of you (the Freemason pederasts) may be a trifle confused or even annoyed
by the packaging and name of this record. For all your dumb coyness, I
don't think you need to be told. Just don't go anywhere, don't call anyone.
Microdisney's closing message on their pertinently titled 'We Hate You
South African Bastards' certainly leaves no doubts about their allegiances.
In these troubled days, when folks are enacting a war on pop (on complacency,
apathy, dubious reactionary politics), Microdisney's cutting honesty is
a refreshing alternative to the cosy liberal conscience and ambivalence
of today's pop 'icons'.
But who, and what, you might enthusiastically mutter, are Microdisney?
Well, for your pop files, co-founders Cath Coughlan (the 'savagely vulgar,
though often poetic, vocalist') and Sean O'Hagan (the 'self-sacrificing
pragmatic and brutally honest guitarist') followed the yellow brick road
from Cork to London in search of olde golde, or a decent record deal and
recording scene, more interested ears and eyes to offend with their disarming
pop, and a life of open possibilities. It seems that Cork wasn't exactly
set to launch its sons into a wildly famous rock'n'roll orbit, or even
to encourage any musical ambitions.
One Rough trade album, 'Everybody Is Fantastic', was sufficient proof
of the duo's barbaric intent to wet the whistle for a retrospective 'what
we did before what you already know and can't get enough of' release.
Bargain Time! Hence 'Bastards'. But, Cathy and Sean, what an abrasive
way to say hi!
Cathal: 'We were putting it together at a time when the South Africans
were having a really easy ride in the media, mainly through Zola Budd,
even though the media were doing the exact same bullshit they do every
time there's a riot in the black townships. There were a rush of them
in August, and we were watching the television one night and we thought
why not call the record 'We Hate You South African Bastards'. And it stuck.'
Not known for their easy-going, compromising attitudes, efforts were made
to alter the (subtle?) intentions and meaning of the title.
Sean: 'A few people were saying, yeah, we like the sentiments, we like
the name, but why not call it 'We Hate You White South African
Bastards'? That's a ridiculous line of reasoning because if you can't
take the hint of what we're talking about, then you've got problems. It
just reflects your own cynicisms.' The title was never changed.
What about obvious accusations that the title is purely a fashionable
political gesture, aligning yourself with a leftish cause, with an element
of outrage tacked onto it?
Cathal ponders over the point: 'Yeah, that could be said, that we're utilising
a certain... pose. We thought it was sufficient to just give the address
of the anti-apartheid movement on the back of the album. We are doing
a benefit for them shortly.'
What about the royalties from the album?
Cathal snorts: 'It'll go towards our debts!' Both laugh with that knowing
feeling of balancing intention against survival. 'All we can say is that
we're using the title for the right, genuine reasons, and we wanted that
cover to say something. People can draw their own conclusions if they
want to take us up on it.'
Both agree that the reaction instilled so far hasn't been that great.
I'd say it was a case of little media attention- I can't see editors wishing
to upset the apple cart of rosy, image-ridden golden boy girls of pop
with such a blatant combatative stance.
Funnily enough, Microdisney are presently 'promoting' a retrospective
album that followed the delayed release of their debut, effectively leaving
them without any newly recorded material from the past 18 months. The
path to liberated 'independence' has been a tortuous one.
Since living in the more rough 'n' tough quarters of West London, both
Cathal and Sean have understandably grown bitter, having lived through
a turbulent history of unfulfilled promises and personality conflicts
(from Cherry Red to Blanco y Negro to Rough Trade and...). The experience,
they say, has been a complete downer, and going by their wild, sprawling
mess o' blues live show I caught at the University of London's Christmas
bash, their music has left the spawning ground of spikey, melodic guitar-pop,
chiefly concerned with love's more melancholic returns, for a more frantic,
frenetic rock, itchy with all-consuming bitterness and an alcoholic abandon
that's far closer to the guitar-mauling and politic-rock of The Fall.
When asked how the new material ('464' and 'Teddy Dogs' come to mind)
differed to the old, they concede the clichés 'more punchy', 'more
vibrant', 'louder and more abrasive', which more or less details the tempo
and volume changes than any real change in attitude.
I detect a whole lotta cynicism goin' on. What's affected this change
then, Cath? Can it be life in the big smoke?
'Yes', spits Cathal, quite distraught now with contempt and fever (the
result of an unkind mix of anti-histamine and alcohol) 'it's been a strong
influence. Before I came here I didn't know what it was like to starve,
and to be lied to in a very insidious and pally way.'
The Micro's love for London holds no bounds.
Sean: 'I can't walk down Fleet Street (home of the daily and Sunday media)
without being physically sick. I'm not really violent, but the thought
of walking there makes my blood boil.'
Out of the starting blocks, the admiration for contemporaries and general
joie de vivre reaches an apogee. We happily converse about Wham! ('they
could just have easily have become Swell Maps if they hadn't met Simon
Napier-Bell'), Paul Weller ('an idiot. a cretin... he makes Tory music
for the upwardly, socially mobile') U2 ('they're bastards, scum. Bono
has political ambitions...')- and those were the kinder of comments.
Tired of covering old ground, like their fondness for and confused dependency
on alcohol, their tempestuous relationships with record companies and
the old Irish 'what about RELIGION?' angle, Cathal and Sean are open to
Cathal: 'Lets talk about slipping off this mortal coil. It comes to each
of us, individually and eventually'.
Whether you interpret Cathal's depressive streak as maudlin or just plain
realistic, sign-of-the-times stuff, it's this river of sarcasm and despair
that runs through Microdisney's blood. No wonder the pair find solace
in the chamber of blues work of Richard Thompson, Alex 'Big Star' Chilton
and Scott Walker.
Cathal: 'It's very seldom that anybody creates a decent piece of work
unless they're put to the pin of their fuckin' collar, or down to the
very last reserves of courage or confidence. My favourite records are
by people who've been dragged through the mire, and they're just about
on the point of giving up, but not quite.'
Come on Cathal, what do the new songs have going for them?
'They principally deal with enumeration; politically, sexually, socially
and generally. Politics and sex are the most interesting things to talk
And who'll listen to you?
'Well, apparently we're the most popular band among the hard core skateboarders