EVERYBODY IS FANTASTIC
(LP)
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This review was written by Jeff Whiteaker. Many other reviews of his (composed while whiling away his time in a 'dead-end job') can be found on the Amazon website under the name of 'Thoutah'.

I first discovered Microdisney in the Mid-90's after reading about them in an 80s edition of 'Trowser Press'. The descriptions in the review immediately caught my attention, with words like "smooth", "orchestral pop", "lush", "haunts the intellect", etc. Being the fanatical record geek that I am, it didn't take long to discover that their albums were among the most elusive of obscure 80s pop bands, and that trying to find any of them would require a great deal of energy and patience (and money).

I was first able to get my hands on the (downright pricey) cd import only reissue for 'Everybody's Fantastic'. My income level doesn't typically permit me to just shell out $25 for a cd I've never heard, but believe me, it was worth every penny.

First of all, being a huge fan of 80s guitar-pop bands like the Go-Betweens, Smiths, Aztec Camerca, etc., I was immediately blown away by the sharp, infectious, extremely melodic songwriting. Each song is a finely crafted pop gem, and Trowser Press' descriptions like "lushly orchestrated pop" were entirely accurate. Guitarist Sean O'Hagan's playing on this record literally never fails to send chills down my spine. His finger-picking style, reminiscent of country legend Jimmy Webb, offers a melodiousness and sharpness that rivals Johnny Marr. And singer Cathal Coughlan's keyboards show a strong Brian Wilson/'Pet Sounds' influence, giving the songs a fresh, lush, late 60s/early 70s West Coast feel that resulted in some critics branding them as 'Mid-Atlantic'. These influences were seriously unfashionable back in the early 80s, which seemed to alienate a lot of people at the time, despite the fact that Microdisney incorporated these influences in subtle ways that worked well with their own unique vision.

Each song demonstrates the duo's knack for catchy melodies *and* sophisticated arrangements. Mature and accomplished, songs like the mellifluous and upbeat "Idea" and "I'll be a Gentleman", the gossamer, atmospheric "Liberal Love" and "Dreaming Drains", and the lilting, almost Nick Drake-ish "Dolly", contain hook after hook of irresistably catchy pop. Any of these songs would've made Morrissey/Marr, Forster/McClennan, Edwin Collins, or Roddy Frame downright jealous.

But what made Microdisney really stand out was what Trowser Press described as their "sublimely seductive paradox". These smooth, breezy tunes were coupled with Cathal Coughlan's bleak, wry, venomous lyrics. With scathing, bitter denunciations of yuppies, right-wing politics, reactionaries, and anything else under the sun, this bizarre coupling of shimmering beauty and biting rage, only served to alienate Microdisney even further from their contemporaries. Cathal was notorious for his public antics, like screaming "I am a dick" over a song on stage until hoarse and red in the face; or putting out t-shirts that proclaimed "Microdisney are shit!". But for me, this only added to their depth, and served as the perfect counter-balance for the pristine melodies. To appreciate Microdisney, one must appreciate irony and the power of paradox (which was certainly no problem for me). Morrissey and Marr are known for having achieved a similar kind of irony with their hook-filled tunes and bitter lyrics; but Coughlan and O'Hagan pushed it much further.

Upon absorbing this stunning masterpiece, Microdisney were catapulted to my mental top 5 best bands ever list (home to the Go-Betweens, Smiths, among others), and I went on a wild and successful hunt for the rest of their albums. 'Everybody's Fantastic' is without a doubt, the best of the lot, though 'We Hate you South African Bastards' (reissued on cd as 'Love Your Enemies') and 'The Clock Comes Down the Stairs' nearly equal its brilliance. Getting into 'Everybody's Fantastic' was one of those 'life altering' experiences, and it's a record I will never grow tired of. I *highly* recommend it to anyone with an addiction to '80s melodic pop.

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