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IN PRAISE OF CATHAL COUGHLAN

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One of the oldest and most valued friends of this blog is ctel, aka Acid Ted.  He was one of the first to pick up on things at the old place back in 2006 and he was even kind enough on two occasions to step in and run the place for me when circumstances dragged me away from things on temporary but extended periods.

These days, his blog is probably the best out there in terms of dance/club music but please don’t be thinking his tastes are restricted to that genre.  We bonded initially over Paul Quinn, discovered that we were both huge Carter USM fans and then he revealed his love for Cathal Couglan in two guest posts that I happened to stumble across again within the limited archives I was able to salvage when google shut down the old blog. And it seems appropriate, on St Patrick’s Day, to offer them up again for your pleasure:-

From Feb 2008

Microdisney were a classic Peel band. Formed in the early 80s in Ireland, they soon moved to the UK. A mix of soft instrumentation with biting lyrics, they never achieved their full potential.

In time, trying to ride the twin horses of Cathal Coughlan‘s raging anger and Sean O’Hagen‘s romantic almost countrified music they split. Cathal went on to form the almost psychotically angry The Fatima Mansions and Sean the laid back High Llamas.

Signed to Rough Trade, they were best known for their later album The Clock Comes Down The Stairs. They followed this by moving to Virgin and releasing Crooked Mile.

But, for me, their best work is their earliest stuff from Love Your Enemies (Microdisney 82:84). Originally called We Hate You South African Bastards, this drew together early singles and unreleased tracks. The sleeve notes by Cathal ended:

“Some of you (the Freemason pederasts, for instance) may be a trifle confused or even annoyed by the packaging and name of this record. For all your dumb coyness, I don’t think you need to be told. Just don’t go anywhere, don’t call anyone. Bastard.”

Anyhow, enjoy something from the album:

mp3 : Microdisney – Helicopter of the Holy Ghost

And as a bonus:

mp3 : Microdisney – Loftholdingswood (Peel Session)

 

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Following on from the Microdisney post (and to the rapscallion who claimed they are shit, go wash your mouth out with soap and water), here’s one about Cathal Coughlan’s follow-on band – Fatima Mansions. This time Cathal would have abrasive music to go with his abrasive lyrics.

Fatima Mansions, named after a run-down Dublin housing estate, was to be a vehicle for his world-view, and Andrias O’Gruama (guitar), Hugh Bunker (bass), Nick Allum (drums) and Zac Woolhouse (keyboards) were enlisted for the supporting roles.

Coughlan’s lyrical fixations of religious bigotry, imperialism and death was spelled out in parables of increasing hysteria and black humour, while the safety of Microdisney’s rock arrangements was abandoned in favour of an all-out aural assault.

Against Nature (1989) was lauded as a startlingly well-rounded debut, establishing a broad territory from the driving single Only Losers Take The Bus, to the synth-pop pastiche of 13th Century Boy, and the occasional brooding ballad like Wilderness On Time. The single Blues For Ceausescu (1990) took the band on to a higher level of ferocity and invention, heralding in the eighteen-track onslaught of Viva Dead Ponies (1990).

Meanwhile, regular gigging quickly built their reputation as an extraordinary spectacle, with Cathal hurling his hulk around the stage like a man possessed. In early 1991, Cathal performed some acoustic gigs billed as Fatima Mansions Singular, showcasing the control and mellowness of his voice – ‘I know you all think I’m a brute’, he observed.

Normal service was resumed with the release of Valhalla Avenue (1992), which contained the customary doses of rancour and strident guitar riffing on tracks like Evil Man and Go Home Bible Mike. The album’s ferocious tone did not prevent it from becoming their biggest seller yet, reaching #52 in the UK. They even had a surprise Top 10 single later that year with a near-psychotic reworking (for which read – makes Machine Head sound like Sarah Records) of Bryan AdamsEverything I Do (I Do It For You), although this was largely due to the Manic Street Preachers‘ flip-side cover of Suicide Is Painless.

While their uncompromising style may have ruled out any greater commercial success, their standing as a live act secured a support slot on a U2 tour. But Cathal refused to be on best behaviour for the big occasion, infamously causing a near riot on the Italian leg with some on-stage Catholic baiting.

Cathal continued his prolific output by releasing the almost-unlistenable 20 Golden Showers (1993) under the name Bubonique, featuring compatriot comedian Sean Hughes, followed by a new Fatima Mansions album, Lost In The Former West (1994). Once again this was not for the faint-hearted, tackling international affairs with the usual rage and humour. But it was as if his heart was no longer in it and Fatima Mansions simply faded away. Cathal continued to make music as a solo artist but would never again reach the heights he did in Fatima Mansions.

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – 1000%
mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceausescu
mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Only Losers Take The Bus (Dump The Dead)

Ctel, February 2008

BLOWS ME AWAY EVERY SINGLE TIME

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Someone on Discogs described this 1990 single as having the voice of an avenging angel having a bad day and guitar chords like a firing squad.

I wish I could sum up songs as brilliantly as that.

The only reason this never made my 45 45s at 45 countdown all those years ago is that I missed out on it when it was originally released.  My first exposure came via an end of the year round-up on some late evening show on Radio 1.  I bought the CD single the next time I was in a shop and paid almost £5 for the privilege.

Since rekindling my love for vinyl I’ve got my grubby hands on bits of plastic both here and over in Canada.  This is a record that should be in every music fan’s collection:-

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceausescu

That’s the version on the 7″ double A side Kitchenware Records single…..it’s lyrical genius with Cathal Coughlan reflecting on how a popular uprising in Romania brought down a dictator yet closer to home in the UK and Ireland nothing changes……..

Flip over to the other song on this double A side effort and you’re in for a laugh:-

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – 13th Century Boy

It is scarily reminiscent of the chart-topping sounds of Stock, Aitken and Waterman until the last 30 seconds or so when it goes weirdly out of tune.  I only wish that somehow Radio 1 had picked up on this as a potential chart-fodder, played it to death on daytime shows and propelled it into the higher echelons of the chart. Imagine the shock of all the kiddies and their mums and dads as they flipped over to hear what other poptastic stuff this new band were capable of and Ceausescu came blaring out of the speakers.

Here’s the even more bizarre offering that was on the 12″ single:-

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – On Suicide Bridge

In 2008 while browsing around a record store in Toronto, I came across a 12″ bit of vinyl on Radioactive Records that included this remix of the single, which isn’t all that great but one for the completists:- :-

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceaucescu (Only Solution Mix)

Meanwhile, here’s an ever darker and rockier version recorded as a Peel Session – with amended lyrics (including no direct mention of the assassination of Lord Mountbatten at the request of the BBC):-

mp3 : Fatima Mansions – Blues For Ceaucescu (Peel Session)

Immense.