The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
Land / Will You Stay Tonight / Independence Day Reviews
Sounds 20/8/83 Down To Earth


It's due to their relative anonymity that The Comsat Angels have largely remained something of an enigma, although a well documented one.  And this new alliance with Jive finds them confident but perhaps still slightly cautious.

There doesn't seem to have been any great upheaval in their scheme of things - certainly the sound here is more precisely commercial and the songs are accordingly done more justice, but ultimately Land is a logical continuation rather than a startling re-evaluation.

What does astonish me is a refurbished - but hardly revolutionised - Independence Day - their now somewhat ageing mini-classic of several years back.  It makes a bemusing return, to little effect other than to underline the comparative lightness of the new material.  It's soaring vocal lines are still magnificent, but the vital spinal ingredient it contains is noticeably lacking from the rest of the album.

Independence Day throws too much of side one - apart from the potent, atmospheric Nature Trails - into it's shadow. 

Side two is different: happily, they stop coasting and start driving.  They move with ease from the pulsing, sparse electronics of Mister Memory (ignore the hideous title!) to the taut climax of As Above, So Below, revealing a much greater scope than is apparent in any of their previous work.  More significantly, they leave a wide array of options open for future use.

The achievements of Land are not awesome.  It's simply a quiet re-affirmation of The Comsat Angel's abilities.  They can be tender, powerful and commercial at moments without degenerating into the role of a slick pop commodity.  For the present, fears of irrevocable bland-outs can be safely dismissed.

The trouble, basically, is the inherent modesty of this music: although it's impressive, sometimes it seems almost afraid to break out and search, more content to probe and explore possibilities rather carefully.

Will You Stay Tonight is a great pop single; A World Away and I Know That Feeling show that The Comsat Angels are equally capable of stretching into other areas, using elements of rock (without becoming needlessly brash), disco and electronics sparingly and successfully.

But although it's enticing, Land fails to deliver all I expected.  For a fourth album, it's strangely incomplete and less than satisfying.  Maybe they're too conscientious for their own good: whatever the case, further developments will have to be awaited. 

Robin Gibson

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