Howl of the Lonely Crowd represents the fruition of the affection with which Comet Gain are held: recorded and produced variously by British musical icon Edwyn Collins, Ryan Jarman of The Cribs, Brian O’Shaughnessy (My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream) and Alasdair Maclean of The Clientele, who also contributed guitar. With added input from Matthew Sawyer (The Ghosts), Helen King (Shrag), and a blast of Terry Edwards’ (Spiritualized, Gallon Drunk, The Tindersticks) legendary trumpet on the rousing mod anthem “The Weekend Dreams”, the record captures a band fully in their stride and able to realise their full potential. As Feck remarked on being given access to the full range of Edwyn Collin’s studio with its vast collection of guitars: “they (the guitars) look great and were played on great records, which I tried to channel in that way a tribesman would eat the brain of his smartest enemy – though I didn’t eat any part of Edwyn.”
Suffused with longing, love, and defiance, Howl of the Lonely Crowd documents and dissects this English melancholy with a rare self-assurance. On ‘Clang of the Concrete Swans’ the band chase Robert Forster down Carlito’s Way with its ‘no exit signs’; and end up broken and clinging only to the exhortation to ‘find the forever in who you’re kissing.’ Across the record the band are given free rein to display the scope of their talents, effortlessly segueing from the devastating Fall-esque barrage of ‘Working Circle Explosive!’ (The Fall’s Una Baines is paid homage to on a separate eponymous track) to the cascading keyboards and tenderness of ‘An Arcade From the Warm Rain that Falls.’ Elsewhere we find Feck in character as Herbert Huncke (“a poet, bum, a majestic junkie”), channeling the seediness of the Velvet Underground’s New York, and as the regretful balladeer on ‘After Midnite, After It’s All Gone Wrong.’ The songwriting here is of the kind that only Comet Gain can really pull off - perfectly pitched evocative pop, redolent of all that is rich, gorgeous, and uncompromising about the meeting between punk and sixties soul, and imbued with a particular streak of violence and urgency which the band have now refined into a complete and elegant aesthetic (‘I can love someone, can’t I? Even if it kills them?’ sings Evans on ‘Ballad of Frankie Machine’).
Howl of the Lonely Crowd is the soundtrack to lives spent dedicated to seeking out the outposts of pop culture, an immersion that asks no reward beyond the music itself. On this record, with the patronage of their esteemed friends, acolytes and collaborators, we find one of the most treasured and exhilarating British bands around in full realization of their creative capacities.
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