Comets On Fire
Some bands change "organically." Comets On Fire started as a pair of friends getting together. Soon they added a drummer and guitarist. That they later, and rather creatively, expanded their sound and eventually adding another member was all just part of the growth progression.
Guitarist/vocalist Ethan Miller and bassist Ben Flashman were longtime Santa Cruz, CA, friends. The idea was to create sonically and rhythmically intense music. To make that happen they recruited guitarist Noel Von Harmonson and expressively wild drummer Utrillo Kushner.
Two years after the group's formation, Comets On Fire released their self-titled full-length debut in '00. This primitive recording was intense, if nothing else. So in a way, half their goal was achieved. Moving to another indie label (life with indies in tenuous at best) COF issued another self-titled album and "Field Recordings From The Sun." For this effort the group used several outside musicians. One of those was guitarist Ben Chasney who eventually became a member.
Comets On Fire raised their profile significantly when they signed with Sub-Pop. Though not a major label, the famous indie imprint had a major's connections and distribution. And after all, they were once the home of Nirvana. "Blue Cathedral" hit next with "Avatar" arriving two years later in the summer of '06.
2001 Comets On Fire
2002 Field Recordings From The Sun
2004 Blue Cathedral
The Yardbirds were never in the same league as The Beatles or Rolling Stones. Yet in their heyday, the mid-60s, they were very influential, especially with other musicians. Once Eric Clapton left and the more adventurous Jeff Beck was installed, the Yardbirds began experimenting with an eye toward expanding Rock's horizons. For some reason, this undertaking resonated strongly with American bands like the Seeds, Count Five and Standells. Though briefly popular, these bands, lacking Beck's acumen, often sounded wooden and repetitive but incredibly energetic. Eventually, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and even Punk used this music as a touchstone and so do Comets On Fire.
Another COF trait originally emerged during the same era. Many early '60s Folk singers found themselves in late-60s Rock groups. As songs and arrangements became harder to come by, band members indulged their Folk tendencies. COF, from Santa Cruz, were less than 100 miles from San Francisco, the last known nexus of the universe, so it shouldn't be surprising that there are times when they sound like Jefferson Airplane circa "Crown Of Creation," the Dead and early Spirit (yeah, they were from L.A. but guitarist Randy California was pretty trippy).
If the marketing people at Sub-Pop had their headlights on they would sell a couple hits of acid or a hash pipe with every Comets On Fire CD. The psychedelic jam band, welcome to the Fillmore West" feeling permeates both Sub Pop efforts. "Blue Cathedral" has "Whiskey River" and "Antlers Of The Midnight Sun." Both are relentless noise excursions. The dreamy organ and guitar based "Pussy Foot The Duke" and "The Bee And The Cracking Egg" are a bit more accessible. "Avatar" continues that inclination with the opening tracks "Dogwood Rust" and "Jaybird." These two songs are prime examples of the "Yardbirds meet Spirit" direction. Because some members of Spirit were fairly knowledgeable Jazz musicians the group regularly employed unconventional (for Rock) chord progressions. "Jaybird" uses the same technique. On "Holy Teeth" COF shows they can still produce a ton of sound. Interestingly, the ballads, "Hatched Upon The Age" and "Lucifer's Memory" prove they know a thing or two about composing songs.
"Comets On Fire" and "Field Recordings From The Sun" raise the puzzling question of why did anybody, let alone Sub-Pop, ever let these guys into the studio again? The albums, which often sound like they were recorded in the back of a dank club on a two track cassette machine have little going for them except the psycho-freak out factor, and even that wears out quickly. If there is a desperate desire to waste money, go with the better of the two, "Comets On Fire."