Against Nature is the earliest recordings by Fatima Mansions, Cathal Coughlan's next band after the feted (if ignored) Microdisney. Title comes from the Hyusman's book of the same name, - the mini LP was recorded on a low budget with a not quite formulated band sound that would be apparent from Blues for Ceausescu/VIva Dead Ponies onwards. A compilation, Come Back My Children (1992), collects the whole of this set, alongside the aforementioned Blues, the Only Losers Take the Bus/What? single, the Hive ep & their cover of Lady Godiva's operation. Against Nature alone is still very wonderful, though closer to the ironic pop of Microdisney than the full on rock assault that developed FM's sound & perfectly suited Coughlan's bleak lyrics.
The Day I Lost Everything is the greatest song here- an amusing opening sees Jimmy Tarbuck as Santa Claus/The Pope ("Kiss the ring!")- it sees the beginnings of Coughlan's wonderful anthems for the bleak world we live in. Against Nature is a bit DIY, quite synthetic- 13th Century Boy is somewhere between Dead or Alive & Julian Cope fooling around on those double albums in the 1990s (think 20 Mothers). I'd love to hear someone like Atomic Kitten or Blue sing this song (no chance sadly!)- the lyrics about "all the wars out there" and the "price of fish" show Coughlan's themes of absurdity and the backdrop of conflict become apparent (as too his Vatican baiting, extended on from his Microdisney days-see the cover of Love Your Enemies- this advanced into an artform with an infamous U2 support slot in Rome and 1994's brilliant Popemobile to Paraguay).
Several of the tracks are ballads- between late Microdisney (Mrs Simpson, Angels, Gale Force Wind) & the 1990/91 ballads (Viva Dead Ponies, A Pack of Lies, Bertie's Brochures, Behind the Moon): Bishop of Babel, You Won't Get Me Home & Wilderness on Time. Valley of the Dead Cars is up there with The Fall, a pulsing thing that sounds like a cross between The Frenz Experiment & Countdown to Ecstasy. The album ends on a suitably sinister note, this was just the beginning after all, with Big Madness/Monday Club Carol- a potent blend of ballad and child's toy music.
Against Nature is rather good, not as great as the rest of FM's back catalogue that followed from 1990-1994; but well worth owning (as I said before, get Come Back My Children, also deleted, if you can). Surely FM require the box-set treatment: Disc I: Come Back My Children;Disc II: Viva Dead Ponies/Bertie's Brochures; Disc III: Valhalla Avenue & Disc IV: Lost in the Former West (with added b-sides etc)???? Against Nature is an early example of one of the key bands of the 1990s, as with all things Cathal Coughlan, the operative word remains 'OWN'. You have been told-
Once again I find my self; worryingly it must be said, in complete agreement with esteemed reviewer Mr Parkes. .....With one slight deviation, I think Fatima Mansions debut holds up better than some of their subsequent albums. It's better than "Valhalla Avenue" and at least as good as "Berties Brochures". It also contains two of their greatest songs, the wonderfully dulcet "On The Day I Lost Everything" and the extraordinary "Only Losers Take The Bus" where its paranoid protagonist screams abuse at the losers on public transport, but is terrified lest he become one of them.
After the suffocating demise of his previous band the , much maligned Micro Disney , Cathal Coughlan must have felt like a genie released from it's lamp or a demon raised from ancient slumber . Finally able to shake of the shiny MOR coat that formerly embraced him Coughlan turned into a demented almost evangelical preacher; chock full of spite, hate and bitter humour. Incidentally I must stick up for Microdisney here, who have received like many a ball playing striker, an unfair kicking. Criticised by Simon Reynolds in his book "Blissed Out" as misguided peddlers of cerebral social reason whose music wouldn't raise the pulse of a beached whale they were also wasted intellect he accused, but is intellect ever wasted? And I happen to think they wrote some stupendous songs. But songs aren't Reynolds strong point; so much as I enjoy his work I think we should ignore him on that point.
And if you want songs there are more corkers here. The compassionate rage of "You Won't Get Me Home" a diatribe on the witch hunt against AIDS victims set a tune dazzled with a blizzard of pop stardust. Most bizarrely there is the euphoric stomping disco of "13th Century Boy" which if it was covered by any mainstream act, Girls Aloud or The Sugababes say, would be a colossal hit. Coughlan, one of music's great under rated voices can do big ballads as well, as he proves with "Wilderness On Time" and closing track "Big Madness". Ponderous production slightly ballasts the zealous portentous "Bishop Of Babel" but the giddy gallop of "Valley Of The Dead Cars" compensates.
Perhaps the albums title alludes to the fact that previously Coughlan was acting against his conscience, bottling up his despair and fury. That Microdisney was holding him back and that indeed he agreed with Reynolds assessment of them as "aural semolina". Well with this album he started to get things off his chest and it made for thrilling uneasy listening. I concur with Jason Parkes on another thing. A box set is really rather essential. Like just about anything Coughlan is involved with really.