Everything Is Fantastic,
This review is from: Daunt Square To Elsewhere: Anthology 1982-88 (Audio CD)
The united opposites of Cathal Coughlan's splenetic, fevered imagination and fabulous tunes from Sean O'Hagan remain the best things that either of them ever did. The two elements battled and reinforced each other dialectically to make a powerful whole - as the adage goes, drama generally needs conflict.
Importantly too, the songs battled a Thatcherite no-such-thing-as society from 1984 onwards. The Clock Comes Down The Stairs and the Miners' Strike provided a watershed from which point earlier material was shelved. This excellent compilation by the ever-reliable Castle label reflects this well by leading CD2 with 'Past', summarising Thatcherite devastation to a laconic country-rock twang. At the same time, CD1 also shows the consistently high quality of the earlier material despite minimal budgets. It's also great to hear a wise selection from the underrated Crooked Mile, its sometimes lumbering orchestration oddly succeeding in painting the swaggering Loadsamoneyed nouveau riche.
Without the bittersweet tension both Cathal & Sean individually lost relevance, the Fatima Mansions drifted into messiness as Cathal's bile became even more obtuse, adrift in dystopia. I have often found Cathal's solo work depressing - until Foburg, which impressed me as a very thoughtful song cycle with bite and scope - I really hope he keeps this up. I could still do with direct social attacks rather than a stroll through the back alleys of dystopia, even though imaginatively described - and better tunes. My fantasy group is Cathal fronting the recently reactivated Triffids, taking the place of the late David McComb whith which Cathal lyrically shared a good deal. Poverty & geography would no doubt conspire against it - ah well, people like me just want to dream.
Of course I have a few quibbles with this comp - no Helicopter of the Holy Ghost which first caught Peel's ear; far too little from 39 Minutes (Ambulance for One and Herr Direktor are not available on CD); perhaps we could've had a 1980 track from the 'previous' Microdisney; and we want whole live gigs where Cathal really let rip. As said above, let's have the complete works. Nevertheless, new listeners - treat yourselves to this generally teriffic introduction to one of the very finest groups of the 1980s, or any other decade. Cathal, don't give up - we need your barbed wire rainbow just as much now as then.