Cathal Coughlan probably never stopped hating those South African Bastards. I don’t know. He has died at the horribly early age of 61.
Mainly I remember his early band Microdisney as being the ones who invented the concept of Indie Easy Listening. Indie easy listening with teeth surreptitiously exposed. Cathal Coughlan’s lyrics and Sean O’Hagan’s positively listless pop melodies hitting their targets. Microdisney were wholly unique outsiders who were never accepted by the insiders. The esteemed British rock critic Simon Reynolds purportedly called them a “meat and potatoes band.” That little bit of history I found in Russell Clarke’s excellent review of Microdisney’s Crooked Mile LP, describing the record as “A knuckle duster swaddled in ermine.” Erm, Russell, we need you over here.
Hailing from the deep south of Ireland in Cork, it was in London where, on a path tread by so many young Irish people back then that Coughlan found fame. I can’t be bothered to qualify the extent/quantity/height of his fame, as somehow everything I read seems to infer that he wasn’t famous enough or didn’t make it far enough. Secondary. Idiotic. Coughlan was a super singleminded musician and writer who didn’t play entertainment games so well. In my world of indie musicians back then he was a made man for sure. Not everyone can be as adept as Bono or the blokes from Fontaines DC or whatever in playing pop success snakes and ladders game.
Following the dissolution of Microdisney, due to musical indifference, I think someone said, Sean O’Hagan worked as a music journalist, founded the High Llamas and joined Stereolab as a keyboard player. In forming Fatima Mansions, Cathal Coughlan continued his confrontational path with their forthright and more aggressive sounds.
Over the years, what Cathal Coughlan kept on doing well, what few do well, what he kept doing was making great records, his last album Song of Co-Aklan featured Luke Haines, was released in March 2021; and his duo Telefís with Jacknife Lee released the album A hAon in 2022.
Anyone who has brushed up against death might say, that’s the most profound part, no new words ever anymore. It’s a sad state of affairs to lose a man who had so much still to say.
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