Microdisney The Clock Comes Down The Stairs
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This long overdue reissue of one of Rough Trade's defining mid-'80s albums only serves to strengthen the argument that Microdisney's creative catalysts Cathal Coughlan and Sean O'Hagan were at the top of their game and remain two of Ireland's key songwriters. It's a shame no-one thought so back in the day - The Clock Comes Down The Stairs is a peach and should have furnished the band with an infinite supply of sex, drugs and the singer's Hampstead home - but that's another story, indeed another album. Lyrically descriptive, occasionally surreal, frequently darkly-humoured and musically anywhere but typically 'indie', TCCDTS is Microdisney's second album (after Everybody Is Fantastic) and a triumph from start to finish for all of the above superlatives. From the opening Horse Overboard (with the immortal lyric, "my wife is a horse...", sung with Coughlan's trademark Cork dialect), past the pin-sharp 'shoulda-been-a-massive-hit' single Birthday Girl to the album title-checking closer And, musical references include bar-room blues, sprightly jangly guitar-pop and downtempo kitchen-sink drama. Forget U2, Waterboys, Hothouse Flowers and other 'big' music from Ireland at the time, much of Microdisney's output stems from London and the North and cleverly marries easy-going music with character observation and social bite. For me, nothing surpasses what was the original closing song on side one.Are You Happy ? has a sad but erudite lyric and, at first listen, a straightforward enough hook-line. But it's the whole song that does it - dissection of its perfect 5 minutes, 29 seconds hardly does it justice. Look, just listen to the bugger. There's a line in it that goes "Streets shining morning/ whey-faced and shaken/the bus people argue/everyone sees you...". 'The bus people argue' - isn't that just the last thing you want to experience when life is being a pisser? Elsewhere, Genius is, well, genius and just about every other track could and should have filled up radio 1's schedules to the brim. Sadly, they didn't. John Peel was the exception to the rule - somewhat predictably, the band knocked out a few Peel Sessions, one of which is included here (from October 1984), alongside the two b-sides from the Birthday Girl 12". A far cry from the more mainstream but equally creative follow-up Crooked Mile and the material issued by the later confrontational post-Microdisney Coughlan vehicle Fatima Mansions, The Clock Comes Down The Stairs has aged well like a robust Irish single-malt with plenty to savour from the barrel in years to come.