North East natives Little Comets are managed by former footballer Ugo Ehiogu, soundtrack Radox adverts, and once enlisted a drummer from a failed boyband.
Despite that sentence appearing to be the nonsensical ramblings of the intellectually challenged, all three are indeed facts.
With such an oddball backstory, one could easily imagine such a band starring in some kind of fly-on-the-wall make-it-or-break-it documentary, where they stumble from one drama and dilemma to the next. Some kind of journey, making vacuous music throughout. On BBC3. Probably.
But the truth of the matter is, Little Comets’ reality is far removed from such a scenario; with one successful album under their belt they’re doing rather well, thank you very much. And rather than being some kind of quirky, indie-lite act, Little Comets aren’t afraid to tackle The Bigger Issues, and the enigmatically titled new album ‘Life Is Elsewhere’ is no different.
Look no further than the first single taken from the album, ‘A Little Opus’, on which the band take on Britain’s old school tie and crest political elite – a baton handed over by a certain Mr Weller of course. As vocalist Robert Coles relays the greed and sense of privilege of Britain’s most powerful: “You feel waiting in your position, better be on your own decision… it’s time for us to come take”.
Oft-labelled as ‘kitchen sink indie’ music, it is something of a misnomer for Little Comets. Instead of a Spector-esque (the incarcerated producer, not the band) wall of sound, or a range of exotic instruments, instead they rely on the standard two guitars, bass and drums combination. However, their Highlife influenced style bends the template of this indie setup somewhat.
So on tracks such as ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Bayonne’ we are treated to clean staccato guitars, high registered melodic basslines – almost acting as lead instruments throughout the verses; a scattergun melodiousness which if executed badly could sound like a cacophonous mess, but in Little Comets’ hands locks together tightly. There’s a communal technical proficiency evident throughout, and there has to be in order to pull this music off. There are no dirty, distorted sounds to hide beneath, and the notes-per-minute is exceptionally high for each and every instrument (although we’re not talking hair rock shredding here, breathe easy).
A case in point, is ‘Waiting In The Shadows In The Dead Of Night’, where fluid guitars seem to be in harmonious combat throughout, rising and falling together like an aural synchronised diving team building up to what is, simply, a killer chorus. And so is the template of Little Comets’ music. The jerky, off-kilter rhythms that characterise the verses give way to anthemic hooks in the chorus, another of which can be found on ‘Worry’.
With this Highlife style, possibly a descendent of Vampire Weekend (remember them?), it could be quite difficult to effectively vary the dynamics of the album. It works best when the joyful exuberance, verve and vigour carries the track at pace, but is less successful when the tempo is slowed down a notch. For example, ‘Violence Out Tonight‘ is one such track. It may seem a touch insensitive to criticise the track, and the reason for this will shortly be revealed, but the music just doesn’t seem to work. Where a flowing rhythm is needed, sparse stabs of chordal changes seem too far apart to glue the instruments together. As we’ve discovered, it’s as easy to get the music wrong as it is difficult to get right.
The subject matter of ‘Violence Out Tonight’ is very, very delicate and one that is rarely addressed in music. Although, come to think of it, is rather topical at the moment. This is Little Comets’ harrowing and evocative commentary on rape, delicately tackling grooming, the act, its aftermath and its “poor conviction rate”. Lyrically, it’s superbly and tastefully written, unlike anything since The Smiths’ ‘Suffer Little Children’ era, and the band should be commended for having the confidence to write the song, considering the potential backlash and deliberate misunderstandings of the press in this era of outrage in the UK. So, whilst the lyrical aspect is so commendable, it’s such a shame that the music beneath falls slightly flat.
It’s always interesting to try to see where a band may go next, and penultimate song ‘Woman Woman‘ may hold the key to this. It’s less jerky, more straight-ahead and definitely more atmospheric, with reverse reverb hanging from guitar strings like gossamer threads. One to look out for.
The story of Little Comets then, is rather zany. But the reason they’re successful is obvious. The band themselves and the music they create, is the polar opposite: it’s serious. There is substance to their sound and at one point they’re joyous, the next taking on the most troubling of issues to man.
‘Life Is Elsewhere’ is a good listen, but it’s recommended that you listen a little closer, Little Comets have something to say.