THE CLOCK COMES DOWN THE STAIRS
(LP)

 


your job will go, your house will go
but they will wave from their video


TEN TRACK LP ON ROUGH TRADE. CAT NO. ROUGH85.

CD RE-RELEASE ON REV-OLA (CREATION). CAT NO. CREV041CD.

Side a- Horse Overboard, Birthday Girl, Past, Humane, Are You Happy?
Side b- Genius, Begging Bowl, A Friend With A Big Mouth, Goodbye- It's 1987, And.

CASSETTE


This was the first chance for Microdisney to produce an LP with reasonable studio resources and, at the time, the LP felt unecessarily jazzed up. Some of the more passionate live renditions were replaced by overcrafted guitar work that went off down some strange cul-de-sacs. In retrospect though, the production isn't nearly so bad and the extra layers add depth to the music, though not necessarily to the emotion. Songs they had been playing live for months, even years, were finally being released alongside a couple of new treats.

The record begins their transition to harder hitting content which no doubt reflected their move to Yuppie-infested London. The songs and subject matter are more varied than on their first LP, ranging from the quirky, humorous 'Horse Overboard' (God knows what that one is about) to the slit your wrists despair of 'Are You Happy Now' and 'Begging Bowl'. While the lyrical content was still focused on personal lifestyles, some of the songs such as 'Past' and 'Humane' were edging towards a more directly political angle.

Top of the pile for me, 'Goodbye- It's 1987', nods more towards the first LP. Two lovers cling to each other while society disintegrates outside their bedsit. Pitched somewhere between a love story and a criticism of apathy, it's a deeply moving song with strong imagery. The inability, either by choice or circumstance, of people to change the environment around them- love and companionship being a release from that environment but still affected by it- 'they only wanted to want each other, but that could never ever happen'. Maybe way off track, I always saw this as a post election blues song. Written around the time of the 1983 general election, the song contains a reference to 'June 87' which was the likely date for the next one. Nostradamous or not, it did turn out to be the date of the next election where 'The Sun' proclaimed Thatcher 'three times a lady'. And if society hadn't quite crumbled as predicted then it bloody well ought to have done. Click on the lyrics for realplayer audio:


the phone is ringing; the kettle's singing
this humid heaven is west eleven
the airless silence- June 87
the grey bed, next to the wall holds them
tense but still asleep, dreaming.
they only wanted to want each other,
but that could never, ever happen-
all the luck in the world won't save you,
you're not broke anymore, you trod on their hands,
so sleep on and on.
GOODBYE AND GOODBYE
'I found a bullet with your name on it.
I ran and hid it; you didn't see it. Tanks rolled
through the peaceful streets, and smiling hippies
held guns and grenades.'
GOODBYE AND GOODBYE
and in his dreaming; he rolls with strangers,
as she looks on smiling faintly. Time stands still
for awhile; they still slide. Soon, when they awake,
they'll shed sweat and tears in acts of love which say:
GOODBYE AND GOODBYE...


'Birthday Girl' is another classic, not so easy to be misunderstood as 'Dolly' was but still not impossible for the hum-along casual punter to miss. Cathal's mother gives birth to a baby boy- a joyous event, but the joyous event himself is none too pleased:

without fear, zero years, come to seek damnation and a veil of tears

'Birthday Girl' is Sean's finest moment on the LP. He ups the tempo, adds layers while still managing to keep that uniquely Microdisney style. A song with the highest quality lyrics and music. A song you can dance to while never forgetting how shit life is.

For a while, the live renditions included the wonderfully angry intro 'Say Something Positive' (live MP3). Summing up the sentiments of 'Birthday Girl' with a rousing 'Where there is life there is DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH, DEATH!'. If anyone had missed the point of the song on record, they wouldn't do at the gig.

The songs on the previous LP had tended to edge towards people's lack of ambition and unwillingness to change- a result of coercion from a traditionalist establishment. The songs on this one were very much more London based. A city freed of parochial concerns, family structures, superstitions and peer pressure. A city left to run rampant with greed and self interest. Cathal Coughlan summed
this up in an interview where he said 'In Ireland you do have all this loathsome superstitious bullshit that the Catholic Church has nurtured but at the same time people do have an appreciation of things that don't have anything to do with a direct gain for themselves'.

'Friend With A Big Mouth' and 'Past' both focus on the golden age of Yuppie self interest that was London in the Eighties. 'Friend With A Big Mouth', like 'Horse Overboard' is impossible to fully comprehend, but has a 'look after number one' theme:


i took home his money, nailed it onto the wall
dowsed it with diesel and as it burned I prayed
watch history made with a glass and a blade
a friend with a big mouth is waiting for you


'Past', was much more specific and easier to follow than many of their earlier songs. It wasn't the best song on the LP, the tempo being slightly uneven, but was one of the most moving and, for me, totally summed up the state of the nation. Conspicuous consumption, Cocktail Bars opening up and a post Falklands euphoria ('Who won the war, who ruled the world'). Communities were being torn apart around them and no-one cared. There was also a direct dig at London ('you can't deny their London Pride'). What hit home though was the focus on the political lead that generated an atmosphere that said it was OK to be greedy. A right wing press was out of control and the supposedly neutral establishment following their lead:

go back to work, you're all alone
old fashioned, weak and childish


Each day I would watch the BBC tell us that 5 more miners in Wales had returned to work and they'd all be back by Monday. Even now the line sums up a total feeling of despair at the insidious media manipulation that has become even more prevalent today.

'Are You Happy Now' and 'Begging Bowl' are the most emotional songs on the LP. They contain Joy Division style sentiments but with more fight and bite in them- anger venting depression. 'Begging Bowl' veers more towards personal relationships, 'Are You Happy Now' is more political but both are mood records for any deeply unhappy occasion.

'Genius' and 'Horse Overboard' showed the lighter side to the band. 'Horse Overboard', which features a sailor boy coming and going from his wife, has something vaguely to do with non conformity and breaking free from a structured way of life. The final line 'My wife is a horse' makes further analysis redundant...

The LP finishes off with the beautifully produced 'And' which was the only song on the record never to be featured live. More reflective than the rest of the LP, the words and music come together in perfect harmony. Despite its almost nursery rhyme-style presentation, the song still holds some bitter demons ('and some people have it bad yes it's true, but they wouldn't if they did not know you'). It's a finale to rival even 'Everybody Is Dead' from their first LP.

'Clock Comes Down The Stairs' is quite a varied LP. The bands' targets and outlook were changing as well as having better studio equipment. Like many groups of the time they hadn't quite worked out how to enhance the recordings with the new technology available while still keeping the passion in their songs- a passion that had been so central to their live performances. They made a half-decent attempt and the LP is still is an essential possession that only suffers when compared to what some of us knew they were capable of. It is considered by many to be their best LP.

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