Righteous stalwarts of the independent scene, Comet Gain have been ploughing their kitchensink- inspired furrow for eighteen years now. To draw the inevitable comparison, that’s twice the lifespan of The Beatles’ helter-skelter existence. Unlike The Beatles, however, they’re never going to change. Their brand of grainy monochrome 16mm punk rock vignettes might not be to your taste, but they’re right and you’re wrong. And look: here’s a new LP to prove it. It’s a bit like all their others. In the world of Comet Gain, artistic development is overrated; a phony ambition meant for combos less focused and single-minded than theirs.
So, what’s the angle? Howl Of The Lonely Crowd was produced by Edwyn Collins, The Cribs’ Ryan Jarman and former Clientele frontman Alasdair Maclean, neatly joining the dots between the band’s inspirations and those they’ve inspired. The fury and joy of early Orange Juice certainly springs from the jangling anger of band figurehead David Christian’s heftily wielded and questionably tuned Rickenbacker, and the album’s opening cut,
“Clang Of The Concrete Swans” shamelessly paraphrases the OJ debut platter in the line “you can’t hide your hate forever”. Edwyn must have been proud. Elsewhere there are numbers dedicated to beat writer Herbert Huncke (aVU-inflected stream of subconsciousness) and Fall/Blue Orchids keyboardist Una Baines (a brief post punk thrashathon with a so-dumbit’s- genius guitar riff), while lyrics acknowledge writers from William Burroughs to Mark Eitzel. It’s almost as if Christian throws these lines in to see if you’ve been paying attention. Of course, obscure cultural references and knowing nods are hardly new ground for the band; they’ve been digging the lost corners of pop’s back garden through the entire duration of what they would laughingly call their “career”. Naturally, all of this might be so much postmodern hogwash if it weren’t backed up with brilliant hooks, total passion, and a belief in the magic of pop. “The music will save you, the music will save you” they chant through “Thee Ecstatic Library”. You know that they believe every word. And they want you to believe it too.
You’d think that by 2011 Comet Gain would have become a complete anachronism. That might be true. It might even be their appeal. Yet they’ve never sounded more attuned to today’s sensibilities. They may still be lost in their world of books and films, and it may still take them five minutes to tune up between songs, but Comet Gain’s punk rock invective and rhetoric can still fire your soul and warm your heart. Some of us still burn. Harvey Williams