Comets On Fire + Sightings, 6/23 Bowery Ballroom
Sightings Download: "Dudes"
Comets On Fire Download: "The Antlers of the Midnight Sun"
BK kids w/ bare backs, noisebeards, and echo boxes never scare, charm if anything. But New York noise need not be wimpy. When they're on, Sightings terrify--three machos from afar bullying their instruments till the machines gasp their last, boasting big black muscles in places most lanks don't know anatomically exist (barring bio major lanks, and been-there no wave know-it-alls). Maybe rock's feeling pressure from rap to endanger again--maybe it should more often. Regardless, when Sightings drummer John Lockie took off his shirt midway through the set, it was probably because he was hot.
Noise rock, for all its snarl, has a head voice sometimes, and last night Sightings got caught in stuffy mids, the spacious-for-them Bowery unwilling to replicate Samara Lubelski's crystal-clear, highly separated mix from the band's last one, Arrived In Gold-- i.e. what made that record more than a Mars/Neubauten knock-off. For opener "Sugar Sediment", Sightings respected a fourth wall nobody saw but them, their sound coughing out from stage blunted, by incident. Guitars purred, and that's pussy (not Harry). Sightings realized this though, and with time they abstracted, leaning on beat to connect with a room increasingly enraptured.
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If for Sightings, Noise Was Real in the early 80s, Cali's Comets On Fire harken back to '66, '67 or so, when noise existed as a foil to big junky melodies-- to-the-heart riffs (raffs) cloaking their bravado in a forgiving miasma of effects pedals, fast drumming, moustaches. Thanks to FM radio, Led Zep and Hendrix still have This Is Rock&Roll cache (cf. every station's "Get the Led Out!" rush-hour jams and "What's For Hendrix?" morning shows). Which means for the first ten minutes or so, Comets' set could have easily passed as actual and gimmickless rock music, tough to do in a city where Sub Pop guitars change lives at industry fuckfests sponsored by Sparks or Ben Sherman.
Sparks is an upper though, and gimmicks keep us awake. Comet's shit came full blast and real for 40min, but the set lacked a plot, lacked a fantasy. Between drinks though, Comets sounded as good live as their last record Blue Cathedral, which sounded as good as a live Comets concert. Songs like "The Bee & the Crackin' Egg" and "The Antlers of the Midnight Sun" stopped just short of throttling, demanding more attention the louder and faster and noisier they grew. And those moments, however brief, almost made up for the audience's implicit frustration at missing the same-night Sleater-Kinney show they couldn't get tickets for.
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