Comet Gain – Paperback Ghosts

CometGainPaperbackGhosts_535_535_c1Rating: ★★★½☆

I’ll admit it, I’m a little late to be jumping on the Comet Gain fan express, as they’ve been making records for the past 22 years and I am just now becoming acquainted with David Feck and company and their epic jangly indie pop tunes. I say epic because though they specialize in the jingly-jangly guitar that is textbook for indie pop, Feck brings in this heavy element of poetic narratives that pervades all of the tracks and brings it to a whole new level of detail. Paperback Ghosts is an exploration into love lost and the nostalgia that seems to haunt long after its disappearance.

It would be easy to dismiss this record as just jangly indie pop, when in reality it’s that and so much more. Yea, there are tracks that do this genre more than justice, like second up on the album “Sad Love and Other Short Stories” which begins with familiar angular electric and backing acoustic guitars while Feck spins tales of morose love tales, musing “what’s the saddest love of all?” and then offering his interpretation of what could be the answer to this question. His lyrics are quick and witty, giving you vivid images alongside the jangle pop. The words and vocals are mixed as equals to the instrumentation, making it clear where exactly your attention and focus should be. To finish it off you get some string arrangements that coat everything in a nostalgic bath as the song comes to its close. They give you quality jangle with other layers and textures that push it beyond.

While they give you solid tunes like the aforementioned track, Comet Gain also brings you the blues a bit, or some heavier tracks. On these numbers, the band digs in, and the guitars get a bit fuzzier and the synths more prominent. “(All The) Avenue Girls” brings in some female vocals and the old fashion organ-esque synthesizer that runs through the whole tune, and for some of the rest of the album gives it a timeless flair. End number “Confessions Of A Daydream,” is another example of this bluesy tinge, complete with gritty guitars and Feck’s vocals straying the furthest from where we first met him at the beginning of the album. We get the image of a disheveled frontman instead of a put together poet, but the imperfections of the song make it an interesting twist to finish the album.

Paperback Ghosts is an adamant testament to the talent of this man and the musicians that have accompanied him through the years to keep putting out relevant records of indie pop. It takes a lot to stay current, but Feck doesn’t seem too preoccupied at all with keeping up with the times, rather more with doing his own thing. It’s worked for 22 years and it has worked once again this time around; beautiful songwriting abounds and you have yourself a collection of deep tunes to spin around your office or house and really sink into. Let’s just say Comet Gain has made a fan out of me.

New Jam from Cineman Red and Blue

Our friend Kevin’s probably going to hate the fact that I can’t get over my infatuation with all things Comet Gain related, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for the band.  However, this track only features part of the group, as well as members of Crystal Stilts, so that should garner me some hipster cred, right?  The track below is from the Butterbean Crypt EP, which was released only in the UK on Fortuna Pop, but it’s still worth hyping one of my favorite songwriters, David Feck.  This track here is a lot more aggressive than previous works, and seemingly unites some of the Stilts psych tendencies.  Definitely a nice addition to the group’s brief history.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Walkin-To-The-Cemetery.mp3]

Download: Cinema Red and Blue – Walkin’ To The Cemetery [MP3]

Comet Gain – Howl of the Lonely Crowd

Rating: ★★★★☆

For years I felt like my adoration for Comet Gain was unjustified, as very few, if any, of my friends had even listened to the band. But, with the release of Broken Record Prayers, their singles collection, the group slowly seemed to gain ground with the masses; I say rightfully so. Now, we welcome the newest recording, Howl of the Lonely Crowd, which appears to have a two-sided story–one filled with jangling pop of the usual sort, the other slowing it down just to spread some introspection.

As a new listener, you can easily breeze right into the opening three tracks of the record, fueled with the usual bit of jangling pop and David Feck poetry.   Depending upon where your allegiance lays, you’re either going to adore opener “Clang of the Concrete Swans,” or its successor “The Weekend Dreams.”  Personally, I’m going with the former, as I love Feck’s affecting vocals, not to mention the stuttering guitar/vocals just before the 2.5 minute mark.  However, Rachel Evans has a sweet melody behind her occasionally raspy vocals, so “The Weekend Dreams,” will definitely get your attention.  What’s interesting in both tracks, and many that follow, is the production quality, which still sounds busy, but so much more clear than previous works, allowing the true spirt of the band to prevail.

Of course, Howl of the Lonely Crowd has that bit of forlorn love to it; it’s the kind of thing David Feck seems to have perfected.  It’s first appearance via slow jam comes in on “She Had Daydreams.”  For me, it’s the storytelling and the lightly brushed female vocal accompaniment that allows this track to excel, giving Comet Gain a new dimension they haven’t delved into thus far in their career–not much anyways. “Some of Us Don’t Want to Be Saved” is another such number, but Feck takes more of a spoken word for this track, allowing the guitar playing, which is lighter than usual.  The fact that such a song can win you over without ever really taking the typical approach this group has displayed speaks loudly to their fans, and hopefully to newcomers as well.

You’ll find that listening to all of Howl of the Lonely Crowd might paint two different pictures. You’ve got the pure pop moments of the opening tracks, not to mention the power-pop of a song like “Working Circle Explosive” (reminds me of CG circa Realistes), and then you’ve got these somber closers on the latter half of the record.  Knowing Comet Gain, as I think I do, you’ll have to realize they don’t take the typical approach to songwriting, especially when it comes to album construction.  For all I know, Feck and friends could have jammed out and recorded the first half, which is likely since songs featuring Herbert Huncke have been floating around for some time, then gone back and recorded the second half at a later date.  But, none of it really matters in the end, as no one’s going to write a better indie pop record than this group.  The more you listen to the lyrics, the more they suck you in, and the more you fall in love–which is how it should be with your favorite bands.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/03-An-Arcade-From-The-Warm-Rain-That-Falls.mp3]

Download: Comet Gain – An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls [MP3]

You can grab this from What’s Your Rupture now!

Still,

Comet Gain – Broken Record Prayers

Rating: ★★★★★

If you ask someone who their favorite British band is, most will throw at you something like Elbow or Bloc Party, but very few, if any, will mention the lo-fi group Comet Gain. The band, existing in some form since 1992 is quite possibly one of those bands that everyone will overlook for the duration of their lives, but they will miss some of the greatest songs written. Their most recent release, a collection of 7 inches, which comes to the U.S. as a full length is titled Broken Record Prayers.

As usual, the album relies on the interplaying vocals between Rachel Evans and David Feck. The opening song, “Jack Nance Hair” is the perfect exhibit, as the song begins with spoken word elements via Evans before Feck comes in to win your heart, and it will belong to him forever.

Most of these songs do revolve in that lo-fi bedroom quality that some people cannot stand, but the closeness created in this listening experience is completely intentional. Feck opens his tiny little world to you with every song, speaking to you, as if you were the antagonist to his every song. If you can manage the recording quality here then you will find some of the rarest gems, sure to be with your record collection until the end of time.

Surprisingly, the band has added some straight ahead rock tunes on this go round, like “Beautiful Despair.”  It’s a rollicking little number that stands out most notably for the throbbing bass lines rather than the clever guitar work that the band typically employs on the rest of their songs. “Love Without Lies” follows with more throbbing bass lines, and, what seems to be a dance number, done in the most intriguing of ways.

The benefit of a Comet Gain album is that they come out so rarely, and usually as a collection of 7 inches, that you get a solid number of songs. This particular album has twenty new tunes for every type of listener. Bedroom recordings of love and hate, as well as more upbeat numbers come in abundance. Sure, the organization of the album might be a little off due to the way each song was originally released, but you will not find a more perfect album. Surely this is a must have for every music geek.

As the winter comes into your windows, open them up for awhile and let David Feck’s genius blow on into your room. You’ll be happy you did.