Comet Gain

Living on Broken Record Prayers

Aug 27, 2009 Web Exclusive
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Comet Gain first caught my ear on their magnificent 2002 album Réalistes. It was a torrid, visceral Motown and Northern Soul-infused record, guided by an overriding aesthetic of recklessness akin to '80s indie acts, such as Orange Juice and Television Personalities. Anathema to anything remotely resembling careerism, the record tapped into an ethos of not allowing age to be an excuse to lose touch with the redemptive, galvanizing power of art and rock music. Such a philosophy has essentially informed everything they've recorded since.

After releasing their Kill Rock Stars swan song City Fallen Leaves in 2005, the band aligned with What's Your Rupture, the finest match yet for their decidedly outsider imperative. The recently released Broken Record Prayers collects sundry singles and ephemera from 1998-2008 (essentially the Mach 2 incarnation of the band after half the original members split to form Velocette), and along with Réalistes it's perhaps their finest record to date. Even though the band's become increasingly tossed-off and silvery with age, the tracks still percolate with a glorious élan, all frayed melodies, broken down instruments, and grizzled production. The hooks are buried like encrusted jewels on a decayed urn, something you need to rub away at compulsively before its ample beauty can be fully revealed.

As a tangential aside, in the liner notes to the recent Vaselines compilation album, critic Everett True likened the Scottish act to "that actor in all the David Lynch films that no one can quite remember the name of." Intentionally or not, he invoked the theme of Broken Record Prayers' opening number "Jack Nance Hair," a conflicted elegy to the late Lynch-favored character actor that laments his cult status while sending up his utterly fucked-up genius, a talent too inherently flawed, unrefined, and uncomfortable to infiltrate the public's consciousness. Which, not coincidentally, is a fine way to describe the off-kilter, casual brilliance that is Comet Gain.

Under the Radar caught up with frontman David Feck prior to a recent Brooklyn gig to discuss the past, present, and future of this gloriously ramshackle act, along with digressions ranging from the bizarre nature of Jack Nance's death, to the ignominious mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

It seems like you've gotten rougher over time, which is the opposite trajectory of what most bands do. Most smooth out the rough edges, but you haven't exactly aged gracefully, which I mean as a compliment.

David Feck: I think it's gotten looser over time. But I really don't know why that is. There's nothing miraculous about it. We've recently brought some maracas into it. But I would be really uncomfortable with continuing a band that played the same instruments, and that would therefore lead on to feeling you had to do everything else the same way, like make a record, tour it, nude photos. All those things and actually putting information on your MySpace about it.

But you've got great stuff on MySpace.

That's because [guitarist] John [Slade] does it. He has nothing else to do. He doesn't work. He puts very young pictures of himself on there. They're twenty years old. He couldn't make this tour and we miss him. He often turns the volume off on his guitar and just pretends he's playing it during gigs.

I was talking to Wyatt Cusick of Aislers Set awhile back and he said he'd seen you play recently and it was utter shambles, but he meant it as the highest compliment.

I've seen Wyatt bounce a crisps packet on his guitar for an entire song, so how dare he say that! But Comet Gain is basically five or six or seven or thirty people looking at each other worried, and just sometimes, somehow it all comes together.

Some of my favorite songs of yours seem almost dismissed, like "Jack Nance Hair" and "You Can Hide Your Love Forever." They were almost impossible to find until this compilation came out.

We don't know what the best songs are. We just do the songs. If someone asks us for a record, we give it to them. Like "You Can Hide Your Love Forever," our friend Sean Price [Fortuna Pop!] said give me a good pop single, and I lied and said I have a really good pop song for you. It's a pop song that references Orange Juice. And we did it in the studio, and it was just because we needed to do it. And there'll be another thing, like we recorded another single the other day, because that was the only song we could play, and it turned out all right. There's no planning. On the albums, the songs, there's a theme or something occasionally, but it's all just junk up in the air, and you never quite think about it.

You recorded this past weekend, correct?

At Gary Olson's studio [The Ladybug Transistor]. He's very easy to record with. A piece of cake. Too easy. We might work with him again soon.

What's happening with the songs?

We're giving them to Kevin Pedersen [What's Your Rupture]. Then he can give them to Sting to record if he wants to. Songs called things like "Fuck Your Mother." Maybe he can send them to Bon Jovi or something when he does a comeback and needs a new edge. [Laughs]

I wanted to talk to you about "Jack Nance Hair." I'd never heard it before the compilation came out, and it's probably my favorite Comet Gain song.

We recorded that twice, once for a single, and then we put it on an album [Tigertown Pictures] as "Jack Nance Rising." The stupid thing is that it was called "Jack Nance Hair." He's basically a symbol of something. Not a symbol, but he represents....

Recklessness?

Sort of. It's odd, I don't think I'd even seen Eraserhead when I wrote it. It just could've been Skip Spence hair, or Roky Erikson hair, these people dealing with and releasing demons and misery. Just that they tried their best, and all that kind of stuff and always struggled.

He died a really bizarre death from what I understand.

He was drunk and was punched lightly and died three days later, from some weird internal bleeding, probably because he was an alcoholic. He's one of these forgotten, lost people. He had a tragic life. He was on the phone with his wife apparently when she committed suicide. So yeah, that makes for a great pop song. It somehow managed to fail to make the top of the charts. [Laughs]

How's the tour been thus far?

It's been too long. Three dates. [Laughs] We're just getting over our jet lag, and it's time to stop. But Robyn Hitchcock's been following us around, he's one night behind us and catching up. It's sort of a metaphor for his career.

He actually played here last night.

Ah, he finally caught up to us. That makes sense.

Are you still living in France?

I lived in France for a while. I scared all their children, so I'm back in London. Check mark on France. But I do want to talk about London's Mayor Boris Johnson and all this bullshit he's doing. He's just bumbling around. He likes to refer to himself as BoJo. He was in Beijing and talking about how he's bringing ping-pong back to where it started in London. He's just not right.

So what does the imminent future hold for Comet Gain?

Sean from Fortuna Pop! is going to fund the new album. Well, we think he is. That should be the headline: "A million pounds for the new Comet Gain album and new homes for all the members!" It should be good, with the new songs. Unless it's bad, just really bad if it plummets downwards. Lots of songs, but let's just get through tonight for now.

www.myspace.com/thecometgain



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table tennis
September 23rd 2009
7:38pm

Hi, nice post, thanks

Vetka
April 17th 2011
11:31am

Thanks for the interview, read with pleasure.