A collection of record reviews & music-related ramblings
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The Comsat Angels - Fiction
Fiction (1982) **1/2
Following the oppressive heaviness of A Great Cure For Insomnia, the Comsats make a 180 degree turn into a shocking lightness. By which I mean production and instrumentation - lots more space in these arrangements (ah, finally some breathing room) - not necessarily the emotional tenor, which is as sullen and gloomy as ever. The combination of sleek, lightweight musical presentation and oppressively sad moodswingery makes for a startingly odd, and not altogether unpleasant, emotional affect. However, that's the nicest thing I've going to say about this album. Once again, the Comsats offer a richly, lovingly textured album of grace and beauty that's long on atmosphere and short on memorable songs. Oh, it's not as if they aren't penning choruses and littering their songs with elements of hooks - slowly, they're returning to songcraft after the excessively layered texturecraft of the previous album - it's just the choruses are a bit too repetitive and the songs themselves so lifeless: there's no energy to any of them. This has the feel of a transitional album, as the band stakes out a new style halfway between the gothy post-punk of their first two albums and the shiny synth-pop they'd spend the rest of the decade pursuing. As such, it's the last half-way decent album they'd ever release, before completely selling out and morphing into a poor man's Flock of Seagulls. Guitars still float around prominently in the mix, even if synths are slightly more prominent and drum & bass are once again the clear dominators. As I said, the sound itself is pleasant enough, it's the songs that are problematic - way more inconsistent than they need to be, and frankly after the lead-off single, "After the Rain," (its self-conscious brightness and lightness a meta-commentary on how, musically speaking, they've emerged into the sunshine from the grey, dark thunderclouds of Sleep No More?), this album takes quite its time in getting going. Boring song, boring song, boring song....hey, "Juju Money," is nice'n'moody! Cool brooding chorus, fellas. Some more boring songs to wade through, and the album only truly wakes up near the end. "Pictures," isn't much to speak of - musically, it's as dull as most of the rest - but it gets by via the sharply detailed lyrical theme of ripping up photos from a failed relationship and burning them in the fire. "It's History," the final track, is a fine little pop song on similar theme, and "What Else!" the second-to-last track, is to me the album's most successful track, with its dynamic upbeat arrangement almost making it peppy (in a surly, moody way, of course).
Anyway, this may or may not be my bidding adieu to the Comsat Angels' ouvre, depending on how much of a masochist I am: like I said, starting with the next album, they were so desperate to sell out that they made A-Ha look cutting edge, and the rest of their '80s output is for all purposes and intents worthless synth-pop dreck. Oh, and I should mention one bonus track on the reissue, "Mass," which is completely out of step with the rest of the album's sound - it sounds like an outtake from the Sleep No More sessions, which it undoubtedly was.