'MICROWAVES' by Martin Aston, Melody Maker Jan 1985

'Some 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. Bastard.'
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 ideas.
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 about.'
And who'll listen to you?
'Well, apparently we're the most popular band among the hard core skateboarders in Britain.'