloon’s girlfriend leaving him to live in France. In  Limoges. Get it? Well, I ddidn’tfor a while…
‘Lions …’, like it’s follow up single ‘The Devil Has All The Best Tunes’, was an acoustic based  twisty-turny (musically and lyrically ) piece of low–fi  with a trace of Steely Dan at their most arch.
And then came SWOON.
SWOON is a flawed album, for sure, but, to paraphrase Pauline Kael, great albums are rarely perfect albums.
McAloon’s lyrics and his music are tied and bound together ,like those of his hero Stephen Sondheim, and when the songs break down it’s usally because they’re not working in tandem.
But when they do work , as in the  lyrically  ambitious ( for a pop single)  Don’t Sing or  I Couldn’t Bear To Be Special or their ‘contribution to the urban blues’, Cruel. They work brilliantly.
Swoon is :
  1. “Don’t Sing” – 3:53
  2. “Cue Fanfare” – 4:06
  3. “Green Isaac” – 3:31
  4. “Here on the Eerie” – 4:00
  5. “Cruel” – 4:20
  6. “Couldn’t Bear to Be Special” – 3:49
  7. “I Never Play Basketball Now” – 3:40
  8. “Ghost Town Blues” – 3:21
  9. “Elegance” – 3:45
  10. “Technique” – 4:38
  11. “Green Isaac II” – 1:30
Prefab’ Sprout‘s later work was better produced,more streamlined and gave them greater commercial success but this is the one that works best for me.
According to Wiki, Paddy McAloon ‘was diagnosed with a progressive medical disorder that affects his retina and impairs his vision. He has also been diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, an inner ear condition. ‘
But he’s still producing interesting music, including a spoken word concept album.

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