Sunday, February 17, 2008

A good shoe to gaze at

Of all the bands that either played music that paved the way for shoegazer, and of all the bands on 4AD not to achieve some level of iconic status, the Pale Saints qualify as a really overlooked band. I should qualify that statement by admitting that I only own their debut album, The Comforts of Madness, but I've played it a lot in the 18 years since it came out. And it's one of those albums that stays near the turntable for about a week when it gets pulled out. Plus it has a kitty on the cover, as you can see here.
They were quite a bit more rock than many bands of that period on 4AD, but they had those pretty choir boy vocals over top of the charging wall of guitars. I also like the fact that almost all the songs segued together and that many had interludes of noisy chaos between the dreamy hooks. The best one comes after "Insubstantial," or as I like to think of it, "the first song on side two." It's an upbeat little number that melts into noise marked by a particularly abrasive caterwaul from the guitar that whines and whines and whines and gets under your skin. Then the slow bass line intros "A Deep Sleep for Steven" which is all shimmery guitars and voices, with the only percussion appearing on every fourth beat in the shape of a loud thudding drum.
The album also includes a cover of "Fell From the Sun" which I think Kendra Smith wrote for her pre-Opal band Clay Allison. It too has some great picked chords with lots of echo, and it climaxes in an echoey sea of Ian Masters's voice again.
Comforts of Madness was one of those albums where the song titles were never listed in the order that they ran, so there are still some songs whose titles I always forget, at least at first.

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