Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music

RIYL: China Crisis, Belle & Sebastian, Stephen Sondheim

Music industry cynics joke of how death is a hell of a career move, but that only applies to the maladjusted and self-destructive. What can a sane, well-balanced songsmith do to raise his profile while maintaining a pulse?

The answer: pull a Brian Wilson. Make a great record, then shelve it.


Mind you, this was not Paddy McAloon’s intention when he began assembling Let’s Change the World with Music in 1992. At the time, he fully expected to make this record with his bandmates Martin McAloon, Wendy Smith and Neil Conti, with longtime producer Thomas Dolby behind the boards. He was merely assembling demo versions of the songs in his traditionally fastidious manner so the others could flesh them out in the studio…only the fleshing out never happened. The label felt the album’s religious overtones were too strong – which is pretty funny considering that the band’s previous album and BRIT Award nominee Jordan: The Comeback dedicated its final five songs to religious overtones, including one song from the point of view of the Devil begging the archangel Michael to put in a good word with God for him – and the album was scrapped.

McAloon only released two Prefab albums after that, and despite continuing to record, he has no plans to release another album. But when his former home Kitchenware begged him to let them release Let’s Change the World with Music, McAloon decided that late was better than never. And with that, Prefab Sprout has released its best album in 20 years.

Sonically, the album sounds like the tracks that Stephen Lipson produced for Prefab’s 1992 singles collection A Life of Surprises – sequencers and drum machines rule the roost, which makes sense since McAloon assembled the entire record himself – and the dated nature of the electronics works in the album’s favor, as it evokes a time when Prefab was a force to be reckoned with. (Rolling Stone didn’t write an article about McAloon, called “The Last Pop Genius,” for nothing.) Musically, the album is Jordan: The Comeback‘s kissing cousin, with a couple nods to the band’s breakthrough album Steve McQueen (called Two Wheels Good in the States). “I Love Music” is cut from the same cloth as “Horsin’ Around” (the name drop of Irving Berlin is no coincidence), while “Ride” would have been a perfect double A-side for “Scarlet Nights.” The most refreshing thing about Let’s Change the World is how hopeful it is; there isn’t a “When Love Breaks Down” or “Ice Maiden” to be found, as McAloon is too busy turning a song about the earth into a plea for affection, and he even writes a love song about music itself, where he swoons of how “music is a princess, and I’m just a boy in rags.”

The commercial prospects of an album like Let’s Change the World with Music in today’s climate are admittedly are not optimistic – though it did crack the UK Top 40, and probably would have gone higher had the Beatles not re-released their catalog the same week – but that is hardly the point; McAloon has been preaching to the choir for years, and for them, Let’s Change the World is like Santa Claus going back in time to deliver the Christmas gift you wanted 18 years ago. Proof positive that indeed nothing sounds as good as, “I remember that.” (Tompkins Square 2010)

Click to buy Let’s Change the World with Music from Amazon