A YEAR IN MUSIC: PREFAB SPROUT – Jordan: The Comeback (1990)

Review by: Nina A

I have been reliably informed that Jordan: The Comeback is my favourite album from 1990. I have also been encouraged to write about it because it would be good to have it represented. And I agree, this album is important – maybe ultimately not important to the state of pop music 1990 or after but certainly important in the band’s history and since the album covers “Love, Elvis, God and Death – all the big topics” as NME has apparently put it, it has the capacity to become important for the listener too.
Prefab Sprout were up to that point generally critically praised for their melancholy but tuneful pop songs, and were known for Thomas Dolby’s lush production, Wendy Smith’s angelic vocal contributions and songwriter Paddy McAloon’s special brand of songwriting (and I feel that the rhythm section of Martin McAloon and Neil Conti also deserves a mention for the tight sound). All of these features are turned up to 11 in Jordan: The Comeback with Thomas Dolby once again involved with the production and adding an extra dimension with to sound. Several songs here deserve special mention, and I feel that the first six track from the opening “Looking for Atlantis” through the title track serve excellently to establish the sound of this album and the newfound maturity with which Paddy tackles subjects and themes that strongly suggest that the protagonist of this album has reached a point in his life where he looks back at life so far and doesn’t shy away from looking toward… well, Jordan beckoning at the end. Some gentle reminiscing in “We Let the Stars Go” and longing for the times of youthful energy in “Wild Horses” are excellently complemented by the main themes of retrospection and making peace with oneself on the cusp of a new era in “Carnival 2000” – a song about entering the new millennium but curiously predating it by a whole decade. Somewhere around track 13 – Paris Smith – the album briefly descends into what I’d say is a somewhat weaker aspect of most Prefab Sprout record b-sides – the midtempo & drawn-out vocals noodling that Paddy seems so fond of. I wouldn’t say that any of the songs on here don’t have their individual merits and inherent beauty but in a 19 track album such as Jordan: the Comeback they can be a bit of a drag to sit through. An interesting highlight here is the next track – The Wedding March – with its nostalgic vibe, and the album closes strongly with the gorgeous Doo-Wop in Harlem, helped here by atmospheric production and of course Paddy’s own gentle vocals, and making a really strong case for the emotional resonance of this record. In conclusion, Jordan: the Comeback is a worthy contribution to the pop-canon of 1990 and a strong contender for your love too, dear listener.