Prefab Sprout
Protest Songs


4.5
superb

Review

by Time (Is) STAFF
December 4th, 2017 | 32 replies


Release Date: 1989 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's just a nervous flickering of old flames.

Protest Songs has always gotten a bad rap. Originally conceived by Paddy McAloon as the successor to Prefab Sprout’s successful Steve McQueen, Protest Songs was recorded around the same time and following the Steve McQueen sessions, and was meant to follow said album in December 1985, six months after Steve McQueen’s June 1985 release on the Kitchenware label. However, thanks in no part to the interference of Kitchenware, Protest Songs’ planned December 1985 unveiling was nixed due to the fear that the band’s proposed third record would impact sales of Steve McQueen and cause a loss of profit – greed had its way and caused the shelving of the third Prefab Sprout album, leaving fans without a proper followup for almost three years until the March 14th, 1988 release of the Thomas Dolby produced From Langley Park to Memphis. Left to gather dust in the archives for four years and with a few copies managing to get into the hands of bootlegger’s throughout the United Kingdom, Kitchenware prodded out the barely-forgotten record out to no fanfare in June 1989, performing rather respectfully for an album seen as a stopgap of demand for the hyped Jordan: The Comeback that wouldn’t come for another year.

Protest Songs did what Langley Park couldn’t: offer a proper sequel to Steve McQueen; and for added bonus, an album that was arguably just as good as the album many consider their finest hour. With Dolby now absent from the producer’s chair, the band self-produced Protest Songs, which featured a similar framing as its predecessor, yet without the refinery that defined the sound of Steve McQueen. The opening pair of “The World Awake” and “Life of Surprises” immediately continue where Steve McQueen left off, offering themes of nostalgia, heartbreak and subtle irony. Cuts such as the desolate “Dublin” couples a bare, acoustic accompaniment with a narrative concerning the IRA (Irish Republic Army) and its convoluted methods of spreading propaganda amongst its supporters; while “Tiffanys”, a song written several years earlier and perhaps meant for inclusion on Steve McQueen, is reminiscent of the rough jangle pop of 1984’s Swoon.

“Diana” tells of the titular Princess of Wales, weaving stories of jealousy and betrayal, while commenting on the overt public obsession with Diana herself. “Talking Scarlet” speaks of unrequited love between the narrator and Scarlet, “harbouring thoughts of kissing her neck” and telling himself it’s merely platonic love; while Scarlet, portrayed by vocalist/keyboardist Wendy Smith, knows that “he’s thoroughly miserable for me”. “Pearly Gates”, on the other hand, strips back the slick production Dolby once offered to a husk, leaving a desolately beautiful song in its wake. Featuring themes of mortality, religion and the afterlife, it evokes imagery of the final moments of one’s life and the arrival to the aforementioned “Pearly Gates”. In a way, it’s a perfect precursor to the final section of Jordan: The Comeback, which also concerned the same themes presented on this one track, most notably “Doo Wop in Harlem”, which also depicted the narrator’s ascent to the afterlife.

Protest Songs unfairly never received the same praise or attention that Steve McQueen or Jordan garnered, nor did it merit the following Swoon did in following years. No singles were released upon its release, with only “Life of Surprises” to represent the album on the 1992 compilation of the same name, and accompanied with a new music video to promote the album. Disregarded for its lack of hits and recognizable traits, it’s an album ignored by all but hardcore Prefab Sprout fans; yet it follows the same template as its preceding albums from the lyrical subjects to its style, with only the stripped-back production being a major difference between it and Steve McQueen. Like Steve McQueen and Jordan before it, it’s only a matter of time before many discover the genius of Protest Songs, and give it the acclaim it deserved all those years ago, but now can be appraised for a new generation that can appreciate it for what it is.



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user ratings (24)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

Hi, do something about that 3.1 average please and thanks



The World Awake:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtC2ArtFiuY

Life of Surprises:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXmkmDkQDe0

Talking Scarlet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1QyKs1fDJo

Pearly Gates: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSJdnqbaSyY

Digging: The Angels of Light - How I Loved You

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

yeah i'm not answering that

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

and that's where you are very wrong



that's like one of the weakest songs on Langley Park

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

Langley Park in general is a total failure of an album



good pop songs, but not good Prefab Sprout songs

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

do feel free to reevaluate this thanks!

DoofusWainwright
December 4th 2017


19991 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If this really is as good as McQueen then I'm hyped

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

what exactly makes this a 3 for you?



@doof it's literally just Steve McQueen: The Comeback

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

hmmm

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

That's sort of what I get with Langley Park



just feels like they deliberately fucked up what made Steve McQueen good with that album

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

why you gotta interject with your meme shittery? @six

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

huh...that went over better than I thought



do share your thoughts

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

Wendy Smith is good, agreed



Paddy is still the better singer of the two

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

although you didn't rate this the same as the new Foo Fighters, so I can forgive you, as phil wishes

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

"real music" fuck yeah!

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

Who could forget Fuagzi?

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

To be honest, I think you'd like Swoon



little to no synth fuckery and a lot of Wendy on it, guitar-heavy and rough production

Gyromania
December 4th 2017


28657 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fuck yeah prefab sprout spree!



just heard this tonight and it's wonderful

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

Folk Family/Prefab Alliance 2017-2018 campaign to take over Sputnikmusic



@boredegrees a 3.5 at worst, although it's growing on me. Not Prefab at their best, but it's them at their least-cheesy. Dolby really brought that element with him.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
December 4th 2017


19075 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

don't stoop to the sputtalker's level

Gyromania
December 4th 2017


28657 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's a life of surprises



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