Prefab Sprout, ‘The King Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’

Junior first heard this in Cyprus, an unexpected treat on an otherwise bewildering Greek music channel. She was three months old and learning how to laugh. Dad singing along to the chorus, bouncing her up and down was particularly amusing. I don’t know whether her fits of giggles were directed at her father’s ability to hold a note, or whether she was ridiculing the lyrical pearls “hot dog, jumping frog, Albuquerque”. Either way, she shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.

Dad has a cold, so the singing this morning was cracked and the high notes were just that little bit beyond his grasp. Junior found some faint hilarity in this, but lightning didn’t strike twice. Paddy McAloon’s gifts for gentle ribbing and pop catchiness were no match for a growing girl’s hunger pangs.

Perhaps it’s a shame that Prefab Sprout will linger in the memory of most for this track alone. Yes, there’s a quirkiness to many of their songs, but it’s most obvious here and it muddies the more thoughtful message beneath. Rock ‘n’ roll posturing, its bombast is being pricked, with no little affection.

Affection runs through McAloon’s work, but his words could be caustic. Nonetheless, as the albums have become less frequent and he has quietly slipped into his 40s, the tone has softened. It makes Prefab Sprout more suited to Radio 2 these days, although there are flickers of beauty that reach beyond pigeonholing. So, they were never kings of rock ‘n’ roll, but you may as well be remembered for something.

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