Tuesday, 24 May 2022

The First One Began With A Kiss Kiss Kiss, The Last One Ended In A Pulverized Fist

A celebration of Cathal Coughlan, following yesterday's tragic news of his death at the age of 61. Whilst many of my college friends were going ape over Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, I bought Viva Dead Ponies by The Fatima Mansions in 1991 and went down a different path. 

I'd heard and loved Blues For Ceausescu which, in typically contrary fashion, only made it onto the UK issue of Viva Dead Ponies as a 14-second loop (the US got the full 12" version). 
In 1994, I was fortunate enough to see The Fatima Mansions at The Fleece in Bristol, promoting what would turn out to be their final album, Lost In The Former West. Cathal Coughlan was absolutely compelling from the start, running through a loud, paint-blistering set. I'd taken a friend who didn't really know them, apart from a hastily-compiled mixtape I'd shoved his way ahead of the night, and who left thinking it was one of the best gigs he'd ever been to.
Cathal Coughlan had a rich body of work pre- and post-The Fatima Mansions, with Microdisney in the 1980s and as a solo artist from the mid-1990s onwards, taking in collaborative projects such as Bubonique (with comedian Sean Hughes), The Dead Sea Scrolls (with Luke Haines) and Telefis, his latest project with Jacknife Lee. All worthy of a deeper dive, but The Fatima Mansions will always bring back happy memories of my errant and angry youth.
This selection unintentionally omits debut album Against Nature (also highly recommended) but includes three tracks from each of the other three albums. Whilst I also have the excellent 'Only Solution' remix and John Peel session version of Blues For Ceausescu, it's the definitive 12" version here. I've also included the title track of 1991's Hive EP, which also featured the excellent Chemical Cosh.
Coughlan was also known for his singular cover versions, notably Bryan Adam's Everything I Do (I Do It For You) and a bastardized take on R.E.M.'s Shiny Happy People. I've gone for a much straighter reading of Leonard Cohen's Paper Thin Hotel, from the 1000% single. 
I've left off numerous personal favourites but I hope this selection goes some way to giving a hint of The Fatima Mansions careering course from politics to pop, beauty to brutality, raw to rock and all the points in between.

Side One
1) Hive (1991)
2) Your World Customer (1994) 
3) A Pack Of Lies (1990)
4) Purple Window (1992)
5) Blues For Ceausescu (12" Version) (1990)
6) Chemical Cosh (Album Version) (1990)

Side Two
1) Humiliate Me (1994)
2) Breakfast With Bandog (1992)
3) The Door To Door Inspector (1990)
4) A Walk In The Woods (1994)
5) Paper Thin Hotel (Cover of Leonard Cohen) (1992)
6) Be Dead (1992)

1990: Blues For Ceausescu EP: A5
1990: Viva Dead Ponies: A3, A6, B3
1991: Hive EP: A1
1992: 1000% EP: B5
1992: Valhalla Avenue: A4, B2, B6
1994: Lost In The Former West: A2, B1, B4


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Ernie! Apologies for the slow reply, Google hasn't let me add comments for the past couple of days.

      Thanks also for your tribute on the same day, with a welcome focus on Microdisney and a great selection of videos, including Fatima Mansions' Old Grey Whistle Test session and Only Losers Take The Bus, one of my favourite songs of theirs and which really should have been included in my selection.

  2. Good stuff Khayem and sad news. I first saw him on Snub TV, tied to a chair, singing Only Losers Take The Bus. Pretty transfixing.

    1. Thanks, Adam, I was shocked and saddened by the news. I hadn't seen that Snub TV video for years, until Ernie posted it on 27 Leggies. Cathal Coughlan was a compelling performer, whether on screen or on stage.

  3. Thanks Khayem, one of those artists I've always wanted to listen to but have never heard, Sorry I've left it until now

    1. Thanks, middle aged man, I'm glad to have been able to share with you. This barely scratches the surface and I'll inevitably return to The Fatima Mansions again in the future.

  4. Sorry for being so late to come in. This is a fabulous tribute. I'm still reeling from the news more than a week later.

    1. Thanks, JC. I still can't get my head around it. I'm very sad that this was my prompt to listen to Cathal's collaboration with Jacknife Lee as Telefis and that, consequently, there will be no more.