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Reissue of classic debut LP plus best of...,
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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!!!