Comet Gain has always eluded recognition. Despite almost twenty years of crossing aggressively, fuzzed-out punk with a raw infectious UK pop and a book-bag of poetic twee, the London outfit is still often left out of conversations over a pint on seminal UK indie-rock. There’s no real explanation for being underrated. A little too British, too earnest, too many laments of quarter-life directionless are some of the filed complaints. Mostly Comet Gain hasn’t suffered from the blinking cursor of the critic but more from simply being ignored.
The indie-rock lifer that founding member and primary vocalist David Feck is, though, the outfit has persevered regardless of recognition or not. The hard work has paid off a bit too. A retrospective was released a couple years ago via What’s Yr Rupture? and was warmly received. Then with their sixth full-length Howl of the Lonely Crowd, Edwyn Collins was enlisted for production, proving that maybe dreams really do never end (and sometimes even come true) as the cover of the band’s 2009 Broken Record Prayers contemplates.
On the band’s latest release, Comet Gain comes out swinging on opener “Clang of the Concrete Swans,” with its driving beat coupled by a clash of squealing organ, clattering guitars and back-pocket paperback lyrics as Feck demands that “howling hearts be heard!” Followed by “The Weekend Dreams,” the energy is maintained, trading in Feck for the female angst of Rachel Evans and slather of garage punk. “An Arcade from the Warm Rain Falls” finds the five-piece embracing its inner Felt with nostalgic laments of warm rain in empty, evening parks. As the lead guitar kicks up the high-end interlacing with a wailing organ and violins to put everything in emotional hyper-drive, Comet Gain caps off a trifecta of twee-pop gems.
From there things start to stumble. “She Had Dreams” is a throwaway, acoustic teenage song of love and heartbreak that we’ve heard a thousand times. Evans takes over vocal duties for the noisy, loose punk offerings of “Yoona Baines” and “Working Circle Explosive” that do little to separate themselves from full-time female-led, fuzz-box contemporaries like Dum Dum Girls or those three Vivians. Feck returns later, though, as more of an aging, nostalgic bore this time with the too long “After Midnight, After It’s All Gone Wrong” that slips deep into dark pools of sentimentality and rhyme with lines like “Don’t forsake the memory ache.” While “A Memorial for Nobody I Know” attempts to take on neglected UK peers The Clientele with spoken-word verses and a delicate plucking piano but overshoots its mark and ends up just down the block from MOR easy-listening
“Thee Ecstatic Library” momentarily finds the rails and chugs along like a Modern Lovers classic as Feck proclaims his love for record-collecting (“the music will save you/even the sleeves that they’re in”) with fun pop-timism, the rest fails to find the effortless groove of the album’s openers. Instead, with Howl of the Lonely Crowd, Comet Gain will likely continue to lack recognition. Perhaps proving that the group work better in compilation form than in full-length albums, which might be not so bad of a fate for such a hardworking, under-loved five-piece.