Subdued Psych-Rockers Can Still Cause Hearing Loss


Over three albums, Comets on Fire proved themselves the type of band that compelled you to check the volume on your Discman/iPod before pressing play. Their take on psychedelia paired standard, bright organ tones and meandering guitar lines, furiously stirring them into a dusty typhoon of whirring Echoplex delay loops and inscrutable, near-hoarse vocals drifting by in ghostly waves. Or, for the crowd that craves conciseness: The band sounds like entropy put to CD.

But on their fourth LP (and second for Sub Pop), COF adopt a more structural approach. In terms of sheer intensity of sound, it’s as if the Comets of old have been miniaturized and are looking up at you from inside a Grateful Dead lunch box. Frontman Ethan Miller’s voice is unexpectedly decipherable—surprise, he sings about relationships—and the tape machine has been shelved in favor of the Hammond organ. “Jaybird,” for instance, is more studied Yardbirds tribute than reverb-heavy hootenanny. Still, within this self-imposed architecture, COF show off their familiarity with a blues hook as well as a sepia-toned vibe. “Holy Teeth” reassures the loud-as-shit Comets of old still have their bite, but “Sour Smoke” proves they can write a subdued summer stomp, too.

Comets on Fire play the Knitting Factory September 8 at 8, $12–$14,