Comet Gain are one of the most underrated contemporary indie bands in the UK. Although in the 16 years since their inception they've never made major waves outside the DIY indie community (although those waves stretched far and wide-- the band is also well-loved in the U.S. and France), they have gained a fierce following of music lovers who seem to share their passion for Orange Juice, Anna Karina, old typewriters, George Orwell, Dexys Midnight Runners, and, above all else, vinyl. Like their riot-grrrl peers (guitarist Jon Slade was a founding member of Huggy Bear), this band doesn't distinguish art from life, and has stuck to its collective passion at all costs-- namely, relative obscurity. As the photograph on the cover of Broken Record Prayers states, in black marker scrawled on the back of a woman's hand, "Dreams Never End". This is Comet Gain's motto-- a dogma that has been declared throughout the years by vocalist/guitarist David Feck, and which they act on wholeheartedly.
It's been four years since the release of their fifth album, City Fallen Leaves, so Broken Record Prayers, a "collection of A- and B-sides, new songs, session tracks, and stray dogs recorded between 1998-2008" is a timely and carefully filtered introduction to their discography. Impressively, these disparate songs flow together with bright, energetic fluency-- a difficult task for an archival project such a this. "Young Lions", "Emotion Pictures", and "Tighten Up!" are taken from a 1997 Peel Session, while a couple of their best tracks, "You Can Hide Your Love Forever" and "Beautiful Despair", were once available on limited vinyl only. Perhaps the most powerful of these early singles is the opening track, "Jack Nance Hair", which was originally released on journalist Everett True's now defunct Mei Mei label. A semi-spoken declaration of purpose, Feck takes turns with fellow vocalist Rachel Evans to comment on the importance of "going home and listening to records with stained sleeves" and "getting back that fire and making your feelings known." Its message burns with urgency: "Believe in art/ Believe in yourself/ Contradict yourself."
All Comet Gain fans know what a special band they are, but this 20-song collection, lifted from half a dozen different releases, really brings home all their accomplishments over a lengthy and productive career. As sometime member Chris Appelgren (also of The PeeChees and The Pattern) astutely comments, the band is "messy, sweet, and tipsy." On Broken Record Prayers, there are echoes of Northern Soul ("Love Without Lies"), Felt ("Books of California"), and, of course, their obsession with Orange Juice leaks between every crack. They also bring their gawky magic to covers of Curtis Mayfield's "Hard Times" and Dena Barnes' "If You Ever Walk Out Of My Life", which is wrung with sorrowful lamentations that exquisitely fit the band's self-propelled image as romantic revolutionaries.
One hopes that this excellent compilation will help shine a light on Comet Gain's escapades. Whether it does or not, you can be sure that the group will continue on the path they've set for themselves, recording garage pop in their London apartment, fueled by red wine and stories of heartbreak and adventure. As Evans affirms: "Together we stand and feel stronger and braver for it/ Young, free and single/ Like the crack in the 45/ That makes the guitar snap all night/ And in the morning it starts all over again."