Agony Shorthand

Friday, March 14, 2003
THE MOST UNDERRATED RECORD OF THE 90s…..Would have to be the masterful 1992 LP/CD Eleven: Eleven from Boston’s COME. I had sung the praises of this one, their debut, in my own 90s publication Superdope from the time it came out, but I’m beginning to think maybe it’s just one of those a-little-too-indie records that’s not ever going to grab a lot of future play in the hipster cognoscenti. Fair enough. It’s not “punk”, it’s not D.I.Y., it’s definitely not “obscure” (it came out in wide release on Matador), and wow, it’s even got a girl on lead vocals and guitar. What’s so special about it? Well, along with its companion 45 “Fast Piss Blues / I Got The Blues”, Eleven: Eleven has got just about everything you’d ever ask for in a dark, dynamic, aurally gripping twin-guitar record, and then some. Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw, I believe I said in an earlier piece I’d written on this record, play like “fraternal twins of different mothers” – their ability to interlock and hone in together on a bleak, spiraling, whammy-bar dominated “solo” is just unreal. No, it’s not the blues, hype to the contrary – it’s rock and roll, baby, among the best of the past two decades. They claimed in an interview to take their influences from "…the Rolling Stones, Gun Club, early British bands like the Only Ones, the Go Betweens, the Bad Seeds, These Immortal Souls." And it’s telling just how far Come fell from grace after their rhythm section of Arthur Johnson and Sean O’Brien left the band, following this record’s (great) follow-up Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The subsequent Near Life Experience was like a collection of weak demos and b-sides compared to the previous two records, lacking all the hard-hitting, tight propulsion of its predecessors.

Eleven: Eleven even feels like a concept record (though I doubt this was their intent), as it is sequenced perfectly, from the scraping, burrowing-out first track “Submerged” to the careening, out-of-control finish “Orbit”. (the CD tacks on the aforementioned 45). Zedek’s raspy vocals are angrier and her lyrics just as “poetic” as Marianne Faithfull’s justly heralded Broken English, and her band’s twenty times more energetic and aggressive. I’m not sure what production techniques were used to get that thumping drum & shimmering guitar sound, but it helps keep some kind of order in what is constantly threatening to descend into madness. When I see Eleven: Eleven sitting forlornly in the priced-to-move bins at the used CD stores, I drop a small tear for Thalia, Chris, Arthur and Sean. They deserve far better, as they created a stone cold masterpiece in 1992 that I hope will be recognized as such by more folks in due time.