PREFAB SPROUT Andromeda Heights Kitchenware/Columbia KW CD 30

Kitchenware/Columbia KW CD 30

Paddy McAloon once chastised Bruce Springsteen in song with the chiding line "Some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls" - yet here he is on "Electric Guitars", the opening track of Andromeda Heights, hymning the fantasy trappings of rock stardom itself, than which there are few things more fatuous. What is wrong with this picture?

McAloon's status - as a "great pop songwriter" who doesn't have pop hits - has long baffled me. As with the strikingly similar Blue Nile, where others hear genius, I hear only Radio 2 beckoning - this is insufferably polite music for people who don't realise how middle-aged they've become. As for the supposed craft of McAloon's songs, I'll admit it takes a special kind of genius to title songs after cliches such as "The Mystery of Love" and "Life's a Miracle", and not manage to add any kind of twist to the cliche - yes, he really does think love is a mystery and life is a miracle, and that is all there is to the matter.

But any deeper matter, such as might be deserving of the epithet "genius", is conspicuously absent from these 12 coy, self-regarding songs. For a moment, you suspect that "The Fifth Horseman" might bear such fruit, but then it turns out that the fifth horseman of the apocalypse is, er, love. So, that's war, famine, pestilence, death and love, then? Is that right? Or is it, perhaps, just a lazy attempt to put a new spin on another tired cliche?

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