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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fatima Mansions final genius album..., 15 Sept. 2003
Jason Parkes (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Lost in the Former West (Audio CD)
Lost in the Former West (1994) remains the highpoint of Fatima Mansions career, despite coming after genius albums (Viva Dead Ponies, Valhalla Avenue) and singles alike (Blues for Ceausescu, Bertie's Brochures). Amusingly, Cathal Coughlan took up meditation and gave up drinking prior to making this record- one would perhaps expect some loved up hippy tosh...CC instead gives us a focused take on the bowels of a morally empty, post-Cold War Europe. This is the dark stuff, made darker with the Swiftian black comedy- the album that Manics'Holy Bible so wanted to be...
Cathal gives us it straight away with Belong Nowhere, "No deathcamps here I tell you/Just grey 'convienience' hell/'neath billboard signs which yell: "You need someone pretty, someone English and shifty". The backdrop of the post-Iron curtain and the former Yugoslavia infect this album, as does an earlier strain of bile directed at what would become identified as globalisation- tracks like Your World Customer and lyrics like "Save all your revolution for a Saturday night" show how shallow Radiohead's anti-globalist material was on Amnesiac.
LITFW is almost worth buying for the hilarious cover (a restaged Liberace photo)- CC as Liberace with 'chauffeur' travelling through the depraved former West. If Lou Reed's New York and Neil Young's Rockin'in the Free World started doubt about the late 80s bonhomie and Leonard Cohen's The Future (1993)took us into bleaker, darker, laughter in the dark territory- LITFW takes us almost to the end of this experience (music would become rather apolitical shortly after this album, witness the horrors of Britpop). As with Cathal's previous outfit Microdisney, a sense of classic popsongs are apparent (CC a precursor of Luke Haines, & a descendent of Mark E Smith); musically this sounds like a blend of Scott Walker, Aerosmith, The Fall, Ministry, Faith No More, Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello (lyrically- Beyond Belief/Tramp the Dirt Down), The Young Gods, Leonard Cohen,Gang of Four & Guns'N'Roses!
Popemobile to Paraguay sounds like a demented take on Walk This Way- a suitably harsh rock sound for Cathal's vitriolic lyrics concerning (amongst themes) the Pope's stance on ethnic mass rape and US foreign policy: "the King of the papists is a friend to the rapists and the upside-down crucifixion squad...It's been awhile since you said 'Heil', you CIA-bred necrophile/No Ruskies left to rail at, not for now/& the Slavs in their millions with their scrapheaps of children must replace your South Americans/More skulls to keep your Mafia in the Mafia Top Ten". These are themes Cathal has been developing since Love Your Enemies...
The singles The Loyaliser ("you get older, you get scared, but you get no wiser") and Nite Flights (a Scott Walker cover from the album of the same name, though perhaps The Electrician would have been more apt?) are a joy- worth tracking down seperately for outtakes like Gary Numan's Porsche & As I Washed the Blood Off (perhaps a reissue could include these?). There is a hint of Walker about Walk Yr Way, which is a vaster take on the ballad side of FM as seen on Behind the Moon & North Atlantic Wind.
Bruncelling's Song sounds like Steely Dan crashing into The Fall, "I know Khomeni, John Wilkes Booth, and the Jackson Five...I'm a sad old joke, forgot I spoke...Nothing, nothing, nothing is true...some are in power, some in flyover graves". The title track is a creepy instrumental interlude, advancing on those found on Viva Dead Ponies; a themetune to the early 90s zeitgeist (we can order pizza while we flip between news programmes and wait for celebs and coke to come more into fashion...)
Sunken Cities is a gorgeous interlude, a folk song that is closest to the Microdisney work...this is followed by the pop-assault of Brain Blister ("You earn but you feel oppressed" being EXACTLY a state I've both felt & sensed in various workplaces). Even better is the schizophrenic A Walk in the Woods, a song that shifts from ballad to sinister to all out thrash- "You'll know me by the knives sticking out of my back".
Final track Humiliate Me! sounds like early Guns'N'Roses.
Lost in the Former West sounds even better these days, both a history and a suitable soundtrack to the atrocious world we populate at present. Our culture of schuadenfreude and materialism is pinpointed here...we need people like Cathal Coughlan, surely one of the most underrated performers of all time? LITFW remains Fatima Mansions masterpiece, the climax and death knell of their career. Perhaps people don't want to hear lines that make Dylan look lightweight, such as "the bigger the roadside crowd/the denser the game show cloud"?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping Music Evil, 4 May 2009
MR P FITTON (Oldham, Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Lost in the Former West (Audio CD)
In a decently organised society the Fatima Mansions would have been huge, and their leader, singer and songwriter Cathal Coughlan, would be worshipped as a genius. Rock's final genius in fact. Alas it was not to be.

The band's final album, Lost in the Former West, was described by Coughlan, prior to release, as a straight-ahead "flippant" rock album. True, up to a point, and as such it lacks the some of the subtlety of previous albums (at least musically) but it is still a magnificent, snarling, furious, gloriously malevolent record in the best Fatima tradition. And it's frequently also very funny.

Other bands (RATM, Anti-Flag et al) may play at being angry, make the appropriate gestures, postures and slogans, but don't have the intellectual or musical clout to back it up. Fatima Mansions were the real deal. There was no vacuous sloganeering; enormously inventive musically and with Coughlan's hyper-intelligent lyrics, their brief recorded history represents probably the most uncompromisingly vitriolic music ever put on disc.

Jason Parkes has already done a great job of outlining the record's main themes so I won't add much on that score. Suffice to say that, as always, the Mansions were not messing about. The record starts with the massive guitar attack and coruscating rage of Belong Nowhere - Coughlan's nihilistic, anti-patriotic vitriol ridiculing and ruthlessly dismantling the very ideas of 'belonging', homeland and national identity.

Massive savage guitar (courtesy of the excellent Aindrias O'Gruama) dominates most of LitFW's tracks, but it's not all brutality. There's much lyric beauty here too: Sunken Cities is a beautiful song based on a Moravian folk tune, the jaw-droppingly bitter lyrics of Walk Yr Way are set to a stately, yearning melody and lovely piano chords, while the title track is a strange but beautifully constructed instrumental of the type that peppered Cathal's first solo album (the sublime Grand Necropolitan, for me simply the greatest album ever made).

Then there's Coughlan's voice, an instrument that can not only express rage and disgust better than any other on the planet but can also be simply gorgeous. I'd be hard put to think of a better singer in rock music (other than perhaps Cathal's hero, Scott Walker, paid tribute to here with an excellent cover of Nite Flights), not for nothing did John Peel once say that he could listen to Coughlan sing the phone book.

The problem with Fatima Mansion's records, and Coughlan's solo albums, is that it's almost impossible to listen to anything else afterwards. In comparison almost everything else sounds like nonsense made by people who are just toeing the line and playing the game. Coughlan makes records that no-one else has the intelligence, soul or courage to make. To paraphrase the late Harold Pinter speaking about Beckett: what I love about Coughlan is that he's not f--king me about, he's not leading me up any garden path, he's not flogging me a remedy or a path or a revelation or a basinful of breadcrumbs, he leaves no stone unturned and no maggot lonely. He brings forth a body of beauty.

Sadly, the legal department of a cretinous record company put paid to the Fatima Mansions, but Coughlan's solo work continues, largely unrecognised, to this day. Musically, he has mellowed to an extent (he has, he says, "lost interest in signal distortion") but his albums still contain all the qualities that made the Mansions, and previous band Microdisney, wonderful. LitFW is as good a place as any for the curious to start, however, and is very, very highly recommended.
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Lost in the Former West
Lost in the Former West by Fatima Mansions (Audio CD - 1994)
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