Sean O'Hagan and Cathal Coughlan's early-80s band Microdisney crossed sophisticated, mellifluous songwriting and Coughlan's crooning baritone with sneeringly antisocial lyrics. Over time the lyrics grew increasingly bilious while the music got sweeter. When the band broke up, O'Hagan made a solo record and joined Stereolab, while Coughlan formed Fatima Mansions. That band's 1991 American debut, Viva Dead Ponies (Radioactive/MCA), opened with the song "Angel's Delight," in which sighing electric piano chords and a tinkling glockenspiel dreamily reverberated as Coughlan liltingly intoned images of urban unrest and dead cops. It sounded like Microdisney revisited until the song suddenly lurched into a seizure of pummeling rhythm and frenzied guitar over which Coughlan angrily bellowed, "Burn motherfucker burn." The remainder of the record was no less unpredictable. Snippets of discordant electronic music were followed by hardcore punk that gave way to keyboard-heavy pop tunes that segued into odd song forms of prickly originality. Most astonishing was that despite the record's kaleidoscopic range, everything was delivered with authority. 1992's Valhalla Avenue (unreleased in this country) was even more dissonant, bellicose, and experimental, and this tour is in support of the band's just-released Lost in the Former West (Radioactive/MCA), which continues in the Fatima Mansions tradition of eclecticism and raw hostility, this time adding heavy metal to the musical melange. Opening for Live. Friday, 6 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andy Earl.