Album Review: Little Comets – Hope is Just a State of Mind

By on Wednesday, 11th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

While some artists are perfectly content staying in the same exact place musically, album after album, there are some artists who are not so easily satisfied. From when they began, Little Comets’ releases have gotten progressively more personal and also profoundly political. As we all know, sometimes the most honest music doesn’t find popular success because it says things that others are afraid to say. And goodness, who would *ever* risk alienating the record-buying public? ‘Hope is Just a State of Mind’, released next Monday, sees the band being their most outspoken yet.

Since the second LP, both Rob and his brother Mickey have become new fathers, and this album begins with a reminder of how the two of them have entered a new phase in their lives. LP opener ‘My Boy William’, named for Rob’s young son, has a bouncy rhythm matching well with lyrics embodying pure love and a hope for a bright future from father to child: “there’s more to this than meets the eye my love / don’t drown your dreams stay true but / try as I might / there’s much to learn and much to sow my love / but try as you might”.

Self-described sea shanty-styled ‘B & B’ is the poppiest one of the bunch, which might come as a great shock, considering the song was written in response to Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapp’s Tweet about a reducing a tax on bingo and beer. This social media misstep has been viewed by many as patronising towards the working class. In one in a string of many blog posts he has written to explain the origin of Little Comets’ songs, Rob clarifies that ‘B & B’ came out not just from the distaste of this one Tweet from a clueless MP, but also from thinking further about how Thatcherism destroyed the North East. Clearly, Little Comets are not going to be Cameron’s favourites anytime soon, but one has to give these Geordies props to put their political opinion out there. Quite possibly the best part of this song is the a cappella opening, showcasing the trio’s tight harmonies that aren’t called upon as often as I would like.

‘Effetism’ is a searing examination of disgraced American Olympic cyclist Lance Armstrong, a beacon of hope for the ill and impaired until his deceit was discovered. The lighter than air guitar line seems to reflect Armstrong’s own laissez faire attitude towards his crime, as do the words, “everyone was gushing but you never did blush / bawdy implication was it part of the rush?” Another difficult topic previously tackled on ‘Violence Out Tonight’, violence against women, is again approached on ‘Wherewithal’. The smooth r&b feel this track and bird-like guitar trills belie the failings of the police to adequately respond to domestic violence, as expressed so well through its words, “I can’t trust you anyway / I can’t trust you anyway / On the tip of your cap is a badge / semper vigilo: you never ever did that though”.

The nostalgic and seemingly simplistic ‘Formula’ recalls the band’s earliest days, bashing out attempts at making pop music in a cold garage. Essentially, the environment in which they make music hasn’t changed, but the surprising addition of their original drummer Mark Harle on the song makes for an unexpected, if temporary reunion. ‘Don’t Fool Yourself’ sees the band embracing cool funk; it’s another catchy number and a welcome addition to the Comets’ arsenal.

Some of the choicest cuts from their most recently released brilliant trilogy of EPs – ‘The Gentle EP’, ‘Salt’ and ‘The Sanguine EP’ – have also been included here, which will be a great discovery for those unfamiliar with the North East band’s work. (For those already fans, listening to the tracklisting from start to finish will be punctuated with familiar gems. Which is never a bad thing.) Thinking about both the melodic whimsy and anti-establishment industrial clanks of ‘Little Italy’ (video here) and the emotionally wrought portrait of child abuse in ‘Salt’ allows one to fully appreciate the two ends of the spectrum of Little Comets’ talent.

And then we come, sadly, to the end. ‘The Blur, the Line and the Thickest of Onions’ was described last year by Rob as his protest against songs that mean absolutely nothing, pointing to them as symptomatic of a society that have become too comfortable with the status quo. “I’m an onion, peel my layers back” is a good way I think this band views us, the fans: multi-dimensional human beings capable of feeling profound things and absorbing profound thoughts. Lyrically and instrumentally, Little Comets show us time and time again that they’re willing not only to push the proverbial envelope, they also have confidence in their listeners to be thinkers, to embrace something different.

Mean something to someone. And this is what Little Comets do.

8.5/10

‘Hope is Just a State of Mind’, the third album from Little Comets, is out next Monday, the 16th of February, on their own label The Smallest Label. For more on the writing of and the meaning of their songs from their own Rob Coles, visit the blog section on their official Web site. They start a new UK tour in 2 weeks, beginning on the 23rd of February in Nottingham; all the details on the tour is this way.

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