we're God...'- live on a wet March night? In Woolwich Poly bar? Well,
there's these two Irishmen up on stage, and their band; they're doing
a song now, all sweet-coated driving keyboards, rocky guitars ... the
singer's sweating buckets, screaming tunefully - 'Stood in the Sunday
rain was a still escalator...'. They've stopped: 'No, actually, we're
not God- and this isn't a microphone stand either, it's a pile of shit!'
O.K., who exactly are you? Let's take a stroll through Fiction-Land and
try to find out...
...(First stop- John Peel Show, Summer '83: A Night Out With Microdisney?)
... So, it's evening, and you're walking down a semi-lit alley in some
less-salubrious area of town; as you're passing this bar, you hear music
... well ... lurching out onto the pavement - guitars slipping and tripping
over swaying, sliding keyboards - somewhere a wheezing drum-machine is
calling 'Time'. You go in, and the noise fills the room - the sound of
late nights and solitude and grown men crying into their beer. Up the
far end, a hunched figure is half-way through some heart-rending confession
... 'Guess where I slept last night?' ... the rest of the bar is empty.
You move closer, catch odd words - 'BEFORE FAMINE, I can't want you...'
- revelations of betrayal pile on self-pity in disconnecting phrases -
'...gone where I'm hated...': is this guy dangerous? A shock of curly
black hair, wild bloodshot eyes, a huge frame of muscle and moroseness
- very probably, yes. 'Let's just get drunk,' the ox moans: 'no faith,
no love, nothing!'
The view of the world through the bottom of a half-filled glass - you're
about to leave but he's noticed you for the first time. Suddenly his mood
changes - like some bloated, beer-blown Ancient Mariner, you can bet he's
got a story to tell. 'I drink gin like a 1960's wino,' he roars in best
Irish brogue. 'I can't go for it!' (you're not very surprised). He insists
on buying you a drink, and embarrasses you in front of the bar-maid (where
the hell did she come from?) - dancing round the room in a disconcerting
show of exuberance, all verging on exhaustion and hysteria. Strange obsessions,
too - 'I hate the heat, the heat hates me... there is a SUN!' You've been
here before, you know what happens next: when he collapses in the corner
with a slurred, defiant 'I'm just drunk!', you're the one who's got to
take him home.
Of course, on the way back, you get his life history. Nothing much makes
any sense- lots of stuff about someone with blood 'where he once had eyes'
who ends up in a sorry state - 'the cathedral was big and black, 'twas
the doctor who brought him here' - he doesn't seem to care much for religion,
or the medical profession for that matter - 'They have built a race who
can't read, and are' - What? Oh- 'SLEEPLESS, like the sun'. This is worrying
- you almost understand what he's on about.
But then you've arrived back at his mothers house, and he's sobered up
a bit, lost all the over-bearing vitality - in it's place rueful sentimentality.
You accept the offer of a cup of coffee, then begin to regret it when
he starts talking to a photograph of an old man - the bloke in the story?
- here we go with more pity and pathos. 'Oh my God, I thought you were
great, and I swam in your every whim ... fat little man in the MOON'.
You don't know why, but tears are rolling down your cheeks - as you make
your excuses and leave hastily, you sense somehow things will never be
the same again ...
... There are some fascinating little by-ways to be taken round here -
like 'Love Your Enemies', a survivor from April '82 - that same old tipsy
guitars, and a drum-machine sounding remarkably cheerful given the circumstances
... but then you can tell Sean and Cathal are happiest when they're getting
it off their chests, as here ... a vocal performance which ranges from
sulky-sullen to marvelously sarcastic-angry - some of the lyrics demand
to be quoted ... 'Why don't you get down on your knees, adore your enemies?'
is grumbled disbelievingly ... 'We lay in our bed in the hot afternoon,
and we argued about only the money we had ... Life in the dark, life in
the cold, this is the reason why we were born?' ... well, would you trust
someone who talked of 'our freedom and our right to do just as we please
with the likes of YOU!' ... Cathal, of course, has a ready reply - 'See
what your love can do - say 'Oh, look what my love did!' - brilliant....
... A few local landmarks ... 'Hello Rascals'/'Helicopter Of The Holy
Ghost' - an A-side smeared with despair, 'darkly drenched in silence':
this is a world where people 'watch the dawn in sick amazement' and find
comfort only in old dreams. On the B-side, not even that luxury is allowed
as Microdisney take a panoramic stare at Ireland's squalor - 'We have
nothing decent we can dream about ...' - know the feeling? They don't
pull punches: this song contains the following lines 'Where's the hope
or beauty, truth or dignity? Put that suitcase down before you answer
me!' - I'd like to explain why it's worth buying this record for the words
alone, but I suspect you either see or you don't ... coming up on your
left, 'Pink Skinned Man'/'Fiction Land' - more wit and wisdom ('Dear lover,
you're no good; dear lover, you've no right- yours sincerely someone else.'),
a more aggressive and optimistic (?) sound- in case anyone still cares,
Microdisney USE keyboards, not vice versa, and create an accessible pop
music which perfectly counterpoints the off-beat humour of the lyrics
- there's even a mournful violin in the tail-end of this track, and it
works! ... all the above-mentioned delights can be found on the 1984 collection
'We Hate You South African Bastards'.....
... A slight detour now, to the forgotten idiosyncracies of the 2nd Peel
session, and 'Everybody Is Dead' ... starts innocuously enough, a bit
like the testcard backing music in fact ... little guitar flourishes;
is that Sean on background vocals, lending that extra something to lines
like 'Spent my money, spent my energy, spent my purpose, will that improve
me?'? So far so fair, but when the tune starts running on the spot and
Cathal delivers a spoken vocal you might suspect the fun is only just
beginning - 'there was only one thing I could say: 'I love you, I love
you, I love you ...'' he shouts louder and louder - then screaming faster
and more furious as the music trundles cheerfully onwards into the abyss
of sound created by Sean hauling out strings of feedback - an attempt
to drown out Cathal, who's now resorted to incoherent grunts and roars
- the whole builds to some sort of crescendo, then abruptly stops ...
sheer manic brilliance, closer to the true nature of punk rock than a
1000 singles by the Membranes or Nick Cave ... the ruins of this and many
other former glories may be glimpsed on the Ruff Trade L.P. 'Everybody
Is Fantastic', if you're that way inclined - well, the sleeve-notes are
... and now, the highspot of this or any other tour round the ravaged
land of post-punk pop, Microdisney's 3rd Peel session. Some random thoughts
... the ideal soundtrack for a spring and summer of love? ... playing
a tape of these songs to death last May/June, windows open wide ... what's
happening - 'Friend With A Big Mouth', relaxed and tanned, comes trotting
out of the speakers ... nursery-rhyme lyrics, then 'warm sun and breeze
in the grass and in her hair' ... this is just right - but who the fuck
is Howard? ... 'There is no hope for some of us yet' - not while people
can ignore this gorgeous noise ... I always laugh at the fade-out, all
those Goon-show voices screeching 'Hello eveybody' ... this is the sound
of happiness; this is Microdisney's first serious move ... this is 'Dreaming
Drains' - 'What is the meanest thing they can do?' Take away my tape,
of course ... this music melts me. People will tell you Microdisney are
gloomy: don't be taken in - they just know all about sadness ... Sean's
awkward choirboy vocals are the (dream-)topping, a yearning sound, probably
meant to be played in the dark (lying alone) ... 'Just savour this moment
when your heart is broken; how long since I told you how much I hate you?'
- that stings ... 'Teddy Dogs', and ringing guitars stutter, announce
a sing-along tour-de-force ... 'Love and money, banks and beds, this is
all there is ...'- Microdisney are learning about London ... keyboards
which sound like a brass band- perfect pop music which belongs in the
hearts and charts of the whole world, the real voice, the eye for important
detail - 'Several shelves are standing next to where you stood' ... 'They
don't want reason- they want obedience': is this man bitter? Check the
run-off, single or session, to find out Sean and Cathal know all about
hollow words and empty ceremony - 'Only a puritan hides his fear of Springtime
by pretending to celebrate it. To each puritan his daffodil, his hydrangea
...' - Stephen Morrisey, are you listening? ... so let's look into 'Loftholdingswood'
... this will always be some sort of peak, right from the opening bars,
the spacious piano which sets you at ease before the needle slides in
- 'I died on a cross, and now I'm the boss' ... sad summer evenings, tired
questions - 'Aren't you glad you were born in England, aren't you glad
you were born an angel?' - are you? ... Microdisney use words for effect,
with due respect, economy, precision - every phrase tells its own tale
... 'You turn away, I hear you say 'Loftholdingswood...' - there's an
effortless grace about this chiming, seductive music, about Cathal's voice,
just before the beat ... my heart always bleeds a little as this song
ebbs away ... you can't take these songs individually, only as a whole
... as an E.P., this would be the best single ever, a sound to reclaim
that sullied word 'pop' from the harlot-shops of radio and music-press
... so many moods - aggression or reflection, jaunty cheeriness or stately
grandeur. This is pop? This is progress, a genuine new wave, stamping
in the ashes of indie synth-crap, not bowing before Born-Again guitarism
... it betters any previous best ... Beg, steal or borrow a tape of this
session from someone who knows, but the 'In The World' 12", see for
yourself ... right now, it's back to Woolwich - the 3 Johns are on, playing
'A.W.O.L0, once, twice ... the third time it starts, we leave.