Highlights: The Best Jewel Thief In The World, The List Of Impossible Things, The Songs Of Danny Galway, The Old Magician
First Paul McCartney, and now it’s Prefab Sprout. If you think about it (not that you should), it might make some weird sense. As far as I can/could see it, and I’ve never paid too much attention, the ‘fab’ element in Paddy McAloon’s band was seriously downplayed even at the time when they were cult-prone underachievers putting substance into Spandau Ballet’s slick, soulless mush. They were good, competent and they were clearly ‘into art’, but I don’t know – even in my most hopeless 10cc days I always preferred “Silly Love” to “I’m Not In Love”.
And yet it’s indeed love that I feel for this album. God knows how it came about, but isn’t this McAloon’s best, most consistent collection of songs ever? Steve McQueen and all? With strong hooks and gutsy melodies? With an undercurrent, apprehensive feeling that this might, well you know – might be that all-important last outing?
Crimson/Red is a modest triumph from start to finish. It opens with “The Best Jewel Thief In The World”, 80s pop at its finest, instantly memorable and what they used to call ‘sophisticated’. The production is immaculate. The chorus is pure bliss, special kudos for squeezing the word ‘asshole’ in there. Sounds lovely. My main concern had been that the ballads would induce sleep rather than delight, but I personally found stuff like “The List Of Impossible Things” and “The Dreamer” beautiful and engaging to the extent where I actually felt an urge to re-listen to Prefab Sprout’s entire back catalogue. As for those potential hit singles for a different time, universe and age, the unforgettable and anthemic “The Songs Of Danny Galway” is a personal favourite.
The songs are lovingly bound by the same sound, vibe and more or less the same quality. It's all either crimson or red. Like I said, McAloon’s songwriting is at its absolute best, and I would ridiculously compare Crimson/Red to Pete Astor’s recent Songbox. Which, incidentally, had Pete’s greatest songs on it. Same irrelevant but adorable late-career bloom can be witnessed here. Crimson/Red won’t top any of those end-of-year lists, but it doesn’t even need to. It exists in its own universe. In its own time and age.