Tom Robinson Sings “War Baby”

war_baby_coverListen to this track by British folk-rock-with-sophisti-pop leanings singer-songwriter Tom Robinson. It’s “War Baby”, a 1983 single which also appeared on his album Hope and Glory released by the next year. That full-length record is also known as War Baby: Hope and Glory in some quarters.

This single performed exceptionally well on the British charts, reaching number six and serving as a positive turn in Robinson’s fortunes. By 1982, Robinson had moved to Germany in a fit of low feelings in part brought about by debt and by the end of his former musical outfit Sector 27. It was a significant move. Relocating to a new country and social context shook up his worldview, bringing out certain geopolitical dynamics in his music. This was particularly when doing shows in Berlin, a place known for the infamous wall that bore its name; a physical metaphor for the cold war itself.

This political edge is very evident on this song, which is about war and about love at the same time. Maybe too, it reveals just how similar love and war are emotionally speaking, or at least how disturbingly interchangeable they can be. Read more

Prefab Sprout Play “When Love Breaks Down”

Steve McQueen Prefab SproutListen 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