Compilation of the last few years of Microdisney.,
This review is from: Big Sleeping House (Audio CD)
Microdisney appear to have been written out of history- as singer/lyricist Cathal Coughlan's subsequent band Fatima Mansions appear to have been. This is such a loss, as Coughlan easily ranks up there with the great songwriters of the 80s/90s: Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Morrissey, Lou Reed on New York etc I find it bizarre that Smiths Best-Of's get in the Top Ten album's chart in the 21st Century, yet few appreciate the savage pop of this great band...
Microdisney balanced Cathal Coughlan's bleak, satirical lyrics with Sean O'Hagan's brand of new pop- O'Hagan has since made music with The High Llama's & Stereolab, which may give you an idea. Imagine if The Smiths dropped the teenage posturing & repressed homosexuality, took up the complete works of Swift & made music that was the indie-equivalent of Steely Dan & you're close...
Big Sleeping House is a pleasant 16 track romp through the last three Microdisney albums (The Clock Comes Down the Stairs, Crooked Mile, 39 Minutes), with a few tracks from the Peel Sessions collection (Loftholdingswood is originally from Love Your Enemies, aka We Hate You South African Bastards, while Begging Bowl is from 85's Clock/Stairs).
Microdisney were signed to Virgin & made much of the material found here- 1987's Crooked Mile contained many classic moments & should have been the album that took them to, at least, Lloyd Cole/The The status. Singer's Hampstead Home is a jingly-jangly classic, detailing the media circus surrounding label-mate Boy George's heroin addiction. It reminds me of Oliver Stone's Nixon, Coughlan's lyrics both empathetic & cutting. Another great song from this album is Mrs Simpson, impossibly moving: "My Aunt had died/leaving me millions that I wanted to share". This predates all those indie-style bands who used strings in the following decade- forget Divine Comedy, Verve & all that. It also predicts the Walkeresque-affectations of Fatima Mansions: Behind the Moon, Walk Yr Way. The guitar solo is the most fantastic thing ever. Armadillo Man fits in with the subversive use of pop Microdisney employed- sounding like something between Hue & Cry/Wet Wet Wet & Go Betweens/Edwyn Collins.
1988's final album, 39 Minutes, advanced on Crooked Mile- almost hit single Town to Town is still lovely stuff, sounding a bit Ocean Rain (but with politics, rather than nonsense- lyrically speaking). "She's trying to pronounce my name...I can't help you, someone else will- if you just sit still...Get Oslo Get Glasgow...Fry Dresden...Fry Dublin"- Back to the Old Town is as great, it's got a chorus, jangly acoustic guitars, jibes at monarchy, surf organ, crashing drums & great lyrics: "We've got mainstream lives to keep us smug"- words as spot on now, as then...
Send Herman Home opens with an impression of Iain Paisley prior to some Scritti Politti/Living in a Box pop-funk, I would love to see a boyband cover this (the backing vocals come from the guys who would become LondonBeat!). I wish someone would publish a book of Coughlan's lyrics from both Microdisney & Fatima Mansions- easily one of the greatest lyricists of all time.
My only quibbles- the early years aren't very well represented (nothing from Everybody is Fantastic), the sleevenotes are incorrect & largely absent & the Betty Lou-version of I Can't Say No is not as much fun as the shambling drunk one on the 12" of Gale Force Wind (though nice Grease-reference!). Big Sleeping House is a great introduction to the works of Microdisney, who like Fatima Mansions deserve to have their back catalogue reissued...