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Cathal Coughlan – Photo Credit: Gregory Dunn
Today Big Takeover the pleasure of welcoming back an underground indie legend to the music scene. An Irish singer-songwriter known for having an uncompromising mind and view of the state of the world, Cathal Coughlan, presents his first music in a very long time with the single ‘Song of Co-Aklan’.
In fact, this is his first new music in a decade, so we are excited to be able to introduce this track and its accompanying music video to you today.
In addition to being a superb composition, this song is also the title track to an album by the same name, which the post-punk stalwart has announced he will be releasing via London-based record label Dimple Discs.
The video for “Song of Co-Aklan” offers a certain visual feast created by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker George Seminara. Together, the video and audio material should have you – hook, line, and sinker – all the way in. It’s already apparent that there’s so much to look forward to in the upcoming long-play.
Best known as co-founder and vocalist for seminal 80s/90s bands Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions, who toured internationally with U2, the Cork native has been described as “the most underrated lyricist in pop today” by The Guardian newspaper. DJ John Peel was also such a fan that he stated he could “listen to Cathal Coughlan sing the phone book.”
Recorded in London, this song features contributions from Luke Haines (The Auteurs, Black Box Recorder) on bass and baritone guitar and members of Coughlan’s long-time collaborators for the Grand Necropolitan Quartet. Namely Nick Allum (The Fatima Mansions, The Apartments) is on drums and James Woodrow is on guitar, with synth by Audrey Riley (notable collaborator of Lush, The Sundays, The Smiths, Nick Cave, The Cure, The Go-Betweens, Smashing Pumpkins, Catherine Wheel, Moloko and Coldplay, among others).
Based loosely around the persona of Co-Aklan, the song is a perfect vehicle for Cathal’s return to active service. Propelled by his signature honey-throated tenor, the song is set to a crisp, metronomic beat, peppered with understated keyboard swells and the ghostly twang of nervy surf guitar. Cryptic word play rises to a rousing chorus that declares… ”raise your hands if you don’t know what this means.”
Cathal tackles some of the ills of society on this track, and more specifically social isolation/distancing in the video, which uses various computer and smartphone screens as the means to have each member perform for the video clip. Each player appears on the screen of a different device, able to play the song as one entity even though they aren’t in the same room.
The meaning of the video can be taken in many ways, including two diametrically opposed views; the first being that we aren’t really connected to each other unless we’re using some sort of technology to bring us together; the second, and more positive take is that we can connect with one another even when we aren’t physically/geographically close, through the use of technology… Ah, yes, a double-edged sword and one that Coughlan wields with ease.
Speaking specifically about the song and all it entails, Cathal Coughlan explains, “This winter, we are all in our cellars, real and metaphorical. Some of us are pumping out those comforting suppositions on the Internet of Nothings, some of us are sheltering from the incoming actual bombardment which is a by-product of convenient shopping, and of course every one of the latter is getting ready to board the HMS Prejudice to Dover, England. This song is a work anthem, on which we can all agree and reunite,”
On the video, he ponders… ”Why are the musicians now housed in cellars and box rooms? Where are their sound-stages and yachts? Do they not seem like exiles from times past, perhaps putting up overnight as they seek to outrun the vengeance of the common people, those noble citizens of somewhere pretty awful?”
The eye-catching cover art for ‘Song of Co-Aklan’ is by outsider artist Cristabel Christo and originated by Bruce Brand, award-winning designer for The Darkness and Whites Stripes.
Cathal Coughlan is widely considered to be one of Ireland’s most revered singer-songwriters, beloved by fans of caustic literate lyricism and erudite songcraft. Since Fatima Mansions’ demise in the mid-90s, he has released five acclaimed solo albums, taken part in an array of collaborations and made numerous guest appearances. Along with Microdisney bandmates, he was the first recipient in 2019 of Ireland’s National Concert Hall Trailblazer Award, which celebrates culturally important albums by iconic Irish musicians, songwriters and composers (for 1985’s ‘The Clock Comes Down The Stairs’).
‘Song of Co-Aklan’ is out now digitally, available across online stores such as Apple Music and streaming platforms such as Spotify. The full album by the same name will be released in early spring. It can be obtained on Bandcamp or via a number of other platforms
Nick Allum – drums and percussion
James Woodrow – electric & acoustic guitars
Luke Haines – bass guitar, baritone guitars, The Synth
Cathal Coughlan – Co-Aklan
Mastered by George Shilling
Cover by Bruce Brand & Mary Tee at Arthole
Front cover painting by Cristabel Christo, based in part on photos by Gregory Dunn / Stoneybutter
Composed and deranged by Cathal Coughlan
Also check out Coughlan’s previous ‘Rancho Tetrahedron’ album, released in 2010 with Grand Necropolitan Quartet.