The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
Ready For Landing - August 1983

I have a tape of The Comsat Angels doing an ecstatically received four track session for John Peel back in 1979. The power of their songs still shines through the crackling chrome.  

''It was good then, the songs weren't properly formed and we’ve come a long way since. We weren't really successful then, a lot of people wrote things about the group and people sort of heard the name.''  

Steve Fellows, vocalist and guitarist with the Comsat's, explains, digging even deeper into his memory after a grueling run in with Number One and a BBC session for Kid Jensen last night.  

''We wouldn't be where we are now if we hadn't done all those things. In those days we didn't really think about being successful, now it's a bit more important. Now we want something as opposed to not wanting anything in particular. Basically you want to get over to a lot more people.''  

The Comsat history and progression is well documented with three albums and a handful of singles in the racks courtesy of their deal with Polydor, but earlier this year that came to a rather abrupt end.  

''They dropped us because we weren't selling enough records, but it was a difficult situation. I don't really think that they knew what the strengths of the band were.''  

There were the usual problems with promotion that lots of groups seem to mention when taken under the wing of a larger company. Promotion was scarce and any spare cash was pumped into established projects rather than going towards breaking new talents.  

''They were a pretty conservative company and for them it probably makes more sense making sure that The Who LP sells X million copies. I can understand them doing that but where we were it wasn't much use."  

"That’s the difference between Polydor and Jive. Jive have got a sort of image and being very business - like and they try to give up all of their acts a fair crack....“ 

Jive, if you hadn't already guessed, is the Comsat's new label. When Polydor dropped the Sheffield combo, Jive moved in with great speed to secure their future output on a long-term deal.  

''If you look at it in a negative way, a band with three albums out who are looking for a new deal aren't really in a good position. But we got the new deal on the strength of new material, so, in a way that was really rewarding. It was like being a new band again, going for a new label with new songs and learning from the mistakes we’d made with Polydor.''  

The first fruits of this new union is the shape of Will You Stay Tonight?, a single which, while retaining their minimal style of song construction, features a more dynamic, confident, full sound. It's made a slight dent in the charts but realistically it's more of a taster for the first Jive LP, Land, which should see the light of day in the middle of September.  

''We took eight weeks to record the album and is the first record we've done that I can actually go home and listen to.  With the other records it was a case of expectations unfulfilled, but in this case it actually sounds right. It’s really because we took a bit more care, and there’s some objective feedback from a producer.   We'd always, more or less, produced ourselves before and things hadn't gone quite far enough but we’re still proud of those albums.''  

The introduction of Mike Howlett - his past record of working with OMD, China Crisis and A Flock Of Seagulls - has cleaned up and revitalized the sound.  

'' We didn't want to keep duplicating the sound of those albums. It was time to get someone in who could see the good things and use them properly. People could have become very comfy with the Comsat Angels sound and for ever and a day expected that kind of thing to come from us.''  

And there is a marked diversity in sound on the album. The hallmarked Angels echoey guitar and vocals is treated to an array of different styles and compositions which straddle everything from U2 and Simple Minds to New York disco without being trapped into any of those confines.  

''I can easily see this album offering several different directions for the future but that's good. After the second LP there wasn't much inspiration as to where to go next. When we were writing this stuff there was a definite feeling that we were doing what we wanted to, and not sticking within any expectations that people had from us.''  

Land certainly bears that out as the songs have taken on a different edge by not being stuck within any boundaries. The production too has made a big difference, letting out the bits that were hidden and strengthening the bits that were weak. 

The break with Polydor has done them good not only because they’ve found a sympathetic home, but it seems to have instilled a new lease of life into the group and the material. Steve reckoned each album was a crossroads, but with the variation of material on Land surely this must be the most important one in their career. The Comsats have a lot of roads open to them. Let's hope this time they take the high one.  

Dave Henderson

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