Microdisney 39 Minutes
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In many ways Microdisney exemplify the difficulties facing any band who feel that they have something valid and non-conformist to say but are also driven by a desire to bring that vision to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. Within those terms of reference, 39 Minutes may be a definitive offering. Certainly, it is by far the Micros' most polished effort to date, slick and streamlined yet much harder and more direct than last year's Crooked Mile which, on reflection, sounds rushed and strangely incomplete. The melodies are as comforting and reassuring as a familiar fireside and a bottle of well-aged malt - but what separates Microdisney from the Johnny Hates Jazz' and even Prefab Sprouts (with whom the Disneys have more in common than one night think) of the world, is the lyrical bile of Cathal Coughlan. "You've got dreams and I've got dreams", he sings on 'High And Dry' and his unwillingness to lie down and write a few nonsensical ditties and let the resultant ackers exorcise his troubled spirits must be the cause of great consternation when Virgin's annual accounts are totted up. On 39 Minutes both Mr. C's dander and muse must have been up extremely early in the morning as the targets are spread wide and none - but none - are missed with as vicious a verbal volley as is conceivable in 'mainstream' pop. And yet, no matter how many times Coughlan twists the knife, there's always a flowing melody courtesy of Sean O'Hagan to soften the blow, which continually drags the listener back to the songs and ultimately prolongs the public humiliation of the target. Taking lines of lyrics out of context is not something which becomes these songs as Coughlan treats each track as an entity rather than stumbling upon a snappy couplet and working backwards and around it to arrive at the finished text. The subjects tackled encompass tabloid harassment ('Singer's Hampstead Home'), the devaluation of the media ('Bluerings'), cultural imperialism ('Herr Director') and the pernicious influence of colonialism ('Send Herman Home'). The latter is one of the album's standouts as a perfect impersonation of a well-known Northern political figure leads into a razor-sharp rhythm track, O'Hagan's guitar-playing leading you to think that the lad grew up in Memphis rather than Cork, and the mid-section features a tap-dancing solo which mutates into the sound of stomping jackboots (incidentally, the tap-dancing/jackboots solo is credited to Eugene Terrablanche and John Hermon… naughty boys!). Off the wall, playful and hurtful, 'Send Herman Home' is arguably the best song Microdisney have ever recorded. Whatever fate ultimately befalls Microdisney, be it chart acceptance or the dreaded epithet of 'cult status', there can be no remotely convincing argument against the assertion that they're making some of the best and most provocative pop music ever to have emanated from this country. 39 Minutes catches them at their very best.