Review Summary: If singing birds must sing, with no question of choice
Then living is our song, indeed our voice
Prefab Sprout arrived in 1988 with two highly acclaimed albums already behind them. With their latest release, 'From Langley Park to Memphis' set to release in March, the band was anxious and in high hopes that the new record could fulfill the sonic aftermath left by the magnificent sophisti-pop odyssey that is 'Steve McQueen'. Thankfully, in my eyes and in the eyes of many others, it succeeded in this feat and then some.
It is perhaps best not to compare 'From Langley Park to Memphis' to 'Steve McQueen', because even though they both have a sound that is unmistakably Prefab Sprout hard at work crafting dreamscapes, they both differ quite a bit stylistically. Instead of creating a second 'Steve McQueen', Prefab Sprout focus on making a cinematic pop experience with production that is grandiose and sweeping. While the first track, "King of Rock and Roll" gives us a funky and wonky synthpop anthem, the rest of the album takes a much more laid back and refined approach, utilizing synths and strings to create dazzling environments.
Whether its the song "I Remember That" or "Nightingales" (which features amazing harmonica from Stevie Wonder), the entire album brings forth a gorgeous pop sound that seems to reside in a far off dream or memory. Although not dreampop as one would traditionally think of it, that may be the most appropriate description for the music on here. With both Paddy McAloon and Thomas Dolby producing these tracks, they simply exude perfect mixing techniques. This is definitively one of the best produced albums out there. "Hey Manhatten" is another classic track that really exemplifies the artistic standard this album sets for pop music: impossibly high.
The album ends with "The Venus of the Soup Kitchen", a song that almost sounds straight out of End of Evangelion and one that hit me right away with its strange and mesmerizing beauty that sounded all too familiar upon when I had first heard it. It crescendoes into a spiraling, angelic melody packed with rich lyricism and poetic contrast that highlights how one views life. Whether you're in Langley Park or in Memphis, you're always going to feel this need to be in the place that you are not; to go on an adventure. Only to find that home is always the place one wishes to return to time and time again.