Review Summary: "And when we've built it, we'll call it Andromeda Heights..."
Paddy McAloon is an English artist whose been crafting beautiful music with his band Prefab Sprout since the early 80s. The band's music is often pigeonholed as pop, however spans an eclectic number of styles all while retaining a smooth and sophisticated sound. The band have evolved throughout the years, releasing their hit album 'Steve McQueen' to immense critical acclaim. The album was a strange mix, but deeply gorgeous and profound for a pop album experience. It was from then on the band would become legendary, with Paddy McAloon even calling the release "the greatest album of the 80s so far" in a 1985 interview. A quote that's often been deeply misunderstood, much like this band.
Going through phases of atmospheric pop-grandeur, often with sophisti-pop, R&B, and lounge music as a primary anchor, the band finally took a long break from music after releasing 'Jordan: The Comeback' and it was well-needed. The album they would release seven years later, 'Andromeda Heights', was a force unlike anything they've put forward in the past. It is clear from this powerful effort that McAloon became obsessed with the many allegories and integral connections between the metaphysical, or God, and the theme of true love. Here he is honest, open, and forthright with his convictions. His life was changed by love, and he wishes to share that with us, stripped of all pretense. The album starts off with "Electric Guitars", a gorgeous tune that is influenced by the Beatles. The atmosphere here is amazing. McAloon sounds like a character from a Victorian fantasy tale or flamboyant anime, and the music is so divine it makes one think of a magical kingdom somewhere.
Thus, the sound of this album is decidedly far more soothing and laid back than other Prefab Sprout releases, and arguably focuses primarily on melodic interactions and utilizing beautiful instrumental reprises in songs. The instrumentation is extremely refined, and very chamber-esque for pop; its downtempo, driven by light mostly acoustic guitars, keyboard, piano and sublime saxophone work. In addition, horn and orchestral work accompanies the mix along with small doses of flute. When put together, the very classically inspired instruments take on a very star-like, celestial sound, that carries the album through beautifully. Like a beautiful Broadway production where every song rings with a resounding echo of genuine humanity and hope. That's what this album is all about. Cherishing life, and hoping for the best possible future. In the song "Weightless" (one of the album's highlights), Paddy exclaims "Love is a pure sensation, I feel like Yuri Gagarin.... Love has given me a new slant on it all; the Galaxy's a nightclub, Earth's a mirrorball". Just one example of the ingenious lyrical content on display here.
It's after 'Jordan: The Comeback', and then this album, Paddy solidifies himself as one of the great spiritually conscious composers of the silent but ever-present sophisticated pop movement, along with other music messiahs like Sade, David Sylvian, and Seal. The man and his band are as in tune with the world as ever before, and they create an album trapped in a wondrous place of contemplative, love-drunk ecstasy. This is the album Gatsby wishes was about him. A sincere love letter to love itself from a deeply enchanted past. A past that we could learn quite a bit from, especially now. What Paddy has always said is that he is the biggest fan of his records, and that he creates them not for others, but for personal enjoyment. For the love of music itself. I can't think of a more noble artistic sentiment.