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Music / Microdisney

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Microdisney were a New Wave band from Cork, Ireland. They relocated to London, England early in their career.

They were composed of singer/keyboardist Cathal Coughlan and guitarist Sean O' Hagan, with backing musicians varying by album. A duo for their first few singles and album, they formed a five piece band for the rest of their career. An early incarnation of Microdisney was known as Constant Reminders and Micro-Disney respectively, one incarnation featuring future Stump singer Mick Lynch on vocals.

Existing from 1980-1988 they were basically rooted in New Wave but had a unique approach - accessible and often beautiful melodies with cynical and despairing lyrics. They broke up in 1988 due to a combination of factors: their record company dropped them due to their last album being a flop, they had run out of ideas for potential singles, and the main band members began to differ musically.


The band members went on to more famous things: Cathal in The Fatima Mansions and Sean (and most of Microdisney's backing band) in The High Llamas.


  • Albums:

  • 1984: Everybody Is Fantastic
  • 1985: The Clock Comes Down The Stairs
  • 1987: Crooked Mile
  • 1988: 39 Minutes

  • Compilations:

  • 1984: We Hate You South African Bastards / Love Your Enemies (A collection of their early work from 1982-1984. A later CD release adds the In The World EP from 1985 as bonus tracks)
  • 1988: Peel Sessions (Compilation of most, but not all Peel Session tracks)
  • 1995: Big Sleeping House (Greatest Hits)
  • 2007: Daunt Square To Elsewhere (Anthology)

  • Singles:

  • 1982: Hello Rascals
  • 1982: Pink Skinned Man
  • 1984: Dolly
  • 1985: In The World (EP)
  • 1985: Birthday Girl
  • 1987: Town To Town
  • 1988: Singer's Hampstead Home
  • 1988: Gale Force Wind



  • Aerith and Bob: Cathal and Sean. Both are normal names in Ireland, however.
  • Alliterative Title: "Dreaming Drains"
  • All There in the Manual: In a rare musical example, Cathal's handwritten lyric sheets for their albums "The Clock Comes Down The Stairs" and "Crooked Mile" also contain extra text that sheds light on the meanings of the songs. He also wrote self-deprecating liner notes for Everybody Is Fantastic (under the guise of a journalist) and We Hate You South African Bastards (under his real name). Furthermore, all their releases with the exception of 39 Minutes have phrases etched into their runout grooves. None of these things were replicated for their CD releases.
  • The Apartheid Era: See "Completely Missing The Point", below.
  • Arc Symbol: There is a recurring theme of rail based transport. Train tracks appear on both "The Clock Comes Down The Stairs" and "39 Minutes", and a tram appears on the cover of the single "Birthday Girl". Sean also worked in a locomotive factory before the formation of the band.
    • The phrase "All you people want is money for the trams" appears in And., Money For The Trams and at least one live performance of Harmony Time. It has never been revealed what it actually means.
      • And the Beirut train on "High And Dry".
      • Money For The Trams has the line "Take your clothes off...". The later song "Give Me All Of Your Clothes" shares a similar sentiment. It may imply that the person intends to steal the clothes so he can sell them.
  • Berserk Button: The song "464" is basically Cathal's Berserk Button in musical form, as is "Money for the Trams", with its yelled line "Take your clothes off! Take your stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid clothes off!".
  • Blatant Lies: Cathal would frequently do this live for comic effect. For instance "I am God", "I am Bono", "I am The Pope", etc.
  • Call-Back: In The World's "Teddy Dogs" features the line "Look into Loftholdingswood" which is the opening line of the previous track, "Loftholdingswood".
    • The title of Give Me All of Your Clothes is possibly connected to "Money for the Trams" which has the line "Take your clothes off" (as mentioned in Berserk Button).
      • As is the first line of "And He Descended Into Hell": "Put your dress back on, and I will sing a song".
      • The cover of the compilation Daunt Square To Elsewhere is an obvious callback to their album Everybody Is Fantastic. Both have a sunrise view of a city across the river, and both use the same font for the band name. The original (unused) version of the cover has the album name in the same font as Everybody Is Fantastic as well.
      • Microdisney seemed to like doing these a lot. The first track released was called National Anthem, and the last one was called Irish National Anthem - both are completely different songs.
      • An early song "Dreaming Drains" features the line "What is the meanest thing they can do? Leave me to dream I'm rich in some drain?". Their last single, "Gale Force Wind" features the line "Nights of soaking in the city's drains - he hates the rich but he hates in vain." implying that the narrator of Dreaming Drains has become the homeless person in Gale Force Wind simply because of the Crapsack World he inhabits.
  • Completely Missing the Point: The title of the album We Hate You South African Bastards was titled in reference to apartheid. The label tried to get them to change it to We Hate You White South African Bastards but the band felt that the smart people would understand it. It still caused a lot of controversy, leading to the album to be renamed Love Your Enemies 12 years later, when it was rereleased.
  • Cover Version: None in studio, but the band were very fond of doing them live. Cathal admitted that they often did them whilst drunk - he has little recollection of doing them or why they did them. Special mention must go out to their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop The Rain", which was reworked surprisingly well in their own style.
    • Cathal did adlib Rod Stewart's "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" in the throwaway B-Side track "No I Can't Say", although it's only a couple of lines.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cathal.
  • Determinator: At a 1984 gig, the power went out, and Cathal sang a few acapella songs and cracked a few jokes, to entertain the crowd whilst the problem was sorted out. This despite the crowd constantly heckling him.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: If you got into the band via Crooked Mile or 39 Minutes and pick up We Hate You South African Bastards or Everybody Is Fantastic, you're in for a surprise.
  • '80s Hair: The band members sported mullets in early 1985, around the time of the In The World EP. TV performances of Loftholdingswood can attest to this.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Numerous occasions, especially on their last two albums.
    • In High And Dry, Cathal managed to fit the line 'See you all in hell' into the backing vocals, something which is hard to notice.
  • Harsh Vocals: Cathal screams in "National Anthem", "Everybody Is Dead (Peel Session)", "464" (especially live), "Money For The Trams" and live versions of "Back To The Old Town". This side of him became much more pronounced in Fatima Mansions.
  • Ireland
  • Irish Accents: Cathal has a thick Cork accent which is apparent in his singing.
  • John Peel: Peel was a big fan of the band and they performed six sessions for him. It began with Peel's championing of early single tracks "Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost" and "Pink Skinned Man". When he heard Cathal and Sean had relocated to London in 1983, still unsigned, he invited them over for a session. The resultant exposure led them to get signed to Rough Trade, and it sparked a long friendship and six radio sessions (four tracks each). The Peel Sessions are beloved by fans as many of the tracks are in earlier or more abrasive arrangements to their released versions. The song "Half A Day" was only ever recorded for its Peel Session.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Cathal's line "She's trying to pronounce my name" in Town To Town, echoes one of his problems with journalists outside of Ireland. It's pronounced like Cahul Cocklan.
    • Dear Rosemary has the line "And some people liked me for that" referring directly to the paparazzi.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: High And Dry starts off with the line "Why'd you have to leave me for some Albanian gambler on the Beirut train. When I finished laughing, I celebrated with a glass of pain-t" The booklet says 'glass of pain' but Cathal can clearly be heard overpronouncing the 't' at the end just to make sure.
    • "Send Herman Home" has "Good old Ch-Ches-ter Clark" with the first part pronounced exactly like the first two thirds of Ceaucescu, a Romanian dictator who Cathal would reference in his Fatima Mansion single "blues for Ceaucescu".
    • Also, the album title "Everybody Is Fantastic", which is almost the same as the title of the last song "Everybody Is Dead". Of course, the title of the album is sarcastic.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The band made this a trademark. Special mention must be given to Town To Town, a very upbeat and accessible song and the closest thing the band had to a hit. It's about the singer and his ex girlfriend burying bodies after a nuclear fallout.
    • The seemingly charming acoustic ditty, Dear Rosemary causes Mood Whiplash with its line "They want to build a land fit for heroes to starve to death in".
  • Money, Dear Boy: This was the main reason the band signed to Virgin, as Rough Trade did not pay them enough to cover the numerous bills they had to pay. Whilst the band did get better distribution on Virgin, their later material suffered from Executive Meddling, largely with lyrics.
  • New Sound Album: The band went from melancholic drum machine based indie to upbeat radio orientated 80s pop with a full band in several years.
    • Compare the band's first single Hello Rascals to their last, Gale Force Wind and the difference is...astounding.
  • Out of Order: Whilst it mostly collects their music in chronological order, Daunt Square To Elsewhere places the tracks that first appeared on "We Hate You South African Bastards" after those that appeared on "Everybody Is Fantastic". All the tracks on "Bastards" were recorded before "Everybody Is Fantastic", but only four of them were released at the time. As a result, the remaining tracks have a later copyright date, thus explaining why they are Out of Order.
  • Precision F-Strike: Love Your Enemies has the classic "Idiots, fucking ugly fools, fucking idiots, fucking idiots, fucking all my friends"
  • Rearrange the Song: In addition to the various versions of "I Can't Say No" (See Stylistic Parody), they rearranged their own songs live. For instance, Harmony Time was rewritten into a faster, punk inspired arrangement. Town To Town starts off with vocal intro (this is done on the Peel Session, as well) and Genius is played at a faster tempo. The Peel Session of Soul Boy features accordion, whereas the album version doesn't.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Sean's voice- quite high, soft accent = sweet sounding and inoffensive. Cathal's voice- fairly deep, strong accent = powerful and occasionally aggressive.
    • Some songs have female vocalists guesting on backing vocals, for example "Pink Skinned Man", "Are You Happy", "And" and "Bluerings". In addition, a male soul group from London was drafted in for harmonies on "United Colours", which was intended to be ironic, yet worked.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The original five piece group was called Micro-Disney. When everyone but Cathal and Sean left, they changed the group name to Microdisney.
  • Stylistic Parody: The song "Little Town In Ireland" is a dig at Irish folk music, and the various versions of "I Can't Say No" are parodies of Country Music ("I Can't Say No"), pub rock ("Can't I Say No"), eastern european folk music ("No I Can't Say") and Jazz ("Say No I Can't").
  • Stylistic Suck: The various versions of "I Can't Say No", as well as "Little Town In Ireland".
    • As with some of their live covers.
  • Take That!:
    • "Victory" is one to the English middle class, who Cathal describes as "the stupidest people in the world".
    • "Helicopter Of The Holy Ghost" is one to the Pope and the Catholic church in general.
    • "Genius" is one towards Bono, and again to the English, albeit the upper class socialites this time.
    • The doctor in "Rack": "He spent fifteen years in a Jesuit school, and now he's not fit for any job". Ouch.
    • "Singer's Hampstead Home" is a Take That! at Boy George. Cathal has said that they did not mention his name for fear of getting sued.
  • The Artifact: "A Friend With A Big Mouth" was the earliest song written for "The Clock Comes Down The Stairs" and really shows it. Not only is it built around a bouncy rhythm of jangly guitars and synth (exactly like Everybody Is Fantastic's material) but the lyric retains an attitude to a failing relationship that is still slightly romantic as opposed to outright bitter and hopeless. The band were fond of the song, however, and stayed in the set until mid-1986.


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