Soulful, painful and melodic, Little Comets new album ‘Life is Elsewhere’ confirms the relevance of the hauntingly brilliant indie-pop band.
Last week I found myself up in the rafters of Camden’s Koko club grinding and body-popping to the honest lullabies of Robert Coles et al as they showcased the array of quality featured on their newest release. The band have received critical acclaim coupled with moderate chart and commercial success, leaving then in the ‘friend zone’ of modern music. After ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets’ flirted with the UK top 50 back in January of last year the Geordie trio would have been hoping to go one better with their second full length attempt, especially off the back of mass exposure via the medium of Radox’s television campaign and their involvement in the celebratory Olympic gigs at the start of the summer. The disappointing culmination for the infuriatingly talented threesome was the number 70 spot and seemingly a step backwards in regards to possible commercial success. Luckily for Little Comets ‘Life is Elsewhere’ is bloody brilliant and confirms all the positive characteristics attributed to the band by their devoted fanbase.
Right, lets start from the beginning as that seems to be the common theme with time nowadays, and the opening track ‘A Little Opus’. For what is fundamentally a political rant against elitism in the British education system, the song is gentle and thoughtful, providing a gentle nudge against the faults in academia rather than a lyrical brick through an imaginary window. The tone is consistent throughout, providing the calm walk down the tunnel needed before entering a packed stadium, the chorus slips seamlessly between the almost politely critical verses and leaves the track feeling like a safe choice, a muted yet mature introduction to the album.
The second track ‘Tense/Empty’ continues the unassuming opening, pottering along with a likeable jaunt and relatively catchy chorus. The track’s style, reminiscent of earlier releases ‘Tricolour’ and ‘Dancing Song’, is lighter than most of the album and helps produce a balanced compilation that plays well from beginning to end.
Having been previously released on the EP ‘Jennifer and Other Short Stories’, ‘Jennifer’ is well known already by Little Comets fans. The melancholy tale of a depleting relationship is somehow injected with enough tickling guitars and whimsical bridges that it eventually feels much lighter than it’s subject manner. A considerate and delicate track that is simplistic enough for a wider audience, ‘Jennifer’ ticks many boxes in regards to a successful indie-pop song and although Rob, Michael and Matthew have created more powerful and intricate pieces, tracks like ‘Jennifer’ may be the way forward in regards to landing chart success.
Onto track four and a genuinely brilliant number, ‘Bayonne’. Again a song based on the complexities of relationships and their inherent difficulties, ‘Bayonne’ tells a tale of young love and the pressures it brings. Robert Coles tells a painful tale of “Too much too young” and manages to convey the internal confliction brought on by bearing the weight of commitment with a genuineness that is rare in such a plastic industry. The song bounces along gently, providing an accomplished platform which holds the depth of the lyrics perfectly without smothering the sentiment.
Another song enjoying it’s second release after featuring on the 2011 EP ‘Worry’ is ‘Waiting in the Shadows in the Dead of Night’, a catchy tune that brings the album to life with a upbeat chorus, clattering drums and excitable guitar licks. Seemingly a tale of love and commitment which touches on the fragility and the relatively transient nature of existence, ‘Waiting in The Shadows in the Dead of Night’ is a melodic, pop-enthused track that switches effortlessly from delicate verse to animated chorus, leaving a track which is poignant yet lively.
Best not to get carried away with the excitable jig at track five however, as ‘Violence Out Tonight’ will smother all of your new-found positivity with a audio pillow that leaves you depressingly reflective within five minutes. A song of rape, domestic violence and isolation ‘Violence Out Tonight’ is a tragic tale that is respectful, considerate and humbling in regards to the subject matter. Robert Coles’ desperate tones do their best to project the utter deprivation of the unforgivable acts, the muted guitars and soulful backing vocals also support the sombre lyrics which hold a stunning depth. A masterpiece that few will hear and even fewer will genuinely listen to, ‘Violence Out Tonight’ is a track that highlights the power in the musical medium.
Onto the second half of the album (If you’re still with me) and ‘The Western Boy’. A track which, as always, is poetic and emotive, ‘The Western Boy’ has a tough job sandwiched in-between ‘Violence Out Tonight’ and ‘Worry’, but still manages to impress with it’s somewhat Eighties chorus and unassuming backdrop. The quality of the track would deserve headline status on most indie-pop albums but somehow finds itself as almost a filler in amongst the absurd talent surrounding it.
‘Worry’, which also unsurprisingly featured on the EP ‘Worry, is yet another track of troubled relationships and stressful lives. One of the more lively tracks on ‘Life is Elsewhere’, ‘Worry’ manages to hold an upbeat tempo and joyful tune whilst discussing the decomposition of a once loving bond, pausing briefly in it’s style to depict the lifelessness of a woman’s smothered body. The tumbling licks and shuffling drums retain the tracks momentum, retaining the song’s maintaining and making it one of the most infectious tracks on the album.
Next is arguably the weakest track on the album ‘Semaphores on the Lawn’. Although again only poor in relation to its company, the track is somewhat subdued and contains neither the contagious musical structure nor the marriage of emotive lyrics and delivery found on most Little Comets numbers. The banality of the track fails to act as respite between two giant numbers, a job that ‘The Western Boy’ and ‘Tense/Empty’ manage with ease, and it’s weaknesses are instead exposed by its noisy neighbours.
Competing with ‘Bayonne’ and ‘Violence Out Tonight’ for track of the album is the incandescent ‘Woe’. Another song which touches on sentiments of a broken Britain and political division, ‘Woe’ manages to somehow lift the soul whilst reminding us of the soci0-economic problems we face. Many don’t believe in the process of rolling a turd in glitter, but if it shines as much as ‘Woe’ then personally I’m in full support. Energetic, buoyant and feel-good, ‘Woe’ combines light trickles of lead guitar, understated bass and rhythmic drums into a three minute pick-me-up that, as of yet, hasn’t left my subconscious.
Penultimate track time and unsurprisingly its another belter. ‘Woman Woman’ is a slow and whimsical track with a chorus strong enough to grace any indie-pop album of the last decade. A pulsating number with an inclining beat, ‘Woman Woman’ is a simplistic track that relies of the vocal talents of Robert Coles more than the majority of Little Comets songs in a style reminiscent of ‘Thunder’. Coles’ gentle yet moving voice conducts the backdrop as the beat swirls with his vocals, the track is an encapsulation of the elegance Little Comets usually only allow fleeting glimpses of. Simply stunning.
Here we are, finally, after a long battle with your concentration level, at the final track of ‘Life is Elsewhere’, ‘In Blue Music We Trust’. The second calm, controlled bookend on a turbulent album, ‘In Blue Music We Trust’ is a subtle track that gently draws the curtains on three-quarters-of-an-hour of musical magnificence. The track appears to be a personal confirmation of ones place in society, a belief in a path even when others question it, and surely there is no better way to surmise Little Comets, a band that have a quality and a class that is yet to reap the rewards that are so greatly deserved.