Protest Songs was recorded in 1985, shortly after Steve McQueen, but not released until 1989, when it slipped into stores quietly with no singles released. It’s low key, and much less produced than anything else they’ve done; the extreme example is ‘Dublin’, which feels like a demo with McAloon accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.
Protest Songs does open with some upbeat, accessible songs; the opener ‘The World Awake’ is one of my favourite Prefab Sprout songs with its bizarre backing vocals and insistent hook, while the affectionate advice of ‘Life of Surprises’ is hooky and energetic. There’s more pointed current event commentary than usual – ‘Diana’ discusses the Princess of Wales, while ‘Dublin’ concerns Irish politics – while McAloon returns to his common themes of mortality with the low key conclusion of ”Til The Cows Come Home’ and ‘Pearly Gates’.
With its low key nature, Protest Songs has aged gracefully, and it’s a strong entry in the Prefab Sprout catalogue.