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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Comets on Fire
Blue Cathedral
Sub Pop Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


October 1, 2004
Comets on Fire rock the fuck out, and when a band rocks the fuck out, we press types are always tempted to mirror the extremeness of their rocking out with our prose - hell, I've already tried and failed miserably with the opening of this sentence. You've read those reviews, though - the ones where the writer adopts the tone of the garbage-picking beat poet, railing on about debauchery and piss stains and natural disasters how those dudes behind the guitars are such miscreants or doomsday prophets or... Well, you get the picture. And I just can't bring myself to do that. I'm not even going to try to share in Comets on Fire's ragged glory, because shit, man, I just bought my Guided by Voices ticket the other day, and I'm probably going to listen to Radiohead or something after I get done writing this - in other words, I'm not even from these guys' planet. I can't even comprehend the physics of how one would go about kicking out the jams in this balls-to-the-wall of a fashion, let alone the emotional makeup involved. I just know that my scrawny, bespectacled English major ears haven't heard a better new release in quite some time, and with 2004 rounding third, I honestly don't know if anything will be able to top Blue Cathedral.

Of course, it's not like we shouldn't have seen this rock monster coming. The Comets' self-titled debut (originally an indie release, reissued by Alternative Tentacles last summer) and 2002's Field Recordings from the Sun kicked just as much ass only without the sweet distribution deal and the huge college radio push. The only real difference between this record and those records is the size of the audience; as a result, it's almost tempting for anyone who's been following the band over the last couple of years to merely recognize Blue Cathedral as more of the same and leave it behind in search of wankier, druggier things.

With any other rock band, that might be acceptable, but in Comets on Fire's case, the sheer power and depravity of their songs continues to demand any and every one's attention. Music this cartoonish and knowingly bombastic can never overstay its welcome when it's peppered with honest-to-goodness chops and vivid eruptions of Zappa-esque cracked genius. If the opening Harley's Angels convention stomper-cum-bong hit doesn't suck you in, then the follow-up, "Pussy Foot the Duke," certainly will. Rather than pummeling you with sped-up blues riffs and acid-laced tom rolls, "Pussy Foot" opens with a ridiculously regal piano line, and mutates into something so frighteningly pretty that you'll be scratching your head, asking how this could be the same band that was flaying the flesh off your ears a couple of minutes ago. Mangled guitar solos do poke through later in the song, but those over-the-top keys keep jumping back in and steering the tune clear of boozy dissolution, and by the time the song's over, you know that you've just heard one of the most triumphant compositions of the year.

Comets on Fire keep the curveballs coming with "Whisky River," a meteoric descent into the sort of smoldering, sax-soaked delirium that characterized the second side of The Stooges' Funhouse. It's probably the record's all-around strongest track, though "The Antlers of the Midnight Sun" comes around two songs later and makes a strong case for that title in its own right. "Brotherhood of the Harvest" is the requisite Syd Barret space-out, and along with the more subdued "Wild Whiskey", it sets the table perfectly for the final blowout, "Blue Tomb." This last track runs the gamut of everything Comets on Fire. It's esoteric, but it's also primal; it's stoned, but it's also totally tripping; it's immensely beautiful, but it's also ugly and raw like we think rock should be. It's so visceral and overindulgent that it eventually stretches out into prog-ish pretension, but it's so shamelessly ridiculous and overblown that it ends up feeling like man's basest motives carried out to their (il)logical extreme. It's so serious that it becomes silly and so silly that you can't help but acknowledge that you're having serious fun. It comes full circle, and in the process captures everything we love and even everything we loathe about the rock aesthetic. It's the capstone for one of the few recent albums that should still matter ten years down the road.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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