Listen to this track by British sophisti-pop architects from County Durham, Prefab Sprout. It’s “When Love Breaks Down”, a single released in 1984 and later to be included on the landmark 1985 album Steve McQueen.
As has been well documented by now, the mid-eighties was a transitional period for bands who traded in synthesizers and post-punk guitar earlier in the decade. Along with The Style Council, Aztec Camera, Sade, and others, Prefab Sprout was one of the vanguard in England to adapt that earlier and increasingly dated (at the time, anyway!) sound with more textural and thematic sophistication. They did so by infusing the dynamics of post punk and new wave with warmer and more soulful atmospheres in instrumentation, arrangement, and production values. It even had a name as christened by the music press; sophisti-pop.
This song is one of the greatest examples of that musical movement. This was not just about the elements of jazz pop and soft rock that can be found here. It’s also about the song’s subject matter and how communicating it to an audience stood in contrast to the less emotionally direct styles of songwriting found at the height of the new wave and post punk era. This is a long way from Joy Division. In this new paradigm, it was time for songwriters to face the music when it came to matters of the heart. Read more