Wild Mercury Sound

The fearsome end of Comets On Fire

John Mulvey

Should we believe the rumours tonight, this is the last gig Comets Of Fire will ever play in the UK. If that's true, they've found an enterprising way to make us remember, by searing an echo of the gig on onto our eardrums forever.

That's the way it feels this morning, anyway. The Comets have been a mild obsession of mine for a few years now, so much so that I rather creatively cooked up an entire new psychedelic scene to hang round them in a piece for Uncut last year. A very good CD came out of it - the "Comets, Ghosts And Sunburned Hands" sampler. But fervid hordes of longhaired noiseniks did not, it's fair to say, invade the mainstream as a result.

Who gives a toss about that, when the music is so good? Last night at the Scala, the Comets were on particularly tempestuous form though, to be honest, I've seen them better. I hate to sound like a lightweight, but they were just a bit too tempestuous here, with Noel Von Harmonson's FX and the distortion cranked up so loud that it smothered out pretty much everything else.

And God, it was loud. Almost painfully loud. The support act was Part Chimp, something of a neglected national treasure, who play a kind of protean sludge rock so crude that it makes early Sabbath sound like the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Part Chimp are also, though, among the loudest bands in Britain. So we were well prepared.

Or we thought we were. For a while, though, I could barely hear what the Comets were playing, with their old Hawkwind-gone-hardcore material turned up so loud that you could only just make out Utrillo Kushner's flailing drums and, occasionally, Ethan Miller's hoarse wail.

The story seems to be that Miller is folding Comets to concentrate on this other excellent band, the Creedence-freakout outfit Howlin' Rain. At times, tonight, as Comets fly a little too far out of control, it seems a wise decision.

After a while, though, it starts to make a bit more sense. I'm not sure whether someone sorted the mix out, or my ears just adjusted to the brutal environment. Suddenly, I could actually hear the guitars, and all that reverberant noise became more anchored. The turbulent blues-rock of "Avatar" moved a little more into focus, and I remembered how much I love this band. And how much, today, I'm suffering for them.

On the subject of music that's too loud, by the way (I feel faintly ashamed banging on about this), there's a great piece in the new issue of Uncut by David Cavanagh, who uncovers a lethal trend of mastering CDs at unfeasible volume, losing much of the tonal range and dynamic in the process. It sounds a bit techie, but it's a fascinating read. Have a look and, as ever, let me know what you think.


Editor's Letter

The Fourth Uncut Playlist Of 2015

This week's big distraction has been what appears to be a crazy number of early Aphex Twin tracks accumulating on Soundcloud (I've added the link below). Among the new stuff, though, please try Bop English; the new solo project of James Petralli from White Denim.