Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Hear This 

The apocalyptic acid-rock attack of Comets on Fire

Wednesday, Dec 18 2002
Not much has changed since Iggy Pop first wailed, "It's 1969, OK?/ War across the U.S.A." Our government is still bombing the shit out of foreign countries, and the kids are still playing garage rock. But unlike today's more polished, '60s-derived musicians, the Bay Area freaks in Comets on Fire sound like they might actually have dwelled in the dark recesses of some suburban enclave.

Born in turn-of-the-century Santa Cruz, the Comets came together from such strange musical outfits as the Lowdown, Philistine Tent Revival, and the Exploding Crustaceans. While the group's bass/drums/guitar foundation offers plenty of fucked-up rock 'n' roll, it's Noel Harmonson's old tape-echo unit that truly pushes the quartet over the top. In the grand tradition of soundmen-turned-bandmates (see Roxy Music's Brian Eno and Mission of Burma's Martin Swope), Harmonson warps and refracts the other members' parts, raising a ruckus not unlike Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer playing simultaneously and at high volume. As Harmonson works his magic, vocal yelps fly around the room like careening bats, while one overamped guitar turns into a thousand caterwauling demons.

Comets on Fire's delay tricks would fall flat if the rest of the band weren't so inspired. The foursome's 2001 vinyl-only debut reveals that, underneath the noise, guitarist/vocalist Ethan Miller is a pretty soulful screamer, and the rhythm section of bassist Ben Flashman and drummer Chris Gonzalez (since replaced by Utrillo Belcher) can be thunderous. The act's new CD, Field Recordings From the Sun (Ba Da Bing Records), ups the Comets' acid quotient, incorporating bells and chanting into an all-out fuzz attack aided by guest guitarist Ben Chasney (from Six Organs of Admittance) and recording engineer Tim Green (of the Fucking Champs). But while the records are incendiary, Comets on Fire truly shines live. When all that noise coalesces, it's apocalyptic -- easily one of the rawest sonic experiences you're likely to find in the Bay Area these days.

About The Author

Glenn Donaldson


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"