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.
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."
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.
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
"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
"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."
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".
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.
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.
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
"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
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.
"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."
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."
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
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."
"The same as Boy George with a comeback record -they've both got
to find something to do."
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.
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.
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
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.
a song that highlights Cathal's narrative method and was recorded during
the night of The Great Hurricane (a fact).
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 ?'
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
"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."
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
that's what I do."