Prefab Sprout hadn’t released an album of new material since The Gunman and Other Stories in 2001, so 2013’s Crimson/Red is essentially a collection of the best songs McAloon had written in the previous twelve years. It’s recorded solo by Paddy McAloon in his home studio, but it’s much more professional sounding than the demos of Let’s Change The World With Music, and it’s easily Prefab Sprout’s strongest release since 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback.
The opener ‘The Best Jewel Thief in the World’ is an immediate winner, a hook laden and energetic piece of pop, while the disarmingly simple ‘Billy’ is warm and immediate. There are shout-outs to fellow songwriters, with ‘The Songs of Danny Galway’ covering Jimmy Webb and ‘Mysterious’ about Bob Dylan, while ‘The Dreamer’ is straight-out beautiful. There are also some memorable lyrics like “Adolescence – what’s it like? / It’s a psychedelic motorbike / You smash it up ten times a day / Then you walk away.”
If we’re being picky, there are a few too many slow songs, but Crimson/Red is an amazing comeback from Prefab Sprout – it’s clearly their best album in more than two decades.