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Comets On Fire | Blue Cathedral | review | rock | Lollipop

Comets On Fire

Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop)
by Brian Varney

Comets On Fire are a band with a very good grasp of exactly what it is they do. The title of their last album, Field Recordings From the Sun, is as apt a description of their sound as anything. The band plays genuine, classic, echoplex-crazed psychedelic rock, but only as a modern band could, with a fury and aggression that could only be conjured by a band whose members are aware of punk rock. That's not to say they're a punk band, because they're about the furthest thing away from punk possible, but bands simply didn't play this crazily in the pre-punk days.

Modern spin or no, Comets On Fire have a very firm grasp on what makes psychedelia work, so they're able to take what could've easily been incidental music - or even worse, formless wanking - and they've made it muscular and captivating. No easy task for songs that are essentially instrumental jams.

A lot of the credit for making this happen goes to the excellent rhythm section, which leads the band and provides a solid platform that keeps everyone more or less in the same solar system, even when the guitars and echoplex are threatening to take off the gravity boots and try walking to Jupiter. When they're at their loudest and craziest (opener "The Bee and the Cracking Egg," "Whiskey River") they're as psychedelic as Piper...-era Floyd, as roaringly bludgeoning as Blue Cheer, and as tight as Zen Guerrilla.

When they decide to relax a bit, as they occasionally do on tracks like "Brotherhood of the Harvest," they also bring Pink Floyd to mind, but this time, it's the later, mid-period era albums like Meddle and the Live at Pompeii film. Things can turn sullen and creepy on these tracks, but these moments offer a nice opportunity to re-gather your scattered senses and realign your directional axes, a chance to settle down and start feeling normal before you get your head smacked off again by the following track.

I'd really like to witness this inferno live, but since the chances of seeing Comets On Fire live in Ohio are about as good as those of Syd Barrett knocking on my door and asking to borrow some canola oil, for now I'll have to be satisfied with Blue Cathedral which, I suppose, is probably a decent approximation of their live sound. I doubt any amount of studio trickery could produce something that sounds this utterly fucked, so I'll content myself with that.

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