Label: Rough Trade
Year of Release: 1984
"This record contains music recorded in the years 1982 and 1983. The reason why much of it has not been heard before is that, in those far-off days, few had heard Microdisney, and many of those who had thought us worthless. My, how times change! Well, at least they've changed enough to permit release of this record, now that it seems plain that we are unlikely to sound like this again.
The earliest recording here is "Fiction Land". In a draughty converted gym in south Dublin one bleak February afternoon in 1982, Sean and I recorded this song with the aid of engineer Dave Freeley, the first helpful person we had encountered in a recording studio. Since the failure of our previous Microdisney (which had yet to be formally ended) we had been occupying ourselves with simple things - Sean with his quality control job at the locomotive factory, and me with research in the west of Ireland for a projected book entitled "Sex Among The Subnormally Intelligent". Gloom prevailed.
However, the results of this session proved encouraging enough for us to visit that gym on several other occasions that year, in between bouts of songwriting in the village of Cork, where we both lived. As we continued to work with Dave Freeley and Terry Cromer, "Love Your Enemies" (April 1982), "Helicopter of the Holy Ghost" and "Hello Rascals" (both July) saw increasingly effective use of the limited resources available to us. The opportunity to release the last two recordings on a single was afforded to us by our friend Gareth, who had been releasing his Kabuki Records in London shortly before.
So September 1982 saw us visiting London, distributing free copies of the new record to the influential people who were to provide us with a source of laughter and misgivings for some time to come.
Back in Cork, we set about scrounging the money to make another record. We organised a 'mixed media event' in a bourgeois theatre near the meat market, where the cultured house staff decided that neither drunken horticulturalists, vomit, little men with bleeding forearms, nor, indeed, death-threats to the manager appealed to their sense of 'artistic freedom'. Their loss. And our profit.
Armed with a little money, we set out for Dublin with a violinist and an additional female voice, in November. Since the gym had now closed down, we were forced to go, with Terry as our guide, to a tiny studio normally reserved for the making of radio adverts. In the course of this tense Sunday, when recording was often halted by the rumble of the roller-disco downstairs, we brought forth "Pink Skinned Man", a tribute to the middle class torture to which many people we knew had abandoned themselves totally.
In spite of our satisfaction with the work, it was to take two remixes (the successful one being effected at Divine Wood Missionaries' seminary studio late that winter) to make it ready for release on Kabuki in April 1983. The time between recording and release saw us withdraw further from the world, writing dozens of songs that were never to be recorded in a small dirty room in Cork, and emerging to play them in public occasionally, to the alternating apathy and amusement of the miniscule "listening public" of Ireland.
The most recent recordings here are "Michael Murphy", "Pretoria Quickstep" and "Patrick Moore Says You Can't Sleep Here". These were recorded late in June 1983, only days before we fled forever this country which was turning us into cretins. As usual, the location was odd - an eight-track living room, on the edge of a forest in the hills of west County Cork. So was the purpose - provision of a soundtrack for a commercial drugs education video which was to be made by the media artist Michael Murphy. But the video was never made, due to the dubious motives and "morality" of the Irish state services, and the music was not used. By then, we were in another country, receiving excruciating lessons on the value of self-esteem.
So here it is - music of such potency that it could make Zola Budd, the Springbok Speedball and "British Citizen", dash back to her Daddy's kraal in Bloemfontein (hope she's in time for the lynching luncheon). Such light, I tell you, cannot be hid under a disconnected phone forever!
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."
("Love Your Enemies" was originally issued under the name "We Hate You South African Bastards")
Well... I'm not usually one for reproducing sleevenotes verbatim on this blog in lieu of actual analysis of the records, but in this particular case, Cathal Coughlan paints a much more vivid and honest picture of the process behind these tracks than 700 words of my own are likely to do.
If you get the impression that the recording process behind many of these sounds as if it might have impacted on the quality of the tracks, you may not be far wrong. Unlike their later material for Rough Trade, a lot of this work sounds uncertain and rushed, slightly muddy and mixed on the hoof (their later independent material would also be recorded under trying conditions, but the key difference is that it isn't possible to actually hear their struggles on those records). Coughlan and O'Hagan's songwriting also has yet to develop its full potential, and whilst there are unquestionably some strong tracks on here - "Pink Skinned Man", for instance, is a maudlin single which sounds closest to what Microdisney eventually became - it's an uneven journey. In particular, the soundtrack offerings are atmospheric and may have worked well in conjunction with the final drugs education film, but as standalone pieces they seem a little insufficient.
Or, in short - this isn't the place to start if you're interested in finding out more about Microdisney, and you'd be better off beginning with a download of "The Peel Sessions", "The Clock Comes Down The Stairs" or "39 Minutes". If you're an existing fan, however, or even have managed to become a fan through this blog, it plugs some gaps and highlights an interesting point in their development. The retitled reissue on Revola in 1996 (from which this version stems) also comes with the bonus of the studio versions of "Loftholdingswood", "Teddy Dogs" and "464" which originally appeared on the brilliant "In The World" EP, and all three of those tracks are reason enough to download the album.
(Sorry - this album is commercially available again on iTunes, Amazon and other sites besides, so I've disabled the download link).
1. Helicopter of the Holy Ghost
2. Michael Murphy
3. Love Your Enemies
4. Fiction Land
5. Pink Skinned Man
6. Patrick Moore Says You Can't Sleep Here
7. Hello Rascals
8. Pretoria Quickstep
10. Teddy Dogs