With Little Comets set to play at Fibbers next week, Unknown remembers their Leeds performance with George Dabby’s impassioned review. We look forward to hearing them again in York.
Able to transcend strong cult followings, they may also achieve fame amongst the masses
Britain holds a special seat at its high table of national music for bands prepared to contemplate social Darwinism, crisis in Darfur, or even just incorporate words such as taciturn. Some are afforded gigs in front of tens-of-thousands of people at Glastonbury, others a couple hundred at a university bar. Able to transcend strong cult followings, they may also achieve fame amongst the masses. The music is often deeply personal and resonates strongly with its loyal followers while offering enough in gratifying bass lines and catchy choruses to be appreciated nationwide.
If The Smiths were incumbent of this seat in the 1980s, the Little Comets are worthy replacements for the 21st century. However, such musical alignment is fraught with controversy and, despite a déjà vu moment listening to the opening of hit song Jennifer, which bore close resemblance to the great guitar riffs of Johnny Marr, thereafter the comparison fades.
Fades, but only to the roar of the Comets unique brilliance; their own sound, their own indignant lyrics critiquing a world even more tumultuous than the one Morrissey ostracized thirty years ago. Performing at Leeds University Stylus, which one friend aptly described as a ‘rich man’s Courtyard’ (for University of York readers), the three-man band from Newcastle opened without fuss to “Worry” from their second album, Life is Elsewhere; a remarkable achievement. Bouncy and up-tempo choruses sparked an impromptu mosh pit and the crowd appeared to forget this was just a moment of melodic respite from the despairing lyric: “her silhouette…bleaker than a cigarette…the lethargy in both her eyes”.
I had wondered whether the gig would simply present a reel of their more preppy songs, but these songs are themselves a guise. “A Little Opus” is a beautifully constructed critique of private education and limited opportunities:
I’d rather starve
Than become a member
Of your old boys club
Than see the ascension of the Bullingdon
Because I want to breakthrough
A tired addendum
To working hard
Shrouded under remarkably fast rhythms and bright cascading chords you forget what you’re dancing to. So much so that when I was pointing my finger at Robert Coles in a sign of complete artistic approval at his product, I may have been better turning the finger onto myself and questioning my own upbringing.
But that’s not their style either. There’s no communication with the audience beyond the music, no reproach or preaching, not even an encore to my disappointment. One gets the feeling Robert wouldn’t walk off stage, expressing abhorrence at the smell of meat as Morrissey did; a discrepancy between The Smiths and the Little Comets that we can appreciate. No bold exhortation here. The music speaks for itself.
It is hard to imagine the Comets making it to superstardom with their current product. Not for a lack of quality, but a rawness that displays an unwillingness to stoop to the banal. For all their upbeat numbers, one cannot escape the sobering effect of songs like “Violence Out Tonight”:
As they step into the dark
Only moonlight hides his treason
And the shadows skip like sharks
Through the gasps of air between them
She says: “Becalm your hands boy I thought
restraint was now your sentiment of choice?”
But as his fingers strike her blouse
All the words that he espoused
Lie deftly scattered on the ground amidst
the buttons he’s torn open
It is sung with just the accompaniment of a single keyboard and the simplicity lends it the greatest resonance. We wait pleading for her agony to end so we can return to the happy melody, but it sends out the right message: take us seriously, listen to us, then we’ll get back to the hits.
True to their word, the mood returns and we are soon moshing again. An elongated version of “W-O-E” and “Adultery” leads onto the finale everyone has been waiting for, the prescriptively titled “Dancing Song”.
Robert, his brother Michael and drummer Matt depart the stage as they entered it, no fanfare, and no pretences. But they need none anyway; it has been a sensational gig from a band challenging the boundaries of indie music with flair and sincerity. The good news is that they’re back in Yorkshire on March 6th to play at Fibbers in York, tickets to which are now available online.