The Comsat Angels were an English post-punk band from Sheffield and DoncasterEngland, initially active from 1978 to 1995.[1] Their music has been described as "abstract pop songs with spare instrumentation, many of which were bleak and filled with some form of heartache."[2] They have been credited as being an influence to later post-punk revival bands such as BlacklistBell HollowEditors and Interpol.[3] The Comsat Angels toured heavily in the UK and in western Europe, especially in theNetherlands. They also toured the United States twice.[4] Their music has been extensively reissued and recompiled since 1995 by various record labels.

Early history[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Named after the J. G. Ballard short story "The Comsat Angels",[5] the foursome's core lineup (lasting 1978–1992) consisted of:

They debuted with an EP, released in 1979, named "Red Planet".[6] This release attracted Polydor A&R man Frank Neilson and the band signed a three-album recording contract.[7] These three LPs – Waiting for a Miracle (1980), which included the single "Independence Day", probably their best known songSleep No More (1981) and Fiction (1982) – are regarded by some as their best, but only sold modestly.[8]

In their early years, the group shared live stages with bands like Siouxsie and the BansheesYellow Magic OrchestraDepeche ModeU2 (an 18-date tour in 1981), Captain BeefheartThe SoundWall of Voodoo, and Gang of Four.[4] In 1982, they performed two songs on BBC Television's Old Grey Whistle Test television program.[8] A U.S. tour in 1982 had to be cancelled after a week, due to Bacon contractingappendicitis.[9]

Jive years[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Having failed to live up to Polydor's expectations with the first three albums, the record label let the band go. They then signed with Jive Records and recorded Land (1983), delving into a more commercial, new wave-oriented sound. The album spawned the single "Will You Stay Tonight?" which met with some U.S. radio success.[8] Fifth album 7 Day Weekend (1985) also followed a more pop-oriented trend. However, it also failed on the charts, resulting in the band being dropped by a second record label.[8] Their single "I'm Falling" was featured in its entirety in the movie Real Genius with Val Kilmer.[10] The movie never released an official soundtrack, but gave the band perhaps its widest audience.

Change of label[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The band found a fan and supporter in Robert Palmer, who was at the height of his popularity at this point in the 1980s. Palmer saw to it that The Comsat Angels were signed to Island Records, and he executive-produced their next album, Chasing Shadows (1986) and even sang on one song, "You'll Never Know." This album's music is viewed as the band's return to their dark, brooding roots.[11][12][13]

The U.S.-based Communications Satellite Corporation threatened to take legal measures against the band for supposedly plagiarizing their name. Because of this, the band were renamed C.S. Angels in the United States.[9]

Dream Command[edit source | editbeta]Edit

For the follow-up, they talked Island into letting them build their own studio.[14] The band decided to try for AOR radio with their next recording, Fire on the Moon (1990).[8] The group changed its name to Dream Command for this record, likely because of pressure from their record label and the Communications Satellite Corporation.[15] Neither the band nor their label were happy with the album, which was released (in the U.S. only) in small quantities.[8] Few people in the UK even knew about it until the Comsats were mentioned in Q magazine's "Where Are They Now?" section.[14]

Second change of label[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Around 1990, they recruited Sheffield musician Nick Robinson as an additional guitarist. (He appeared on "I Wanna Destroy You", later released on the compilation From Beyond 2).[16] This was another turning point for the band, as they set about writing and recording new material on their own terms and finally hooked up with RPM Records (and with Caroline Records in the U.S.),[2] who then released the Comsats' 1979-84 Radio 1 (BBC) sessions as Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones. (The title was taken from a Samuel R. Delany short story).[17]

RPM released a new Comsats single, "Driving", and an album, My Mind's Eye, in 1992. (The album was released in the U.S. on Caroline Records, under the band name C.S. Angels, with two bonus tracks.) The music press praised the album, citing several current shoegaze-type bands (e.g., CurveCatherine Wheel) who were influenced by the Comsats' sound.[8] Melody Maker's review stated:

"My Mind's Eye could easily have been recorded by ghosts, such is the dexterity of The Comsats' approach and the haunted nature of their anguished restraint... Every snapping bassline and icebound guitar fragment has a place, a purity and a passion that chills... At the heart of their hurtling hailstorm lies Steve Fellows' punishing baritone. The man sounds like he's singing from a carriage on the soul train to hell, all sweat and worry as the songs rage around him like they've come for a debt."[8]

RPM also issued a Dutch radio sessions collection Unravelled prior to the release of the band's final studio album The Glamour in 1995. The Glamour was the first studio album to feature new members Simon Anderson and Terry Todd (who appeared on Unravelled)[8] after the departure of Kevin Bacon. The latter had had left to concentrate on production work at the band's Axis studio in Sheffield.[8] No singles were released from The Glamour, and several songs from these sessions (e.g., "Hyperprism" and "Evanescent") were only included on the 2007 reissue of the album.

Post-breakup[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Comsat Angels disbanded in late 1995 following UK dates to promote The Glamour. Steve Fellows released an instrumental album, Mood X, his first (and so far only) solo release, on RPM in 1997. He also began managing the band Gomez that year after discovering them.[8] He later helped the band Little Glitches, and was said to be working on a more traditional song-based solo album. In July 2008, he posted five songs recorded in the mid-1990s on his Myspace page.[18] The rest of The Comsat Angels regrouped in the late 1990s under the new moniker Soup, with new vocalist Peter Hope, but soon disbanded.[8]

Brief reformation[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Comsat Angles reformed for a gig on April 26, 2009 as part of the Sensoria music festival at the Sheffield O2 Academy.[19] They played tracks from their first three albums, including what many consider to be their masterpiece Sleep No More.[20][21][22] Mark Kermode introduced the band on stage, describing them not only as his personal favourite act of all time but as "the greatest band in the world." The band completed a UK tour of three cities (Glasgow, Manchester and London) during October 2009,[1] followed by a special hometown show at Plug in Sheffield on December 11, 2010.

Latter-day recognition[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The Comsat Angels' albums were out of print for years, but RPM Records had rereleased the first three Polydor albums on CD by 1995, while another British label, Renascent Records, reissued several of them in 2006 and 2007, adding outtakes and other tracks. Martin Gore of Depeche Mode covered "Gone" on his 1989 EP, Counterfeit. In 1992, Silkworm covered "Our Secret" as the B-side of their "The Chain" 7-inch single. Joel RL Phelps, formerly of Silkworm, covered "Lost Continent" on his 1999 album, Blackbird.

Jack Rabid, publisher of The Big Takeover magazine, has been one of the band's biggest supporters since the early 1980s.[23][24] Mark Kermode, film critic for BBC Radio Five Live, championed The Comsat Angels when reviewing the Ian Curtis biopic Control, stating that the Comsats were "the band that Joy Division should have been".[25] In May 2008, Kermode interviewed British poet Simon Armitage on BBC Two'sThe Culture Show and the two discussed their love of the band.[26]

Discography[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Studio albums[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • Waiting for a Miracle (1980, Polydor) (reissued in 1995 on RPM and in 2006 on Renascent)
  • Sleep No More (1981, Polydor) NZ No. 44, UK No. 51[27] (reissued in 1995 on RPM and in 2006 on Renascent)
  • Fiction (1982, Polydor) UK No. 94[27] (reissued in 1995 on RPM and in 2006 on Renascent)
  • Land (1983, Jive) (reissued on Connoisseur in 2001) UK No. 91[27]
  • 7 Day Weekend (1985, Jive) (reissued on Connoisseur in 2001)
  • Chasing Shadows (1986, Island)
  • Fire on the Moon (as Dream Command) (1990, Island) (U.S. and Netherlands only)
  • My Mind's Eye (1992, RPM/Caroline [U.S.]) (U.S. version has bonus tracks "There Is No Enemy" and "Magonia") (reissued on Thunderbird in 2001 and in 2007 on Renascent)
  • The Glamour CD/ dbl. LP (1995, RPM) (reissued in 2007 on Renascent as double CD)

Singles and EPs[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • "Red Planet" 7" (1979, Junta) (black and ltd. red vinyl versions)
  • "Total War" 7" (1980, Polydor)
  • "Independence Day" 7" (July 4, 1980, Polydor)
  • "Eye of the Lens" 7"/ dbl. 7"/ 12" (1981, Polydor)
  • "(Do The) Empty House" 7"/ dbl. 7" (1981, Polydor)
  • "It's History" 7" (1982, Polydor)
  • "After the Rain" (Remix) 7" (1982, Polydor)
  • "Will You Stay Tonight?" 7"/ 12"/ 12" pic. disc (1983, Jive)
  • "Island Heart" 7"/ 12" (1983, Jive)
  • "Independence Day" (re-recording) dbl. 7"/ 12" (1984, Jive) UK No. 71[27]
  • "You Move Me" 7"/ 12" (1984, Jive)
  • "Day One" 7"/ 12" (1984, Jive)
  • "I'm Falling" 7"/ 12" (1985, Jive) UK No. 90
  • "Forever Young" 7"/ 12" (1985, Jive)
  • "The Cutting Edge" 7" / 12" (1986, Island)
  • "Celestine" (as Dream Command) CD single (1990, Island) (U.S. only)
  • "Driving" 12"/ CD EP (1992, RPM/ Thunderbird)
  • "Shiva Descending" CD EP (1993, Crisis) (Holland only)
  • "Field of Tall Flowers" 12"/ CD EP (1994, RPM/ Thunderbird)
  • "The Cutting Edge" (version from Unravelled) CD EP (1994, Crisis)

Compilations and live albums[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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