“Did you enjoy the magical mystery tour?” enquires [a]Cathal Coughlan[/a] politely. Some things are sent to try you, but when you spent years in Microdisney and then the Fatima Mansions for little reward, one more tribulation scarcely matters. The venue that Coughlan was meant to play – The Water Rats – has had to close temporarily, forcing his devotees to trek across north London.
Still, he doesn’t seem too put out, and tonight even hints at a new-found sense of normality. The clattering avant-garde distractions of Fatima Mansions have been dropped, and in their place are fragile melodies and polite folk minimalism. All of this normality, though, might just leave you hankering after some fractious noise.
Or it would, but for the timbre of his voice. Sometimes he booms like Nick Cave in ‘Murder Ballads’ bloodrush, occasionally he intones like a gentle spoken book, but whether he’s making the East End a lawless frontier on the western-tinged ‘Ghost Of Limehouse Cut’ or digging into his past for the funereal ‘The Big Lukewarm’, it’s matured, resonant and rich. This gig might represent the powering down of a maverick talent, but as long as that authoritative voice remains there’s hope he’ll finally get where he wants.