17 September 2008
Microdisney - The Peel Sessions
Label: Strange Fruit
Year of Release: 1989
This is the third entry on Microdisney, and I may lay off uploading any more material from them for awhile. It's also a rather unique Peel Sessions album, in that it was released the year after the band split when their profile was probably at its lowest. John Peel and Clive Selwood clearly had no plans to hang around for a few years waiting to see if the band developed a "legendary" or "cult" reputation before letting this see the light of day, and somewhat oddly didn't much care to put it out whilst they were still an active concern. It must be reasonable to assume that the main motive behind this release was to showcase some fantastic music, and it managed to deliver that in spades.
Of all the bands who needed to have a Peel Session album or EP put out, Microdisney must surely be somewhere near the top of the list. I'm obviously not claiming that they were more important or influential than Hendrix, Queen, Pink Floyd or even Adam and the Ants, but the Maida Vale sessions they produced certainly showcased another side of the band, whereas most of those other acts didn't deviate too much from their usual sound at the BBC. Whilst their studio albums were glossy, slick and occasionally overproduced affairs, the Peel Sessions for Cathal and company were rawer, and much more emotive. This is not the sound of a band who have had to do eighty takes to achieve a more eighties sound - this is much more gutsy, effective noise which makes some of the material off their weaker albums ("Crooked Mile", for example) sound almost heartbreakingly good. The version of "Bullwhip Road" here is blistering compared to the 'proper' release, which is so understated it almost falls asleep on the job.
True to their previous form, the album delivers the same barbed wire fist lyrical punches combined with the smooth and studied sunshine backings, like Lou Reed holidaying in California with the members of Steely Dan. The most disturbing moment comes in "Everybody Is Dead", where Cathal Coughlan decides to screechingly repeat "I love you!" over and over until it becomes meaningless, hateful demonic hollering and yelling, and the band collapse around him. This was another moment that never quite made it on to an official studio release - the "Everyone is Fantastic" LP version consists of bland, bored repetition of the phrase as an alternative to the original statement.
I like to think that this album shows off what some of the weakest later Microdisney material could (and probably should) have sounded like, and also offers enough interesting alternative versions of some other fine songs to be worth sticking with from start to finish. Conversely, some of the earliest tracks sound less low budget and more rehearsed than their LP counterparts, too (I'm thinking of "Sun" here in particular).
If you've never heard a note of Microdisney before, this is actually a very good place to start to get an accurate overview of their career. And if you're very familiar with their work, you have absolutely no excuse never to have heard this as well, especially now I've uploaded it for your pleasure.
1. Sun (3 August 1983)
2. Moon (3 August 1983)
3. Dreaming Drains (14 April 1984)
4. Everybody Is Dead (14 January 1984)
5. A Friend With A Big Mouth (14 April 1984)
6. Teddy Dogs (14 April 1984)
7. Before Famine (3 August 1983)
8. Genius (2 October 1984)
9. Loftholdingswood (14 April 1984)
10. Horse Overboard (2 October 1984)
11. 464 (2 October 1984)
12. Town to Town (3 December 1985)
13. Bullwhip Road (3 December 1985)
14. Begging Bowl (3 December 1985)
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