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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bile Beans, For Grace, Health and Vitality, 11 Feb 2003
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies (Audio CD)
How do you like your music? utterly predictable, or "What the devil was that?" Which is to say, I personally rather enjoy being surprised by an album, and this one doesn't half keep you on your toes. It jumps around all over the place. Musically. For the most part it rocks; great quiet-bits-that-go-all-shouty-and-heavy, the way I know we all love. Plus a bit of opera, europop, and some other stuff that there aren't any good names for.
I'm a big soppy ol' fan of people like Chris Morris and Bill Hicks whose - what I'm afraid I'm going to have to call - Satirical darkness, seems to me to come from a deep desire to see people not be quite so stupid, and maybe aspire to something a little grander than the squalid state of right now. So it is with The Fatima Mansions: if the lyrics are black and cynical, and they are brilliantly so, then it's because of that Peter Cook style disappointment with the dullness of things.
I like to think.
Cathal Coughlan, the bloke what sang and wrote it. He's a card. Leaves you with lovely little pictures in your head. Try this on for size: "This unkempt ageing orphan and his helpless dying bride" tickled me it did. Hope you like it as much as I do, but don't blame me if you don't. Like my Mum used to say about olives stuffed with anchovies, "It's an aquired taste."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A violent smack with a beautiful sledge hammer, 20 Sep 2007
By 
R. Herriott "casalingua" (Denmark) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mansions as they were intended to sound, 26 Aug 2009
By 
MR P FITTON (Oldham, Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
Viva Dead Ponies is the only album I've ever bought twice on CD. Well, fair enough, you might say, since there is an additional 2nd CD "best of" included, this is not just a straight reissue. Well, yes, but then I had all those tracks too. So why did I buy this and why am I very glad I did? Good question, thanks for asking.

Well, there is one slight difference with VDP itself: the version of Chemical Cosh here is not the one from the original UK release of the album, but instead the much more muscular version recorded for the Hive EP (though I believe some later pressings of VDP may have also included it? By the way I hope you're taking notes, there will be questions later).

But I really bought this album in the fervent hope that VDP had been remastered. The original album was unquestionably a wonderful record but seriously marred by thin, weedy, lousy sound, as a result, presumably, of poor mastering or pressing (if CDs are indeed 'pressed', don't ask me).

Thankfully, although the current booklet/packaging makes no mention of it whatsoever, VDP, and the "best of" tracks, clearly have indeed been remastered (or reEQ'd, or something), and the uncredited technician responsible has done an excellent job. Plenty has been gained and nothing lost. Consequently, all the fantastic music on these 2 CDs now SOUNDS fantastic. Now as loud, full-bodied and rich sounding as it was surely intended to be, VDP roars out of your speakers, whereas previously it pretty much dribbled out. At times it's almost like listening to a completely different record.

As hinted earlier, the 2nd CD tracks have also been remasterd to the same high standard. The Valhalla Avenue tracks (originally also cursed with ropey sound) benefit most but even the Lost in the Former West selections sound better than before, and they sounded great to begin with.

Ok, so enough of this anally retentive sound quality stuff, what about the music? Well, I could write a thousand pages about the wonderful music on these CDs, but my fellow reviewers have raved long and hard already. Believe them, they are wise. Suffice to say that from the visceral rage and fury of Blues for Ceausescu, Angel's Delight, Look What I Stole for Us, Darling etc. to the desolate beauty of Behind the Moon or Wilderness on Time, this set contains some of the finest music you will ever hear. Those of my friends and acquaintances who sneer and mock at my claim that the Fatima Mansions were the greatest band of all time will soon find themselves subjected to these CDs. Oh yes. They'll thank me for it one day.

The Best of CD has been well compiled. Ok, personally I'd have tried to make room for Something Bad, The Day I Lost Everything, Ray of Hope, Stigmata and Brunceling's Song and would have probably eschewed You Won't Get Me Home, Nite Flights, Humiliate Me and the remix of The Loyaliser, great though they all are. But, overall, no real complaints.

Newcomers to the band should of course start here. Since no other Fatima Mansions records are currently commercially available they would probably be hard pressed to start anywhere else anyway. Which begs the obvious question: when is the band's entire back catalogue going to be made available? If and when that happens let's hope that it will all sound as good as this reissue.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of classic debut LP plus best of..., 4 Nov 2007
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
Viva Dead Ponies was the classic debut album from the mighty Fatima Mansions, the act Cathal Coughlan formed following the demise of the equally mighty Microdisney (who have also released a two-disc anthology; Coughlan's former partner Sean O'Hagan would find critical acclaim with the High Llamas and also work on many a fantastic record by Stereolab and Super Furry Animals). Microdisney's initial output in 1989/1990 was released on singles and the mini LP Against Nature, collected a few years later on the deleted compilation Come Back My Children - let's hope this reissue of the debut and career overview leads to their back catalogue coming out again. Fatima Mansions were one of the greatest bands of the 1990s, in case you don't know...

Since someone pilfered my LP of this sometime ago and the tape I picked up 2nd hand was eaten by my car's tapedeck, it's just spiffing that this has been reissued. VDP was prior to the heavier band sound adopted from Hive onwards and apparent on Valhalla Avenue and Lost in the Former West (& in their mighty live sets). There is a more electronic/pop thing going on here, which is why I tend to think Lost in the Former West is the Fatima Mansions' masterpiece; of course, this remains a five star joy. It's the Mansions, man!

Viva Dead Ponies has lots of amusing interludes and instrumentals between the songs proper - though it's pretty weak that Thursday has been excised (shouldn't Blues for Ceausescu be on the best of?). Angel's Delight was a cop killer themed joy where Coughlan had raging metal guitars worthy of his vitriolic lyrics - I did find late period Microdisney too ironically slick (I always thought Armadillo Man or Send Herman Home could have been Wet Wet Wet). Tragic too that drivel like Carter USM was hit bound, while FM were ignored - even the less exciting material here (Mr Baby, Thursday, Pack of Lies) widdles over folk like that. Single You're a Rose is gorgeous stuff, the kind of direction Julian Cope might have gone into had My Nation Underground not sent him to form a nation underground. The Door to Door Inspector is sterling dark pop, while the title track and live favourite Look What I Stole for Us, Darling still sound wild. This is the place to start with the Mansions, man!

The second disc is a non-linear 16 track overview of Fatima Mansions' career, taking in most of the obvious highlights and no doubt creating some controversy over what's been forgotten amonsgt longtime fans! Odd that the Juno Reactor remix of The Loyaliser is chosen over many other possibilities. Where are the amusing maulings of Everything I Do (their biggest hit!) and Shiny Happy People? What about Gary Numan's Porsche? A Walk in the Woods? Something Bad? Hive? On Suicide Bridge? A Singer Must Die? Walk Yr Way? As I Washed the Blood Off?...This is the reason why the Fatima Mansions' back catalogue needs to be reissued in full, y'knaa? Am not sure why the music is presented non-linear, or why the intro to Bertie's Brochures has been nixed (space, I guess).

From the early years, you can't go wrong with Only Losers Take the Bus and from the Against Nature platter you also get Wilderness on Time and You Won't Get Me Home (I'd have picked The Day I Lost Everything, which still makes me laugh!). The 1990 stand alone single Blues for Ceausescu was a Faith No More style blast of black comedy directed at the deposed dictator who was ousted from Romania and executed in the gutter with his wife following a show trial. Hard to feel sorry...goodbye! - recall that the UK gave Ceausescu the Royal treatment in 1977 - a bit like our recent brownnosing of the King of Saudia Arabia!! Remember - some mass murderers and human rights abusers are just dandy...

The compilation jumps a year or so to the highlights of the Berties' Brochures mini-album - the Walkeresque ballad Behind the Moon and the truncated title track. Keeping things obvious and very primer are the singles from Valhalla Avenue, Evil Man and 1000%, which are obviously great - from the same record is the sublime North Atlantic Wind, a 1990s equivalent to Microdisney's Gale Force Wind. Finally we reach their adieu Lost in the Former West, which I'm pleased to report is the most referenced album here - their cover of the Walkers' Nite Flights and initial single The Loyaliser are fantastic, but my two faves Belong Nowhere and Popemobile to Paraguay being included is very, very welcome. The former addressed the new Europe, post Iron Curtain and the horrors of contemporary existence requiring "someone English and shifty" - Mark E Smith rocking out. Popemobile to Paraguay relates partly to their controversial catholic provocation on U2's ZOO-TV tour that resulted in a riot in Italy (...don't ask!). Coughlan's lyrics address Pope John Paul II's stance on mass ethnic rape and abortion in the Balkans (where the children born of rape should be had and not aborted as "a gesture of reconiliation"). Coughlan wonders where the chimera the US will pick on next is, and alludes to CIA black ops and other dark tactics - just hearing that makes me want to dig out Lost in the Former West, a record probably only matched by Leonard Cohen's The Future or Luke Haines' baader meinhof.

This is a very welcome reissue, despite the criticisms. Fatima Mansions were one of the great acts of the 1990s - Cathal Coughlan's subsequent solo career has been great too, especially Black River Falls. CC and FM a "national treasure" from Ireland and other places - if anyone wants to experience what much of the 1990s was like, I'd point to a Fatima Mansions record. Odd that people got excited over Prml Scrm dropping grammar, getting angry and referencing DAF/Gang of Four/PIL etc - Fatima Mansions did all that (& a lot more) in the 1990s.

Viva Dead Fatima Mansions!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underated Genius, 16 May 2009
By 
Mark Boland "Smug Pariah" (Glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
One of the great bands of all time. Too dangerous, too odd, too intelligent for mainstream success. Cathal Coughlan is beyond doubt the most talented lyricist I have ever heard. Respect.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clown with a switchblade, 18 Oct 2007
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
This is a terrifying, brutal, hilarious and darkly beautiful album, and the best record released by anyone in the nineties. Over 19 songs we fly through a schizophrenic malestrom of thrash, electro, folk, techno, torch-song, pop and beyond, with lead singer Cathal Coughlan eloquently attacking and decrying the catastrophic mess he sees the world becoming. Released in 1990, it remains a magnificent piece of work with everything important in place - tunes, lyrics, originality, muscianship, voice, anger and vision. The Best Of... that accompanies it contains some of the best music I've ever heard in my life, staggeringly inventive, years ahead of its time, and just about the closest pop music gets to genuinely great art.

The Fatima Mansions dared to matter, they dared to fuse disparate forms of music rather than retreading old ground and believed in the true old spirit of rock 'n' roll, as something dangerous and incendiary, before it became sanitised and reduced to another form of 'entertainment'. If you love extreme, liberated, inventive, challenging music that makes a mockery of the lame nonsense that masquerades as genuine rock 'n' roll then you need to own and be obsessed by this record.

Give thanks!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look what I stole for us, darling?, 26 Oct 2007
By 
John Brennan "besser wisser" (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
I don't know where Russell Clarke (see his review above) got the idea that the track listing is equivalent to the US release in 1990. The track listing is, in fact, that of the original European release and does indeed include 'Thursday', a fantastic slice of perfect pop.

On a personal note I was delighted to see this album rereleased - it's an album that should be in everybody's collection. The 2nd CD provides a restrospective of the band's output from the mini album 'Against Nature' to their last album release 'Lost in the Former West'. But why oh why did they have to butcher the fantastic 'Bertie's Brochures' by leaving out the spoken introduction which, I believe, is essential to the song's story (the intro is quite funny too!).

Finally, in his review, Russell says, "this is one of the great British albums of the nineties". I would suggest that Mr Coughlan would baulk at being called British as I, as an Irishman, would too!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bilious ,bitter brilliance on one of the best albums of the nineties, 9 Sep 2007
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies 2CD (Audio CD)
This re-release of The Fatima Mansions second album is intriguing not just because it seems to have come out of nowhere but because it features the track listing originally used for the albums American release in 1990. That removed the track "Thursday" for some reason -why I've no idea and replaced it with The sustained guitar-histrionics of the phenomenal "Blues For Ceausescu" , originally released as a single in the U.K. Even more oddly they added on "Only Losers Take The Bus" from their first album "Against Nature " .Its a curious thing to do and I have no idea why they decided to re-release it in the American version but I'm just glad they have , it's a quite staggeringly good album .No less than Morrissey declared it was his favourite of that particular year.
Viva Dead Ponies saw Cathal Coughlan move even further away from the lustrous pop sheen of his former band Microdisney and even the born again muscular pop of their debut album to parade an array of songs that veer between epigrammatic noise vignettes , to clanking static hiss electro pop , to splenetic guitar burn outs to the positively schizophrenic . As ever the lyrics are political and often obtuse , the lyrics aiming vicious barbed diatribes against the police, politicians, consumerism , religion , fascists and probably lots of other people as well. Sometimes with Coughan's lyrics it's kind of hard to tell. But they are barbed with wit and bile .
From the opening track "Angels Delight " the listener is cast into a pit of contradiction where they are never sure what's coming next .This song begins with a crooning Coughlan vocal over diaphanous swirling keyboards before the singers suddenly screams "Burn motherf****r burn" over misshapen howling guitars ."I've got a word for you dead/ I've got a trampoline , your f***ing head". he exhorts charmingly before it all mellows out again ...and so on. It's a quite exceptional opening but it slots into the singers world view where anything good or wholesome is likely to be torn asunder at any moment by any number of vile miscreants.
Even a soaring on the surface love song like "You're A Rose" is suppurated with "Squalid mute despair" while the ferocious "Look What I Stole For Us Darling" says "We used to be human beings , not anymore"." The Door To Door Inspector" -"his knuckles bare and white " is a vivid ballad with a big brother protagonist eerily prophesising Labours control freakery while "Mr Baby" is a jaunty almost sing -a-long condemnation of a priest .Whether it's one individual or the movement as a whole is unclear but its scathing tone is also in keeping with "Broken Radio" another spry song with a knees up keyboard line where "Sedition never entertained" . "Chemical Cosh " was actually re-recorded for the magnificent "Hive" E.P. where it was give a more scabrous and superior guitar overload .Anyway even by this albums standards it's lacerating fare, a bilious and painfully accurate attack on Tory care in the community plans where "The only difference is the thickness of the front door". "Pack Of Lies" brims with a effervescent arrangement like something from middle ages England ."White Knuckle Express" is a more jarring fidgety number with a stop start composition.
The title track is a magnificent tour de force of a ballad where Jesus is running a shop in Crouch End where he wishes the customers to "Drop dead" . Coughlan intones magisterially that he has "Turned the fridges off " and that he will break every "Islamical(sic) law" before deadpanning that "If you don't shift this crate of brillo pads by Friday , vengeance will be mine".
The exemption of "Thursday" is annoying as it's one those insanely catchy numbers that Coughlan specialises in and it brings variety to the album but that's nit-picking on my part I suppose as the truly incendiary "Blues For Ceausescu" compensates adequately . This is one of the great British albums of the nineties ,but an overlooked one for the main part. This band ,like his former band Microdisney ,deserve a comprehensive re-issue programme but till then this will do nicely. Viva Fatima Mansions.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing like it....you need this, 13 Nov 2004
By 
This review is from: Viva Dead Ponies (Audio CD)
viva dead ponies is like the best compilation album you ever made. stylistically it's all over the place...cheesy europop synths battling with heavy rock all held together with Cathal's sometimes operatic vocals....somehow it all works.
It was a Select (sadly missed uk music mag) album of the month when it first appeared...and it's in my top ten lp's of all time...in a High Fidelity stylee..somewhere between Todd Rungdren's Something / Anything and Janes Addiction's Nothings Shocking...which seems apt given the aural pleasure held between those vinyl grooves.
If you fancy something different...it's a lost lp you need to discover
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Viva Dead Ponies
Viva Dead Ponies by Fatima Mansions (Audio CD - 1991)
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