Cathal Coughlan

Cathal Coughlan

The Sky’s Awful Blue

Stop, Pop and Roll

Cathal Coughlan sings in a booming baritone that may remind you of Brad Roberts from Crash Test Dummies. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only thing about this record I’ve heard before.

The centerpiece song, “Amused As Hell,” uses a dream-pop backing to make some well-observed, if slightly tired, observations. It’s about the tendency of people from the West to fixate on distractions and ephemera, and a reminder that the “non-sovereign nations” hate us — in part precisely because we have leisure time to focus on such things. At this point, anyone who doesn’t know these things hasn’t been paying attention. But I don’t like songs that point the finger without accepting some of the blame; Coughlan is, after all, asking listeners to give up some of their time for his song about how Pop Culture is something to be afraid of. If only he hadn’t done it in a pop song, and one that seems so free from self-knowledge.

Yet, The Sky’s Awful Blue is at it’s best on this song too. I’m not saying Coughlan is wrong about these things, and he says it very well in cynical verses, such as:

“Tonight there is a party for a perfume called ‘Despair’ there’s been a revolution in women’s underwear.”

The rest is notable mainly for showing an interesting singer/songwriter somewhat stuck in a rut. A former member of Fatima Mansions and Microdisney, Coughlan seems to be one of rock’s bitter, biting footnotes. Which is fine, but more indisputably great songs would make him harder to beat in that department.

Still, many people will like this a lot, especially if they are the kind of people who enjoy thinking darkly to themselves about how the rest of us are just sheep and how superior they themselves are, and, pardon me, can I bum one of your super-hip black death cigarettes?

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