By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Those who wander the demo-strewn caverns of Local Band Hell soon learn not to trust much of what crosses their desk; instead, they come to rely more on word of mouth. It's with great interest, then, that around a year or so ago note was taken of first one, then a couple, then an avalanche of comments about Comet, most along the lines of "hey, these guys are pretty good; you should check them out." Words like these are worth their weight in unsolicited cassettes.
Even though their first demo, a four-song EP that came out in 1994, wasn't all that well-produced, there were still abundant hints of what would be. Sometime around the mid-'70s Robert Fripp and Brian Eno worked on a guitar-generated effect they called the "Skysaw," a broad, roaring noise like the tearing of a great piece of fabric that planted the seeds for the next 20 years of British guitar bands. Comet, though by no means derivative, continues that tradition--a band's sound not a series of overlaid patterns but rather a continuous, fluid roar with an almost piping quality about it that recalls post-Fripp/Eno mileposts like The Teardrop Explodes. The musical current can be widened or constricted, hurried or slowed, but a current it remains, a measured part of a greater flow.
"Rocket Flare"--reprised to much better effect than on the '94 demo (along with "Day at the Races")--comes from the harder, more howling side of Comet's sound, while numbers like "She's a Mastermind" are slower, traveling along the same road as distinctly American contemporaries like Luna. On "Mastermind" in particular strings lend a dreamy, drifting feel grounded by the warm sax part that accompanies them; despite a spacy vibe, Comet's instrumentation always sounds as if it were played by humans, avoiding the sterility that sometimes dogs bands who try to leave the Earth's atmosphere. There's still plenty of evidence of the machine age, however: check out the underwater sonar-echo that starts off "Birds Are Little Dinosaurs" and then alternates with peals of guitar thunder.
This is one of those albums where the lyrics seem almost problematic compared to the music, but there's a druggy sense of detachment that permeates the entire album, from the title (implying flat-on-your-back contemplation of the ceiling) to lines like "Riding the backs of the fireflies/Gives me the feeling of Gemini" or the request for a "chandelierish sky/the kind that revs me up inside," both from "American Flyer." Julian Cope would feel right at home. All of the songs sound as if they're being played beneath a vast and vaulting sky and impart a sense of size wholly appropriate to Comet's ambition; like the band itself, the songs on Chandelier Musings seem to be well on their way to horizons thousands of miles distant.