Paddy McAloon
I Trawl The Megahertz


4.6
superb

Review

by Aaron W. STAFF
February 5th, 2019 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2003 | Tracklist

Review Summary: All cigarettes have been air-brushed from these pictures, making everyone a liar.

Quietly released in 2003 to a record-buying public which had not expected it, Paddy McAloon's I Trawl The Megahertz is more than just an absurd one-off by the Prefab Sprout frontman. It was, however, the first album of original material by McAloon since 1997's Andromeda Heights, and challenged the idea of what the project stood for, conceptually and musically. Megahertz went through a lengthy development stage, which had its origins in McAloon's own health at the tail-end of the nineties, beginning with his failing eyesight and extensive surgery which left him temporarily blind and homebound; and later on with Meniere's disease, with which tinnitus is a side-effect. To pass the time during his recovery, McAloon listened to and sampled shortwave radio broadcasts. A great deal of these broadcasts would become the source material for his next project under the Prefab Sprout name, following the self-covers album The Gunman and Other Stories. Undeniably so, the tonal shift from Gunman to Megahertz is the most radical change seen in the Prefab Sprout canon, one so much greater than the transition from the raw and progressive sound of Swoon to Steve McQueen or the total Technicolor production of Jordan: The Comeback. But weirdly enough, this progression makes more than enough sense when you look at Prefab Sprout as more of an enigma, an idea rather than something already set in stone.

Unfortunately enough, upon its initial release back in the day, McAloon's label, Liberty/EMI, took issue with this stance and the sheer difficulty in marketing this new album and having the Prefab Sprout name attached to it, citing that it would confuse and further alienate fans, who had slowly dwindled over the years mainly due to inconsistent releases and a lack of touring throughout the nineties. McAloon even seemed to agree at the time, believing it would disappoint fans who were looking for "single material." And so, I Trawl The Megahertz became a Paddy McAloon solo album at the very last minute, dooming it to obscurity as the album went nowhere, was hardly reviewed (and infamously ignored by The Guardian, which had left McAloon discouraged after the fact) and remained out of print for over a decade, its sole issuing soon becoming a rarity. Fast-forward to 2019 and along with the entirety of the Prefab Sprout discography, it has seen a good deal of reassessment, reaching a larger audience today than it had in 2003. It's not all too hard to believe when you listen to it for the first time and you're immediately given the radio jingle motif of its existential title cut, a piece that is part character study (as narrated by Yvonne Connors), part modern classical tour-de-force. Connors, chosen by McAloon to record Megahertz in 1999, is nothing short of sublime on this piece; delivering lines that could be seen as mundane elsewhere now transformed into gripping and poignant. Mind the length and the heavy-handed usage of minimalist orchestrations to drive the song along for twenty-plus minutes, but to go any further into detail would be akin to spoiling it for anyone who hasn't heard it. It has to be heard to be believed.

Megahertz can possibly be seen as one whole suite, as several motifs and themes reveal themselves subtly throughout each segment, with the shortwave radio material increasingly coming into play, ranging from tales of divorce and heartbreak to the casualties of war, all before coming to a halt with a song so astounding that it's perhaps the finest thing Paddy McAloon has ever put to tape. "Sleeping Rough" is a prophecy of what's to come for its writer, foretelling of his ageing and his now-radically different look with lyrics like "I'll grow a long and silver beard and let it reach my knees." It's so simple, yet McAloon delivers with it such certainty before he disappears beneath the melancholic orchestration that surrounds him. I Trawl The Megahertz is simply one of those career-defining albums, a triumph of not only music, but of art itself. It defies everything Prefab Sprout previously stood for and what people thought it could be, yet there's absolutely nothing else like it to date elsewhere by McAloon. And for the longest time, it would be the final recording by McAloon, who wouldn't return with an album of brand new material until 2013's Crimson/Red.




Recent reviews by this author
Xiu Xiu Girl with Basket of FruitKeith Fullerton Whitman Generator
Tim Hecker KonoyoAnimal Collective Tangerine Reef
Boris Akuma no UtaDerek Bailey Aida
user ratings (21)
Chart.
4.3
superb


Comments:Add a Comment 
Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


18557 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

More or less, this is officially the follow-up to 2001's The Gunman and Other Stories in the Prefab Sprout discography, but for the sake of keeping things simple (because we can't benefit from the style of cataloging that RYM does), this will remain on Paddy's own page for the time being. This was just reissued this past week, so it's now back in print and available on streaming services, to boot.



I Trawl The Megahertz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9982wYPPm0

Sleeping Rough https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnZ2aMndh0o

Digging: Avey Tare - Cows On Hourglass Pond

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2019


2965 Comments


really interesting and informative review. I don't know much about prefab, and even less about McAloon, but you've put together quite a vivid picture. really enjoying the embedded track. what would be a prefab record to jump onto after this so I can better contextualise all this? I'm guessing the gunman?

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


18557 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

I'd highly suggest Steve McQueen or Jordan: The Comeback, which are usually considered to be their very best albums overall, but most of them range from incredible to solid. Gunman isn't a big favorite of mine, but some really love it, so there's some merit to it.



This post is mainly just someone's favorite lyrics by him, but it really is some of the best and most thoughtful songwriting in pop music.



https://rateyourmusic.com/list/SouthPacific/the_magical_world_of_patrick_joseph_mcaloon/

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2019


2965 Comments


shweeeee, cheers dude. I'll take a squizz

robin
Emeritus
February 5th 2019


4552 Comments


prefab sprout the greatest band of all time

Mort.
Contributing Reviewer
February 5th 2019


14176 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review fripp. gonna finally check this out probs next week

Digging: Dag Nasty - Can I Say

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


18143 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Nice one, very informative. T/t and Sleeping Rough are amazing.

Digging: Foals - Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1

DoofDoof
February 5th 2019


2232 Comments


Reading this now makes me sad I now rate this a 4.5 rather than a 5 - so good job!

I guess I rate it a 4.6 :D

Digging: Jungstötter - Love Is

DoofDoof
February 5th 2019


2232 Comments


After the t/t and 'Sleeping Rough' I also really like 'I'm 49'

50iL
February 5th 2019


5016 Comments


good rev, glad this finally has a thread

Digging: The Dillinger Escape Plan - Irony Is a Dead Scene

plane
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


7522 Comments


I am all over this. Wonderful review.

hogan900
February 5th 2019


2917 Comments


why am i just hearing about this lol

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


4469 Comments


phenomenal work and research here

TVC15
February 5th 2019


9896 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Title track is everything

Digging: Dexys Midnight Runners - Too-Rye-Ay

Sniff
February 5th 2019


5449 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album owns

Ev1lToaster
February 5th 2019


185 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I prefer the alternate album art for this. Stunning work.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


18557 Comments

Album Rating: 4.6

The new art is fine, but the original lends itself very well to the music. Mysterious, lonesome, distant perhaps?

Ev1lToaster
February 5th 2019


185 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Definitely mysterious, a little abstract, certainly more interesting to look at. I wouldn't really mind the old art if I wasn't more familiar with the new one.



Title track is one of the most beautiful songs ever composed.

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
February 5th 2019


18143 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Anyone have an opinion on the remaster? I've only heard it once so far, but didn't notice a difference other than it being a bit louder.

I like this album cover a lot and prefer it; the new one is cool too though.

AnimalsAsSummit
February 5th 2019


3780 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0 | Sound Off

beautiful music, another 5 star work from McAloon per usual. nice review!

Digging: Makai - Millennium



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy