MICRODISNEY PRESS

'In From the Cold?' by Helen FitzGerald, Melody Maker Jan 1987.


FLASHBACK: Microdisney and Lenny Kaye, their new producer, pissed out of their heads after rehearsals, embark on a pub crawl. They end up in the Assembly House, Kentish Town, where they barrack the landlord into letting them take over the stage for a quick song. The pub is brimming with bohos, downbeats and second generation Irish labourers squandering their Thursday pay packets at the bar. Microdisney ham it up with Lenny to give them a very drunken, very bawdy version of "Little Town In Ireland", they fall over laughing and get turfed out on the street to search for the next whiskey bar … and a few new fans follow them into darkness.

"It was hilarious", Cathal recalls. 'The locals had never seen anything like us before and they were really into it. We were just hamming it up, God we were so drunk - we wanted to show Lenny a good time, he's been so good to work with and we had to let off a little steam.

The nicest thing about Microdisney is that they still take such a simple joy in their music in playing and making records. It's a joy that's seen them through their darkest hours, through the misery and frustrations of battling their way through the indie circuits, through the arduous years when they first arrived here from their native Cork, and through the depressing phase when things moved so slowly for them that it seemed they would never escape the numbing treadmill or rough living and depressing one night stands.

Now, after two Rough Trade albums and the caustically titled mini-LP, "We Hate You South African Bastards" (as well as a proud collection of singles) they take their first steps on a major label with the release this week of "Crooked Mile" on Virgin, their third and finest album.

It's good to see them settled at last. Microdisney, by their very nature, have never given themselves an easy time.

"In retrospect, it may well have been good for us to have had a somewhat tortuous journey to where we are now," says Cathal. "The indie scene is instilled with a sense of its own importance, inflated way beyond its record sales and it's hard not to be a little embittered when you get to see the way the whole thing works at close quarters. It's quite pathetic really.
"The most disturbing fact is the influence of the music papers. Critics seem so caught up in the trappings of these bands and tend to pamper their sense of importance for more than it deserves."

For Microdisney there will be no regrets, no looking back.
Cathal: "The longer you're in this game, the more irritating it becomes to have to deal with people you really don't want to have to talk to, the petty irritations and the amateurish standards you have to tolerate on a day to day level."

Microdisney are 'over 25' and a little tired of being asked daft questions by fanzine writers all the time: "They're so intently serious, they must think we have no sense of humour at all."

At times it was only their humour that kept them going, a cynical brand of humour, rich in bile and invective, a combative humour that fueled their disgust of their surroundings. They'd bleed this angry humour in their live performance, Cathal, red-faced and full of alcoholic rage, spitting out the barbed fatalism in his lyrics, Sean lurching beside him on guitar, the band upholding gentler melodies that seemed to soothe the raging passion that took hold of Cathal. Often though, the demon would win.

It angered them to be called MOR because of their fluid sense of melody. It angered Cathal to be called a "lumbering ox" on stage, it angered them greatly that their fluent sense of musical heritage is absorbed in classic style and content, a strong sense of melodic progression and a striving for warm, rich songwriting styles to counterpoint the vitriol in their subject matter. They came to London in 1983 and, three years of rough living and three record labels later, they're only now beginning to feel comfortable with themselves.

Their other albums are strong in content faulted only by that hideous indie rattle and a tendency towards clutter, which they have now abandoned with 'Crooked Mile' - which is rich, developed and, crucially, simpler than their last.

Cathal: "Musically we had to pare ourselves down, we were conscious of that before we started the record. On the last LP ('The Clock Comes Down The Stairs') we went for pretty synth noises and too much clutter. This time we wanted natural keyboard sounds, piano and Hammond organ, we realized that it doesn't do to get too hung up on minute details, like thinking up the most unusual chords we could think of. We'd always wanted to bring the Country-sounding elements out more before but, because people kept referring back to Irish Country & Western rubbish, we were somehow reluctant."

Now, with Lenny Kaye producing they have the confidence to proceed. John Cale, Gram Parsons, Scott Walker, Alex Chilton, Al Green, Microdisney.... all merge their soul with a lilting rock and roll, a sweetness of melody, a curvaceous and expressive country styling that wends its way to the outer parameters of pop and back again.

And if fans are at all concerned that Microdisney may have toned down the lyrical bitterness for the benefit of their major status (or, indeed, for more radio play), worry not dear friends. Cathal is still venting his spleen - now more than ever.

"Sure,there was a strong temptation to tone it down," says the man who, on the new album, makes vicious references to Lord Mountbatten "By anyone's standards this man was a shit," he says. He was keen to go to India basically because he liked the boys… and so did his wife. You have to credit the English with a strong sense of realism really- their world is a surreal one. Mountbatten was the epitome of the character I was trying to portray."

Cathal's world-view has became even more venomous: "What I'm good at basically is unsuitable for radio and I'm quite proud of the fact."

Microdisney still Insists that they can't see the Irishness in what they do- or if they can, they don't want it overrated. They have lived there and here- and both countries come in for some well-deserved invective.

Cathal: "Living here, and getting the opportunity to travel as we do, we can't help but conclude that the English are one of the most under-educated and pig-ignorant nations in the world."
Sean: "I think the number of countries that hate the English grows by the year - they're learning what the Irish, French, Welsh and Scottish have known for hundreds of years."

Cathal does allow a little ambivalence to creep in: "I think there actually is more compassion and humanity in this country than people are generally aware of ... you just have to look a bit harder."

Microdisney hate the "upwardly mobile" set, the world of coffee table magazines and social aspirations- ironic then that they are at last allowing themselves some home comforts. Glamour, however, is not something you'd ever associate with Cathal, Sean, Tom, Steve and James: "The media makes me sick, filling people's heads with shit because they want to take the important issues out of their hands as swiftly and easily as possible."

The gentry are another grouse of Cathal's, the small pockets of power and wealth in the world. 'People Just Want To Dream", the album's final cut, is stinging with contempt for Thatcherite Britain and "Our Children" is an elegy to desperation and destitution.

This pursuit-of-glamour thing that hits us through TV and the press is trivialising people's lives. People now have to scrabble so hard to maintain some decent sense of living and, of course, thousands go under. The Tories are just itching to get rid of the Rent Act now - they want to make this a country for Japanese industrialists and a place to launder American money."

'Rack' is biographically bitter- an exorcism of the total contempt they feel for the music business and its petty incest: "It's the classic thing of someone fiddling while the world burns," says Cathal, "and those ignorant arbiters of taste are telling us what music we can and can't listen to."

Music fans all, Microdisney are perturbed by the onslaught of compact disc or, more accurately, the deleting of catalogue material: "The present trend for releasing old catalogue material is in advance of the collective amnesia that's already on its way. What the record companies want to do is fix it so you have to buy a record from their recent roster, they're pissed off with having to maintain large catalogues which, in the long term, is bad news for us all. What they want to do is delete as much older stuff as possible by degrees, make it completely unavailable, except in a few cases on compact disc- therefore people will have to buy whatever shit they're currently churning out. It's a massive pogrom and it's already begun. Hail the compact disc, the business of tomorrow."

Protest, they reckon, is futile.
Cathal: "It's quite a strange time to be making music because you realise that, unless you sell a certain amount, your records will not be available at all within a very limited period of time. You cannot fight big business- it is they who decide how we live our lives."

If destitution and desperation are the by-products of decadence then Microdisney chart the course of progress well. Signing to a major-label hasn't tempered their distaste for moral corruption, its emotions and motivations.

Understandably, the Irish connection makes them wholly contemptuous of religious creed and its stranglehold on the faithful believers.
Sean: "Religion in the western world is based on money, there's no doubt about that. Others are based on fanaticism. Islam, for example... Soviet Communism is as much of a religion as any others, they have their mythologies too. The whole thing is founded on slaughter and acquisition, keep the poor people ignorant, the whole thing makes me sick."

Perhaps Microdisney are far too clear-sighted to stomach the pop processes which their work, by its very nature, implies and demands. With work of the quality of `Walk A Crooked Mile,' I just hope they will suspend their disbelief a bit longer.


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