Note: This album has nothing to do with Michael Jordan.
It’s always weird coming to a critically acclaimed album by a band you’ve basically never heard a note of in your entire life. I was like 6 or 7 when Prefab Sprout had their big hit, and it was a hit in the UK. I was 10 or 11 when they had a US dance hit but I didn’t listen to US dance radio. I know the name, because it sounds funny and people used to like reciting funny band names, but that’s literally all I knew coming in.
This is their fifth album, and that means that most people listening to this record probably know a fair amount of their music already, and there are preconceptions and ideas of artistic progress and all that. But I know none of this. (I thought it might have something to do with Michael Jordan, honestly.)
This record feels very ambitious, both stylistically and thematically. Though you can lump this music in the genre category of sophisti-pop, it definitely feels broader than that, in terms of tempos, in terms of genre influences and in terms of instrumentation.
And, thematically, there are a few themes the lyrics keep returning to. Someone said the record is divided into four parts but I honestly haven’t listened to the lyrics closely enough to hear that.
But lyrically it’s certainly more thoughtful than your average sophisti-pop record. I’m sure that this guy’s obsessions speak to me at all, but he’s clearly at least intelligent. (I quibble a bit with some of them, like “Doo Wop in Harlem” which features no doo wop.)
The song are also all pretty damn catchy, which is important when your record is this long. The relative stylistic diversity helps that too, but quality material is the best cure for albums which are over an hour long.
The record feels very “1990” to me, in both instrumentation and the overall vibe – how those instruments are recorded (the drums, in particular) and how it is mixed. (Imagine making those acoustic instruments more prominent. It’s 1990, can’t be done!)
It’s too slick for my liking and I really don’t think I connect with the actual content of the songs. But I appreciate the ambition and I appreciate the relative diversity.