The world was very different when this album came out in 1990. Viva Dead Ponies was an explosive reaction to the stifling dullness which passed for the world of pop music. If only we knew then that those troughs were just the foothills before going on down to the permanent nadir in which we now find ourselves. Well, take a listen to this record and find a new old world poised on the brink of getting much, much worse. It's a glorious record, a firework festival of wit, anger, humour, rage and a rapier-sharp socio-political analysis that seems not to exist anywhere else these days. Some may find the synthesiser sounds a little cracked and weathered (but not as dated as the red blouson-style jacket the lead singer, Coughlan, favoured at this time). But! The energetic vocals veering from rage to heart-breaking tenderness and the slick guitar riffs will help accustom your ears to the sound of 1990. Cathal Coughlan has a very fine voice and it has a terrific range. "You're A Rose" is a song for jilted lovers everywhere. "A Pack Of Lies" is the most Irish-sounding song on the album and deals with the return of an Irish migrant, a ruined man returning to his indifferent homeland. True then, it is truer now. While the song was hugely ironic in 1990, the effect is magnified tenfold by the grotesque transformations wrought upon Ireland in the meantime. The title track really ought to have put the band in tremendous danger (for the same reasons that made Salman Rushdie a marked man) but no-one in the Finsbury mosque has been keeping up with Anglo-Irish pop-rock, apparently.
This is not a smooth album, not by any means, but the rage is controlled and moderated so that you're never reaching for the off-switch. It's easy to be "challenging" but seldom is it easy to be challenging and excellent. The Fatima Mansions were that and they were more.