From Langley Park to Memphis
After the U.K. success of Prefab Sprout’s second album, Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good, Sprout leader Paddy McAloon recorded a similar-sounding follow-up, Protest Songs, and shelved it in favor of this more ambitious collection that, as its title implies, takes McAloon from England into the heart of America. “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the band’s biggest hit, tells the tale of a one-hit wonder stuck performing a novelty hit for his supper. “Cars and Girls” nods to Bruce Springsteen before admitting there’s more pain to life than what happens behind the wheel. “I Remember That” follows with the ache of an old lovelorn memory. “Hey Manhattan!” twirls with ballroom glitz and a knowing verse dedicated to the underside of the restless dreams of fame. “Knock On Wood” is not the R&B classic, but McAloon’s own quirky, nightmarish OCD ode to broken love. “The Golden Calf” comes as close as McAloon’s likely to make it near driving rock ‘n’ roll. McAloon’s a studio creature, most comfortable paring down his stories into disturbing anecdotes that sneak past with exuberant melodies.