Steve McQueen was re-titled Two Wheels Good for the US market after legal difficulties with McQueen’s estate; it established their career in the UK after ‘When Love Breaks Down’ became a successful single on its third release. The major change for Prefab Sprout’s sophomore effort was Thomas Dolby collaborating as their producer; Dolby had spoken favourably of ‘Don’t Sing’ from Swoon, and the band contacted him to produce their second album. Dolby chose his favourite songs out of 40-50 that McAloon had written, and provided a lush production job that complements the literate lyrics – Wendy Smith’s vocals are processed in ways that sometimes make her sound like a synthesiser. The precociousness and frenzy of Swoon is toned back, and while there are still complex chord changes and lyrics on Steve McQueen, it’s a lot more accessible.
Steve McQueen has two clear halves; the first side is built around accessible and upbeat pop songs, while the second side is more esoteric. The hits on the first side include the rockabilly of ‘Faron Young’, and the perfect pop of ‘Appetite’, while the title ‘Goodbye Lucille #1’ apparently refers to the fact that McAloon had written a full album of songs with named Goodbye Lucille. There’s more clever pop like ‘Movin’ The River’ and ‘Hallelujah’ on the second side, but there’s also slowed down material like ‘Blueberry Pies’ and ‘When The Angels’.
Steve McQueen is a timeless and near perfect collection of intelligent pop songs.
Steve McQueen was re-released in 2007 with a bonus disc of eight newly recorded acoustic versions by McAloon. They’re gorgeous, and underline how strong the material on the album is.