I Trawl The Megahertz by Prefab Sprout – Album Review
By Victoria Holdsworth
There are only a handful of bands that I have brought with me from childhood into adulthood. When I was young, searching for a ‘scene’ and finding my musical way when already a little ‘alternative’ in my musical leanings, I knew I wanted bands to cling to, that told stories. Prefab Sprout emerged as one of the winners.
Whilst it has been some time since those early days of youth and wonder, this album brings it all back. Prefab Sprout really is one of those bands where you can attribute a ‘classic’ sound – and although this album is defiantly different, it still has it all in abundance.
I Trawl The Megahertz was originally a solo album released back in 2003 from Prefab Sprout’s main man Paddy McAloon. It was a strong test of courage from Paddy, after he was diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition which seriously affected his eyesight. Since then, the album has been remastered into something much less bare and has emerged as a heavily orchestrated, deeply brilliant work of art.
Some fans may be a little disappointed with the lack of vocals on this album. But if you are, then you have surely missed the point of its existence. The elegantly mournful opening track is 22 minutes in length, with fluctuating string arrangements. Other instruments come in like a congregation. There are sympathetic, soulful trumpet lines. Throughout, Yvonne Connors speaks in a candid, kitchen sink drama-esque tone about fragments of her memories. It is both touching and theatrical; highlighted by the lines: “Your daddy loves you very much/He just doesn’t want to live with us anymore.”
I am not over-reaching when I say I Trawl The Megahertz contains some of the most heart-breaking, soul aching music you’ll ever hear, and just this opening track alone, with its haunting tones will stick with you until the end of listening and beyond. This is song writing genius in full flow.
“Skilfully woven together”
Throughout the album there is an ethereal ambience. Indeed, it’s not until the last track that you hear Paddy’s voice, yet somehow the whole album is still deep and personal, offering a masterclass in musical arranging.
Without doubt McAloon is one of the greatest unsung songwriters of my time. But on this occasion he has let the music write its own lyrical landscape. Splashes of smooth jazz ripple through certain tracks, adding to the unique diversity.
But the standout track on the album is ‘I’m 49’. It’s a reflective piece, complete with voice-overs and narrative news clips, all skilfully woven together to form a new story to music. Words really cannot do it justice. You enter McAloon’s world when he was probably at one of his lowest ebbs, where he found himself listening to and recording late-night radio phone-ins, and chat shows. Amalgamated with his own personal experiences, he created the unique foundations, not just for this track, but for the entire album. It’s astonishing.
And this album is, simply, beautiful.