Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Oliver: The Fatima Mansions - Bertie's Brochures (1 December 1991)

Once again, a little research means that I've had to change the theme of a post on this blog.

When I first heard Bertie's Brochures, the title track of The Fatima Mansions 1991 mini-album, it caught my attention for the clear debt it owed Prefab Sprout.  The sophisticated lyrics, the sweeping melody, near lounge-lizard vocal style and the finely cut nature of the song - as stylish and chic as a bespoke suit, all seemed to point to a group that could trade blows with Paddy McAloon.  Cathal Coughlan's tale of a young lab technician's fight to continue his father's work is a thing  of ravishing beauty, despite the questions that the never revealed contents of the brochures raise.  Are they political?  Artistic?  Gay lib?

I was all set to write about how rarely it seemed that pop music so glossy and professional turned up on Peel's show.  This isn't music for the sweaty basement or the club, but for the London Palladium or an upmarket cabaret.  He had played Prefab Sprout in their Steve McQueen heyday, The Fatima Mansions were on the same label as Prefab Sprout - Kitchenware.  I was all ready to acclaim this label as the place to go for "gorgeous" pop - pop that's produced to just the right degree but which still engages the brain and the heart - and to anoint Coughlan as a true exponent of it when I heard some more of The Fatima Mansions work, especially their covers of some of 1991's biggest hits.  Theory promptly blown out of the water.

Reading interviews and articles about him and his work with Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions, words like "cynical", "twisted" and "nihilistic" cropped up endlessly.  I think I may have a new idol.

If only this had been No.1 for 16 weeks....

Prefab Sprout's Hallelujah - An example of "gorgeous" pop.

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