Originally a duo from Cork, Ireland, Microdisney combine heavily orchestrated smooth pop with potent songwriting. A sublimely seductive paradox, the music goes down easy but invariably returns to haunt the intellect. After moving to London and recruiting three more members, Cathal Coughlan (vocals/lyrics) and Sean O’Hagan (guitar/music) recorded Everybody’s Fantastic, thirteen gently atmospheric songs that touch the heart and the mind with resonant guitar and Coughlan’s passionate brogue. Starkly romantic (“Dolly,” “I’ll Be a Gentleman”) and ardently political (“Come on Over and Cry,” “Before the Famine”), the record commands attention.
Virtually nonexistent commercial response to their first LP prompted the release of We Hate You South African Bastards!, a mini-album compilation of early singles and demos recorded as a duo that assured Microdisney’s survival while making an unequivocal statement against apartheid. Their next release was a four-song 12-inch of new material, In the World.
The Clock Comes Down the Stairs suffers from improved production: Coughlan’s vocals, curiously relieved of their Irish accent, are set deep within a mix of overwhelming instrumentation. “Birthday Girl,” “Horse Overboard” and “Past” are pleasant enough, but verge on a generic sound. Gone are Coughlan’s heartfelt protests and O’Hagan’s sharp melodic chords, making this complacent background muzak — a far cry from the compelling impact of We Hate You. (The tape has five extra songs.)
The drawbacks so prevalent on The Clock Comes Down the Stairs reassert themselves on Crooked Mile. Lenny Kaye’s lush production renders this LP as nothing more than a collection of languid, dismissible pop symphonies. One exception, however, is the passionate “Give Me All of Your Clothes” — the first possible sign that Microdisney may be getting just a bit tired of churning out useless fodder.
39 Minutes, which actually clocks in at just under 38, restores the group’s sense of purpose, balancing the slick production of recent efforts with a slightly more aggressive attack and Coughlan’s sharpest lyrics in ages. While songs like “Singer’s Hampstead Home,” “Ambulance for One” and “Gale Force Wind” promised much for Microdisney’s future, 39 Minutes proved to the band’s last hurrah.