Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It’s pretty hard to curb my enthusiasm when I’m frothing and spouting about this band, but I’ll try to speak coherently and in complete sentences. COME, to my way of thinking, continue to be criminally unheralded and forgotten to most. I have a habit of repeatedly going back to check my decades-ago favorites to see if they still hold up (for examples of this bold critical inquiry, check here, here, here and here), and every 6-8 months I throw the 1992 recordings from COME on the headphones and am re-blown away each time. This is one of the great guitar bands of any era, right up there with TELEVISION, CRIME and the motherfuckin’ MC5. “Indie guitar rock” bands were a dime a dozen at the time, and that’s perhaps why COME got quickly and unthinkingly lumped in with their Matador and Sub Pop brethren, & why I still see the genius debut CD “Eleven : Eleven” sitting forlornly in the used bins for $4.95. Whatever. There’s no accounting for taste. But let me try to start you at the start, and see if I can provoke a different reaction.

I didn’t want to call COME’s 1992 debut a “CD single” since “EP” sounds so much better, but I gotta admit the only way to enjoy this masterpiece – all three tracks – is with a laser beam. When I first saw this “Sub Pop Singles Club” as a vinyl 45, I got the band confused with another band called COMB and another band called CODEINE (who shared guitarist Chris Brokaw with Come for a short time), and passed on it. Then word got around that it was an absolute monster of whammy-bar manipulated guitar and raw, agonized tension release, so I heeded the call. “Car” was indeed as advertised : a dark, churning, boiling rock and roll wallop that set the pace for everything the band did subsequently (and except for “Eleven : Eleven”, was never equaled). Everything about it lends itself to the night, the later and darker the better – imaging this song being played at a July afternoon picnic is well nigh impossible. There’s a moment toward the end when the whole pounding wall of noise slows down into a sweet, gentle almost-coo from singer/guitarist Thalia Zedek (a woman not given to cooing), and the abruptness of the shift, swear to god, sends a chill every third time or so I hear it. And forgive me the hyperbole, but any real fan of music is gonna get those from time to time – no apologies necessary. Yet the song then explodes and crashes loudly one last time at the final phrase, “….don’t be afraid…..” and goes off into extended guitar jammery. When I saw them play “Car” live in San Francisco and San Jose in 1993 it was nothing short of revelatory, as were “Orbit”, “Submerge”, “Dead Molly”, “Fast Piss Blues” and their other ringers from 1992. Furthermore, “Last Mistake” is a great bluesy, angry, shape-shifting dirge, and the early version of “Submerge” is excellent but was slightly bested later in the year when it kicked off “Eleven : Eleven”. In all, wow – what a debut.

There are “5 used and new” copies of the “Car” EP being sold on right this very second, starting at $1.99. There’s your opening. You probably have that much sitting in the change cup, right?