MICRODISNEY PRESS

'Malice In Disneyland?' by Roy Wilkinson, Sounds Feb 1988.


AND LOOKING out over the valley this goblin scowled with disbelief and let out a howl of terrible, indecent rage. As all before him fell into foul ways he saw everything he had dreaded come to pass. No sleep tonight for the last sane man at the end of the world.

"It's cool in London to discuss money, cool to discuss your salary. Weird. I can't indulge because I don't have a f***ing salary. I'm St Francis really, I walk on water ha ha ha."

Cathal Coughlan, the pint-sized man with the pan-world franchise for Euro jumbo-deca-litres of bile, deploys his hand-wrought cynicism and Muttleyesque snigger to maximum effect there. There are overtones that clearly hint at the impotence of his position. After all, Microdisney are the world's only action toy not conceived out of monetary ambition.

ANYONE WHO has followed the career of this remarkable product will have marvelled at its ferocity. The perceptive will have noted an air of petulance in titles like 'We Hate You South Africa Bastards' and a sheer bloody-minded doggedness that illuminated two albums and coalesced around last year's 'Crooked Mile'. Any doubts as to the durability of this almost monstrous indignation will be adequately dispelled, first by a new single, 'Gale Force Wind', and in March by a fourth album.

C Coughlan is the voice, blah blah and, perhaps surprisingly, Microdisney's sole Irishman.
"How I feel about our lyrics is they're not sentimental at all, especially not on this record. That's one thing we tried to do this time, have lyrics that are not remotely sentimental, whereas on 'The Clock Comes Down The Stairs' they were tremendously so.
"This time the words are almost entirely anti-lyrical, because what most of them are are strings of insults strung together with no padding whatsoever and the minimum of florid language- really moronic stuff and deliberately so. I think Matt Johnson is very sentimental, as is Nick Cave.
"I find that many of these people who are represented as being iconoclastic are never anything more than slobs who value their own emotions higher than the reality of their surroundings. You can't wax lyrical when some bastard on the telly is informing you that Margaret Thatcher is still going to be Prime Minister at the end of the century."

THE ALBUM's called '39 Minutes' and to the casual observer these micro-changes (ho) in lyrical emphasis may be invisible. What's probably more apparent is a broad musical constancy: '39 Minutes` may stamp its feet more sharply than previously but it can still be expediently labelled as MOR, 'easy listening' as opposed to the 'hard listening' of the more commonly avant garde say The Swans. Microdisney still feel no imperative to "announce their radicalism with aural assault".

Alongside this, Cathal's voice burrs with sour and tangibly 'angry' vocabulary. In the face of this 'quality control' there could be something almost parodic to Microdisney - a lone voice blaring away at adversaries who are plainly oblivious. It's the dignity of their position that saves them from this fate. These are songs of protestation but with a subtlety and perspective far removed from the protest song and its " I think this is wrong" banality.

That situation gave rise to spectacles as gross as Lennon intoning "imagine no possessions" from over a 10,000 dollar piano and the sanctuary of a Surrey mansion. Coughlan, at least, launches his diatribes from a position of insolvency.
In reality their position is one of documentors, chroniclers of Britain in the late '80s, a time when shifts in standards, from bye laws outlawing the "promotion of" homosexuality to the trite emasculation of the word f*** in this paper, make Microdisney's position nothing so much as reasonable. This is an entirely noble occupation.

As Cathal says. "As any good Tory knows, it only takes a few people to start a stampede. And I'm sick of the stampede." It's a dissatisfaction that rises unashamedly again and again in Microdisney songs. Take the as yet unrecorded song, 'King Of Free Speech', a ditty dedicated to the "magus of manual relief".

Cathal: "The thing I wanted to point out there was that a company in which Murdoch has a controlling interest saw someone killed during the Wapping dispute. This was declared at an inquest yet somehow it's ceased to be a fact. Satellite TV also comes into it - who's going to have the say in what everyone in Britain sees and is supposed to live by?
"Already there's one provincial cable system where they have an evangelical programme with an English variation on Jim and Tammy Bakker. That will be one by-product but you'll also have the liberal-amoral bullshit which in the British consciousness is inevitably tied in with right wing politics: tits equals Norman Tebbit.
"That's how it's been shaped over the last ten years and that's how it's going to be after cable comes in and becomes the dominant medium in TV"

And while this develops, there will be plenty of bread and circuses for the masses, a positive kultur konsensus.
Cathal: "The middle class have always been seen as patrons of the arts but all it leads to is stylised re-enactments of Shakespeare and grand opera, which are hardly modes of expression. Now we have Rick Astley which is practically indistinguishable from Gilbert & Sullivan. Stock, Aitken, Waterman fit into this scheme beautifully- they're the Leni Reifenstahls of Britain's Era of Enterprise." Leni Reifenstahl being a film maker in '30s Germany specialising in thinly veiled Nazi propaganda.

Cathal: "Their likes create the standards that we're supposed to live up to- that you can put a very small amount of money into a record and get a hit automatically because the figurehead they employ to deliver it will be perfect right down the line, with no kinks, no particular wants of its own and everyone is laughing all the way to the bank.
"If that's what the standard is then pretty soon the human race won't be up to much."

Sean O'Hagan, from Luton of Irish parentage, Microdisney guitarist, co-writer and man of comparatively few words: "The BBC have been totally enchanted by it, it's pure Northern Dance Orchestra really."

THIS SECONDARY effect, the pre-fabrication of pop, was dealt with on their last single, the by turns spiteful and eloquent, 'Singer's Hampstead Home'.
Cathal: I think you have to disabuse people of the notion that to be decent and human isn't inherently poncey and sentimental in the worst possible sense. Just because somebody lays themselves bare doesn't mean they're Boy George."

The spectacle of Fleet Street's hack pack camped outside 0' Dowd's Hampstead home provided the song's title.
Cathal: "The singer has a Hampstead home like the singer has a nervous breakdown, y'know, the singer is born again in five years time. It was an important thing for us to thrash out, us getting the rough end of the stick that these people get the smooth end of. Obviously you're greedy about it and that's something to be resisted. But at the same time philistinism in anybody isn't a good thing.
"I hear that the man from Johnny Hates Jazz has had to go to the Bahamas to recover from his nervous breakdown after his third hit single. It's the same thing as Prince Edward going to work with Andrew Lloyd Webber."

Sean: "The same as Boy George with a comeback record -they've both got to find something to do."

Microdisney detractors have long drawn a dichotomy between the band's "worthy" words and the "dull, unadventurous" music. The band see any attempt to reflect the viciousness of Cathal's lexicon in the music as a ploy that simply wouldn't work as a practical proposition, an unnecessary duplication of effect.

In fact, as it stands, the Microdisney product is anything but bland or insipid. Rather the two strands work well in tandem, the crafted, sometimes C&W-tinged music providing an immaculate platform for Mr Coughlan to orate from, casting out the vitriol and carefully narrated diatribes that follow from a lifetime spent perfecting verbal viciousness.

Live this band have a sense of dimension and attack that the records simply don't possess. Again the band would see any attempt to follow this live pulse with vinyl replication as misguided. What Cathal calls 'cabaret representation of constant depression' is a function of being a band on the road.
Cathal: "I think that comes from us playing, putting on some sort of a front every night, trying to put on something to entertain people, adding something into this show that wasn't really meant to be there. As if it consisted of anything more than Danny La Rue.
"It's like pissing in the rain. You're in Derby, it's Tuesday night, you can barely talk so you have to drink a few brandies to get some sort of voice, take headfuls of coffee to stay awake and you're supposed to be doing something which is more than standing up on a piece of wood. The feeling is extremely enlightening really- you really know what you're doing is pretty artificial."

Sean: "If you've got any honesty you'll go and get drunk after performing, to remove any feeling of self importance, hate, despair. You can come off the stage hating the rest of the band, hating yourself. That's why you get pissed."

Hate and a feeling of resignation only just removed from despair would seem to be pretty much constants in the Coughlan universe. The current single 'Gale Force Wind'. a sprightly, indeed danceable composition, would seem to operate in this sphere.

It's a song that highlights Cathal's narrative method and was recorded during the night of The Great Hurricane (a fact).

'
He is nothing but a can of beer, two crutches and the soot from the air/And nights of soaking in the city's drains/He hates the rich but he hates in vain/But if a power were to lift him up, make him rich, would he admit it was luck?/Or say he'd earned and claim a state of grace/ Just like the rich in this hateful place ?'

Surely there's a touch of autobiography here?
Cathal: "Yes. It's about the one thing that unites the rich and the poor, which screws the poor more than the rich- greed. The sense that having pride in what you're doing automatically allows you to piss on people.
"Not only do I feel that is morally repugnant, even though I don't have a very strong moral system, but if a body of people are thinking like that and acting like that in unison, it screws the whole lot of them. I don't think any group of people have ever realised that - they always learn by means of having a war and then thinking about it afterwards.
"I can seriously feel things happening in this country that would lead to civil war in a lot of other places."

And this man still isn't any misanthropist!
Cathal: "I don't believe that people in Britain are any more inherently nasty than anywhere else, it's just that I've come to have a state of mind here that I didn't have in Ireland. Nowadays I prefer to walk around London unaccompanied and look at things and then come home at night and get drunk.

"And that's what I do."


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