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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Fatima Mansions, Against Nature and more. April 13, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

Cathal Coughlan’s output from 1989 is a perfect artefact for the week that Thatcher shuffled of this mortal coil (coincidentally I’d had this post ready for a couple of weeks and ready to roll in this slot today).

Always loved Microdisney and when they split it was heartening to see that Coughlan was quick to return in the guise of the Fatima Mansions. I’m tempted to suggest that that name alone was perhaps the best of any Irish group. In anyone else’s hands it would have been glib and condescending, but with Coughlan it was just right. First album Against Nature was a blast of modulated power. Toned down were the countryish stylings that Sean O’Hagan had brought to the feast and instead here was something that threw a raft of different instruments into the mix including synths. But that voice, an instrument in itself, hardly changed, still oscillating between an howl of cynical rage and a more measured, sometimes melodic, but no less excoriating tone.

Add to that the sheer range of approaches. Only Losers Take the Bus with a propulsive synth beat underpinning it and pushed along by harpsichord and snarling guitars with vocals that were political, explicitly so. 13th Century Boy musically appeared to be an homage, of sorts, to the Pet Shop Boys. The Day I Lost Everything with a chorus that could have comfortably sat on any of the Microdisney albums, but the verses? Not so much. You Won’t Get Me Home also had that tinge of Microdisney with a fantastic verse which the chorus matched perfectly. But something was different, something was more insistent and urgent and the lyrics were more weary and in a sense downright nasty.

Valley of Dead Cars, a speedy albeit to my ears overly soft precursor to much that would come afterwards. Big Madness – Monday Club Carol returning to a more reflective pace with a genuinely lovely keyboard arrangement. Note the political content of the lyrics. And so on with all eight tracks this curious balance between suppressed power and melody.

But it was the former which would be emphasised on the superb Blues for Ceaucescu, namechecked earlier this week, a raging track released initially as an single/EP which revelled in Coughlan’s more – er – metallic/punk side. Again this was political, but the message was closer to home than some might think on first inspection. As he sang… “Meanwhile in London things stay the same – the untenable must be maintained”. Six minutes, powered along by a massive riff and lyrics that meant a damn sight more than most, building to a crescendo of feedback and drums before starting again and then stopping.

Though I listened to the subsequent albums I’ve rarely returned to them as frequently as I do to this. Without question there are great tracks on them but they never held together for me as well as these. And that’s not to dismiss the albums, but this selection of songs and records – for records they were – seemed to present the purest distillation of his output. Perhaps their strength was precisely In a way they were transitional offerings, shifting from one stage to another, and in doing so encompassing that broad range of approaches mentioned above.

13th Century Boy

Only Losers Take the Bus

You Won’t Get Me Home

The Day I Lost Everything

Big Madness Monday Club Carol

Blues For Ceauşescu


1. Phil - April 13, 2013

that name alone was perhaps the best of any Irish group

Could you explain the name for foreigners like me?

Listening again to 13th Century Boy, I think it’s a Stock/Aitken/Waterman pastiche rather than PSB – you can just picture Kylie or Jason in their younger days jigging about to those choruses.

I used to love this album, or rather the later compilation/re-release Come back my children. The ‘transitional phase’ analysis rings true – as time went on TFM just got darker & darker, and noisier & noisier. (That said, I think Viva Dead Ponies (another incomprehensible title) is probably my favourite of all their albums.) Do you know Cathal’s solo work at all? I’ve heard very little of it, but what I have heard seems to be much more melodic and song-based.


WorldbyStorm - April 13, 2013

I think you’re right re SAW, I heard a bit of his solo stuff, but never purchased any.

Fatima Mansions was a huge Corporation flats complex in Dublin. There’s some info here… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatima_Mansions_%28housing%29

In any one elses hands the name would seem condescending, but Coughlan I think manages to do it justice.


CMK - April 13, 2013

Fatima Mansions were a flats complex in Dublin’s south inner city where conditions were pretty horrendous as I saw first hand myself. Fatima refers to the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Portugal and the state was obviously indulging in a contemptuous joke when is used the term mansions. I’m not sure if conditions have improved since I moved out of the area over 10 years ago, I hope they have. ‘Fatima Mansions’ sums up perfectly how.the faux.piety of the Irish catholic middle classes, who are the state, is bound inextricably to contempt for the working class and, in particular, the poorer and less organises parts.


Tomboktu - April 13, 2013

Fatima Mansions were a flats complex in Dublin’s south inner city where conditions were pretty horrendous“.

Dolphin House has been the subject of a sustained and innovative human rights campaign by and with the resident about the housing conditions.

I was at a meeting a few weeks ago (about using the Constitutional Convention to secure support for the making economic, social and cultural rights enforcaeable rights in the Irish constitution — at the moment they are merely “principles” for the Oireachtas and the Courts cannot take action when the Oireachtas fails to observe those principles). There was a presentation on Rialto Rights In Action and their work on this: documenting the evidence, holding hearings with uman rights and housing experts (including the Irish Human Rights Commission), and preparing cases and briefings for the human rights supervisory bodies that Irealdn appears before.

Some of the photos are stomach churning. Sewage “regurgitating” back into baths and sinks, and the City Council insisting for years it was the fault of residents for flushing nappies down the toilet.



2. irishelectionliterature - April 14, 2013

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