[personal profile] accozzaglia
After spending the last three days of just listening to my entire Prefab Sprout library on repeat (inclusive, about 23 hours worth of content), I finally came to an answer that dogged me for nineteen years: "What's your favourite Prefab Sprout song?" It's a vexing question, because I could only say, "They're my favourite band. There are just too many to choose from."

But that wasn't the total truth. I never found any of the Sprout albums in my top five, all-time favourites-if-I-got-shipwrecked-on-an-island, like, ever (Jordan: the Comeback and Steve McQueen tend to jostle for the best Sprout album, though recently, From Langley Park to Memphis seems to make more sense with time). Which, given that they remain my favourite (if not slightly nostalgic) music group, is a bit strange. Andromeda Heights began the slow dive of my thinking of the music as a relic frozen in time, rather than a living thing. A couple of pretty good songs have happened in that time since, but nothing on the order of what it was before the original lineup dissolved and everyone's lives changed course (mostly to start families and try new careers).

For some reason, after first hearing it when I was 17, today was the day I arrived to an answer. It's "Bonny".

I was telling [livejournal.com profile] heinousbitca this earlier:
"I love every take of it: original, remaster, live recording (two concert bootlegs), disc-at-once ('live' at Acapulco Rolf's!), cover* (James Fogle!), acoustic re-recording (2006), and in Leeds 2000, it was the only song we heard played twice at the show — to raucous, pint-addled applause (I should know, as I was on my second pint of brown when some woman, arrived late, shouted, 'Oh, did I miss ''Bonny''?' Paddy, grinning underneath his crazy mountain man beard, broke into a rockin' reprise and brought down the house)."

I suck with lyrics, but I actually know every word to this one, sort of like the motor memory of tying a shoelace. As I said to heinousbitca, "If there was karaoke of it, I'd sing it before an audience. And it's one where the lyrics could be sung by a girl or a boy about love lost [without having to change a thing]. It's sort of like the genesis of what EBTG captured in 'Missing', but poignantly better."

"Bonny" is chock-full with nearly perfect one-liners:
  • "All my life in a tower of foil"
  • "No one planned it, took it for granted"
  • "Words don't hold you, broken soldiers"
  • "Save your speeches, flowers are for funerals"

And two of the best stanzas out there I can think of:
"I count the hours since you slipped away,
I count the hours that I lie awake,
I count the minutes and the seconds too,
All I stole and I took from you"

and later . . .
"All my silence and my strained respect
Missed chances and the same regrets
Kiss the thief and you save the rest
All my insights in retrospect
But Bonny don't live at home."

* Oh, I was wrong. I did stumble into a cover that was positively terrible. Apparently, I'm not alone in that conviction.

So I guess that settles it. All the old, unanswered questions of life are starting to really dwindle in number as they no longer remain a mystery.

Date: 2009-07-18 11:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] steven.livejournal.com
I love "When Love Breaks Down," "Appetite," and "Looking for Atlantis."

By the way, I also really like Editors, but you're right -- that cover of "Bonny" is awful.

I was wrong and comments did happen.

Date: 2009-07-18 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] accozzaglia.livejournal.com
I'd not heard of Editors before this cover, and it isn't exactly a great first impression. Maybe their other works will overturn that momentum.

Yeah. I pretty much love, if not like most of what Paddy McAloon has written over his career. It used to be that I'd say, "He could sing a song with lyrics derived from the phone directory, and I'd gladly listen to it." No longer. The shorter list for Paddy McAloon's songs is my "I don't love" list, which is really short, but notable for how badly they miss and for the fact that I even have such a list: "Life's a Miracle", "Horsechimes", "Anne Marie", "Whoever You Are" and probably "Love Will Find Someone for You". Only one of those songs precedes 1997 and Andromeda Heights, which was about when I began to doubt Paddy's commitment to Sparkle Motion. Since melodically these five or so are dreary, I turned to the lyrics for hope, which was like going from garden-fresh vegetables to eating a processed baby food purée of mixed veggies in a jar.

Did you ever hear his solo work, I Trawl the Megahertz? It's wonderful, although the title track is a bit too long for my liking. I usually listen to the album by programming out that track.

[Props to your userpic!]
(deleted comment)


Date: 2009-07-18 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] accozzaglia.livejournal.com
It tends to be that when I can pick a favourite album by a band I like, it's either because there are only one or two to pick from anyway (Propaganda) or that produced consistency is fairly erratic (Komeda and Bruce Cockburn, I think, qualify here).

Then there are the brilliant songwriters and composers who turn out so much good material that I almost feel sheepish or guilty for deriding any one of their works. For me, Prefab Sprout's great miss was Andromeda Heights (which happens to be playing right now, and it's making me cringe to that cheesy, X-Files-sounding synth and mealy, milquetoast songwriting). For Ryuichi Sakamoto, he had a 1994 album which was not really good at all, but I considered it one of my ten favourites that year because it was such a rotten time for new music overall.

Swoon is still an album I like a lot, but oddly as I get older, I can better understand why Paddy McAloon treats it as if he never sired it. "Cruel", the only song he still acknowledges, was never one I liked much — sort of the mid-album ebb before the second half — but I can understand the brilliance of that lyric. There are two unforgettable lines from that album I love. From "Couldn't Bear to Be Special", it was "(All) words are trains for moving past what really has no name." From "I Never Play Basketball Now", it was "Leave it behind on an overcrowded desk where the "in" tray is higher than the "out" ever will be." I lie. There's also "Elegance": "If you suffer lack of due respect, take comfort from the guessing game aspect that she is least where you expect."

I agree he is a clever lyricist, but his tack has fallen in recent years as he has turned more heavily to lyrical cliché, dodgy metaphor, and increased self-indulgence in his songwriting themes, especially the strain of tying unrelated songs together with a single word, like "stars". It seems to correspond with his increasingly reclusive, private livelihood. (yes, I'm throwing stones in my own glass house)

Date: 2009-07-20 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alibee.livejournal.com
Holy shit is that cover terrible. IT HAS NO EMOTION.

One of my favorite songs is "Never Trust A Spell" because it's so fun.

I really don't like much, if any, of the stuff after Searching For Atlantis. I find most of it to be cliche and.... yech, but at the same time, I love his version of Cowboy Dreams/Blue Roses/I'm A Troubled Man way more than the Jimmy Nail ones.

Date: 2009-07-20 05:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] accozzaglia.livejournal.com
Paddy's "Dragons" was so much better than Jimmy Nail's. The former is more organic, while Nail's was too polished.

Date: 2009-07-20 05:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alibee.livejournal.com

I just found a cute little cover on youtube:

Date: 2009-07-20 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alibee.livejournal.com
I didn't even knew Jimmy Nail did one. Ew, his is terrible.

Does he write any of his own songs or does he just cover Paddy? :P

Also, I am stupidly excited to see posts from you!

Date: 2009-07-20 05:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] accozzaglia.livejournal.com
Can I be your friend again? Pretty please?

Date: 2009-07-20 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alibee.livejournal.com
I refriended you already! (Like, before I commented at all.) Did it not take?

Date: 2009-07-20 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] accozzaglia.livejournal.com
I hadn't checked, but on the urban spacing comments I sent, I remember it saying that they were screened. Unless that's a default for everyone. Cool. Welcome back (or sth, or other way around). I added you to flickr a while ago, fwiw. I'm aged_accozzaglia there, because some dorkus in Italia took my intarnat-wyde-traydmarckd username. How dare.

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