It seems the angry young man who gave us Microdisney and Fatima Mansions has finally grown up on his fifth solo album. It’s not that he’s suddenly found love, Jesus or scientology, however: rather Cathal Coughlan‘s rage seems to have dulled or condensed into a more universally acceptable world-weary dissatisfaction. Instead of the squalling guitars of old, he has instead embraced European cabaret. There’s no schmaltz here, however: instead it’s the grand drama and tension of Weill or Brel, and the style suits Coughlan’s languorous, fluid voice, which, like the man himself, has matured remarkably and perhaps surprisingly well: an Irish Scott Walker anyone?
Highlights include the mid-paced ‘Hemisphere’, a state-of-the-human rant disguised as slick pop, the ultra-catchy ‘Shipman Memorial’, complete with Coughlan falsetto, the jaunty ‘Avail’ and the tongue-in-cheek ‘Best Say We’re Not Serious’. Then there’s the sheer Flann O’Brien on peyote brain-fuck of ‘Terylene Ghosts In The Sunshine’, a spoken word astral journey invoking the spirits of Seamus Ennis, the River Shannon flowing across the Mojave Desert and a gallivanting Carlos Castaneda.
So it’s a different Cathal Coughlan, but still unpredictable, eminently capable of messing with your mind through both the lyrical dexterity of his couplets and the weird lucidity of his vision. Why he remains a hidden treasure after so long in the spotlight is anybody’s guess?