Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Comas, 5.26.07, Mercury Lounge

By Charlotte Deaver

Rock and roll serves relatively elemental (but crucial!) sensory needs, through even more elemental (yet cruder) means: a few essential instruments, chords, and beats, a voice, a lyric, and about three to four minutes. Oh, and to make this happen, a few preferably young and cute guys are required. And now, FINALLY, so is at least one female band-member.

Photo Credit (Photo taken last January, 2007, at the Mercury Lounge.)

The Comas have this recipe down, with the latter ingredient its most primary. Nicole Gehweiler does for the band what Nikki Monninger does for Silversun Pickups (as do so many other women, too; I am simply comparing these two here because I saw the SSPUs recently and notice some vocal and other similarities). Nicole doesn't provide lead vocals for or front the band, nor is she a mere add-on. Rather, the guitar sounds and arrangements she provides are fully integrated into the band's overall sound. SSPUs without Nikki's bass? Impossible. Or, utterly different (just listen to "Waste It On" and tell me otherwise). And The Comas without Nicole? Persistent Vegetative State, perhaps? It would just be a different band. Tool vs. A Perfect Circle, for instance, or Audioslave vs. Soundgarden.

Photo Credit (Photo taken last January, 2007, at the Mercury Lounge.)

The Comas are fun to listen to because they have, yes, the right ingredients, but also the right attitude. Since emotional response is such a major part of the experience, whether live or recorded, of rock and roll, the band has to at least seem to convey what you think you like about them. So for me, The Comas are cool, but "happy-friendly" cool; they understand that rock and roll is fun and playful, but that you have to know what you're doing and be good at it; they love the genre for its dependable patterns, but also for its intricacies and range; and, just as importantly, they recognize that the genre cannot move forward without women who complete the musical picture, and not just the visual picture. Okay, I have NO IDEA whether they think these things or not. But I enjoy my fantasy. No, I believe in my fantasy!

What make The Comas distinctive are their airy, layered vocals and complementary guitar parts, which contribute to overall lushness of their sound. These filled-out arrangements lend a moodier, almost psychedelic feel to their music which is offset by crisply marked chord changes. As songwriters, they (Andy Herod, mostly) follow old-school patterns that emphasize melody and multiple-chord song structures. I can't quite place them, exactly, and I like that. They don't dress very well, either, and I like that.

At their show on Saturday night at the Mercury Lounge I was rockin' a little too much at too late an hour to pay attention to the set list, but I remember loving every song, including ones I knew, such as "Come My Sunshine" and "Red Microphones," and ones I didn't know, such as "New Wolf" and "Stoneded." All of these songs can be found on the new CD they're pitching and touring to promote, Spells. (Have it, love it!)

Photo Credit


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