My Favorite Album: Kirin J Callinan on Prefab Sprout’s “Let’s Change the World with Music” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 14th, 2024  

My Favorite Album: Kirin J Callinan on Prefab Sprout’s “Let’s Change the World with Music”

"There's this purity and tragedy to this album that breaks my heart."

Mar 12, 2020 Issue #66 - My Favorite Album - Angel Olsen and Sleater-Kinney Photography by Yana Yatsuk Bookmark and Share

Australian iconoclast Kirin J Callinan has a predilection for ‘80s music and recently released an album of covers titled Return to Center. He picked Let’s Change the World with Music by Prefab Sprout as his favorite album. The English band led by Paddy McAloon charted with 1980s radio hits. But Let’s Change the World with Music was only released in 2009 and largely the work of just McAloon, who suffers from Meniere’s Disease—characterized by vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus—which ended his career as a performer. McAloon may have retreated from public life, but he has kept on writing and recording.

“It’s essentially an album of demos-there’s this purity and tragedy to this album that breaks my heart,” Callinan says. “And it’s also a Christian album, I’m not Christian, necessarily. Not particularly religious but it intrigues me-I find spirituality to be a common theme that comes up in my life in many ways. The image of a Christian album is being forced-fed bad gospel by Middle America, it can even be hip-hop-but that’s nothing like this Prefab Sprout album. It’s Prefab Sprout but it’s basically Paddy McAloon, who to me is one of the greats, if not greatest singer/songwriters of all time. And again his story is so tragic, never had the recognition he might have had in an alternate universe-and that’s sort of what this album brings up for me.”

Callinan had wanted to cover “Music is a Princess” from Let’s Change the World with Music on Return to Center, but didn’t manage to. He says: “It goes: ‘Music is a princess, I’m just a boy in rags, I would gladly give my life, to fly her flag.’ It’s that self-fulfilling thing where he doesn’t have the slipper for her to wear, he isn’t the pre-ordained prince in waiting. It is unrequited love. But music is God on this record. The writing is just impeccable.”

On the chorus of the song “Ride” McAloon sings: “They will ride, ride, home to Jesus/heads held high.” “It sounds awful,” says Callinan, “but it’s so beautiful because he’s saying when you believe in God, you know that it’s the right thing to do, and go about doing it. It brings tears to my eyes right now just thinking about it and when I was listening to it back when I was on tour in 2014—I can’t say now what I was thinking about but I had my face pressed up against the glass in the tour bus and I was weeping. I don’t know why it struck such a deep chord.”

Didactic parables hold less interest for him but he does see a connection with Catholicism’s creation story and his work.

“I think it’s very complex to see how our brain contends with all that is happening with our internal world as well as our external world. I guess some people are deeper than others. I didn’t grow up in a household with religion and I don’t think I’m going to be indoctrinated with these old tales literally but I do see signs and beauty around me every day as well as horror and tragedy. I know within my own music and work, I create things and there’s this chaos in them and there’s a light there too—and maybe the universe is similar.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 66 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. For the issue we interviewed musicians and actors about their all-time favorite album.]

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