Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

The beat is preposterous, sheer melodrama, Spector meets Lloyd Webber uptown. The song tops it. “Prisoner Of The Past” is mock-epic of Broadway proportions, dwarfing everything on its puny parent album Andromeda Heights: it should be the showstopping finale to Act Two of some impossible rococo musical. Part of its appeal, in fact, is the way its chorus seems directly to refer to some glorious imaginary narrative – “This ghost is here to stay / I survived the blast”. Come on, Paddy, what blast? What’s going on? He doesn’t say, the tease, but he doesn’t have to.

“Prisoner of the Past” is pure Diva pop, a song to yell out as you stagger and swagger back home, your sorrows drowned and your resolve steeled. I will survive? Screw that – I did survive! It’s a song which never loses its cool, though, switching with a gymnast’s poise between flint-eyed stalker menace and an open-souled tenderness, between revenge and desire, between knowing you’ve won and knowing that the only reason you did is to make that same mistake again. It’s a love song, naturally. The music is as crafted and tasteful as we might expect from Prefab Sprout, but it sacrifices the usual coyness and guile for some orchestral fire in the belly, and for that we love it. And finally, the triumphant way Paddy MacAloon phrases “Get ready, get ready” would swell my chest every time even if the rest of the record wasn’t so grand.