The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
Chase The Angels

The Comsat Angels make music for my heart, filling me with moments of pure joy under a veil of sadness - at times stark - often uncompromising. They trade in a wonderland of greyness - a hinterland of Soul, tingling with emotion - concise and never overstated, temporing aggression with a true passion that gives their songs a jangling harmonic edge.

The Comsat Angels come from Sheffield - a city of steel, football and cricket - a City of urban decay that like so many others channels its youth into queues of dereliction - their only escape to become football or pop stars. There are also those who chose a  musical route away from convention and boredom that panders little to the desires of faceless ones gargantuan appetite for instant and disposable stars, one such group of individuals are The Comsat Angels.

"When we started the group we were very idealistic, I suppose we still are, but we've learnt a few things.... This period could be regarded as stage two of the group's career. Stage one started in January 1979 and ended in November 1982 - it's the part where we put what we've learnt into use. What have we learned? Well.... That extremes are only part of the story and that in order to be understood you must use language that everybody understands (not only words) however what you say is a different matter. We've learnt to reserve the right to do exactly what we want, all rights reserved, you read it here, in black-and-white!" 

As you can see they hold strong almost stubborn views that quite likely hindered rather than aided their progress from the young raw group of Waiting For A Miracle, their debut album, to the finely honed modern stance of Land their most recent album offering. 

To say in all that time that they had written many a classic song would be no understatement - from the early Eye Of The Lens, Total War and Independence Day through the mid period Dark Parade, Its History and (Do The) Empty House right up to the current Alicia, A World Away and Mr Memory, the Comsat's have grown in stature and ambitiousness dabbling recently with more commercial, even funk influences - sleazy but still as dark. While this progress has been going on they have lost none of the panache and haunting power of their earlier days, even so they did go back and re-record Independence Day for the Land album.

"We were never very happy with the first version and when Mike Howlett, the producer on Land, suggested doing it again we thought it might make a good 'b' side or something. However it turned out so well that we decided to put it on the album. We were concerned that people might think that we didn't have enough new songs but that was obviously not the case. You'd be surprised how many people thought Land was our first album and who hadn't heard the song before anyway."

As you will have noticed the band are now using producer Mike Howlett of OMD, China Crisis and A Flock of Seagulls fame, a sign, at least to me, that now they are with Jive they have been under a little pressure to make their material more accessible.

His changes, have been, thankfully, very subtle - a little rejigging of arrangements - they are less sparse with more emphasis on the soulful voice of Stephen Fellows plus some cascading interplay between Fellows guitar and the now more prominent keyboards of Andy Peake

To my great relief that powerful backbone of the Comsat songs from Mik Glaisher's often demonic drumming and Kevin Bacon's fluid bass playing remains largely unchanged keeping the band in a territory miles away from Howletts more plastic creations with the others under his control. All these changes come about as a result of a parting of the ways with Polydor after their first three albums.

"We could not agree on terms for the 82/83 year with Polydor. We wanted to stick to the terms of our original contract with them, but they wanted to change, so we parted. Luckily Jive records had always been interested in the group and we were able to work out a deal without too much discomfort to either party."

Jive as it turned out were a natural choice for the Comsat's as that company is part of the larger Zomba group and managed the affairs of the band for some years - producer Howlett also being part of the same stable, so the band's revival after more than a year in the wilderness was pretty much a clandestine affair. 

It seems that the Comsat's have never really had much good luck - early attempts at conquering the USA were met with a hail of hassles, firstly with the communications satellite incorporated, a company who claimed the copyright to the name Comsat, & threatened to injunct every promoter on the band's tour. There was some heavy big brother overtones to the whole affair as the company seemed to know well ahead of everyone else, including the band, where every gig was to have taken place. Eventually the band got around the problem by rebilling themselves as CSA only to have to cancel the tour after only a few dates when Kevin was hospitalised with appendicitis. 

Despite being the champions of one or two journalists the band have also had a rather rocky relationship with the media -

"We continue to ignore what they say about us whether its good or bad. We know when we've done a good or bad gig - and so do you. The worst writer's attempt to put themselves between a group and the listener and just create confusion. I don't know about anybody else but I don't need someone to tell me what's good and what isn't. It's all a matter of taste of course, but some people would have us believe otherwise."

So what now of the future - well, by the time you read this, with a bit of luck, The Comsat's will be riding high in the frantic 40 with You Move Me, a brand new song currently out on 7 inch and 12 inch. It has the finer qualities of old plus a fair sense of dance, indeed the band are generally coming out of their cocoon and getting on to the dance floor insidiously invading our minds with spartan dexterity. In a few months' time there will be a new album and another tour - most of which is being kept under wraps for the moment - meantime you could do a lot worse than discover the quite hypnotic image of the Comsat's on any of their albums be a devil and chose the Angels.

Brian Guthrie
Unit 47 Fanzine 6/84
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