I first discovered Microdisney in the mid-90s in an 80s edition of Trouser Press. Descriptions like "smooth", "orchestral pop", "lush", "haunts the intellect", immediately caught my eye. However, I quickly discovered that their albums were criminally elusive and that finding them would require great sums of energy, patience, and money. I was first able to get my hands on the (downright pricey) import CD reissue of "Everybody's Fantastic." My income doesn't typically permit me to just shell out $25 for a CD I've never heard, but believe me, it was worth every penny.
Being a huge fan of 80s guitar-pop bands like the Go-Betweens, Smiths, Aztec Camera, etc., I was immediately blown away by the sharp, infectious, achingly pretty songwriting. Each song is a finely crafted melodic pop gem, and Trouser Press' descriptions of "lushly orchestrated pop" are entirely accurate. Guitarist Sean O'Hagan's playing never fails to send chills up my spine. His country-inspired, finger-picking style displays a sharp knack for melody that rivals Johnny Marr. And singer Cathal Coughlan's keyboards show a strong Brian Wilson/Pet Sounds influence, providing a lush, late 60s/early 70s West Coast feel that led some critics to brand them 'easy-listening'. Despite Microdisney's unique and visionary incorporation of these influences (which were seriously unfashionable in the early 80s), it all seemed to alienate potential fans.
Mature and accomplished, songs like the mellifluous and upbeat "Idea" and "I'll be a Gentleman," the gossamer, atmospheric "Liberal Love" and "Dreaming Drains," and the lilting, Nick Drake-ish "Dolly," contain hook after hook of irresistibly catchy and sophisticated pop. Any of these songs could've made Morrissey/Marr, Forster/McLennan, or Roddy Frame jealous.
But where Microdisney really stood out was what Trouser Press describes as their "sublimely seductive paradox". These smooth, breezy tunes are coupled with Cathal Coughlan's bleak, wry, scathing, and humorous denunciations of yuppies, knee-jerk right-wing politics, and anything else under the sun. This, coupled with the shimmering, beautiful music, only served to further alienate Microdisney from their contemporaries. Cathal was notorious for his public antics, like screaming "I am a d*ck" over a song until hoarse and red in the face; or selling t-shirts proclaiming "Microdisney are sh*%!" But, this clearly adds to their depth and serves as the perfect counter-balance to the pristine melodies. To appreciate Microdisney, one must appreciate irony and paradox. Morrissey and Marr are known for having achieved a similar kind of irony with their hook-filled tunes and sardonic lyrics; but Coughlan and O'Hagan pushed it much further.
Upon absorbing this stunning masterpiece, Microdisney were catapulted to my mental `top 5 best bands ever' list and I feverishly hunted down the rest of their albums. "Everybody's Fantastic" is the best of the lot, though "Love Your Enemies" and "The Clock Comes Down the Stairs" nearly equal its brilliance. Discovering "Everybody's Fantastic" was one of those life-altering experiences and it's a record I will never grow tired of. I *highly* recommend it to anyone with an addiction to beautiful, melodic, 80s pop.