Little Comets: Back .. and Fourth

  • Little Comets
  • Koko, London
  • Thursday 16th March 2017

The North-East’s finest return to play a headline show at Koko in Camden to showcase their brand new album ‘Worhead’.

As I roll my eyes at the support act for this evening’s performance singing about “kids in love” backed sonically by a load of synth tosh, completely lacking in any kind of bottom end or even a whiff of rock ‘n’ roll (remember that kids?!), I manage to let go of my grumpy old man cynicism for one moment, to realise that this is exactly the sort of ‘class of 2017’, partially pubescent, millennial, generation Z demographic that need to hear the lyrics of one Robert Coles.  In actual fact, we all are in need of a sermon from ‘Reverend’ Coles.

At a time when global politics is taking a further slip down the rungs of the fecal matter-covered ladder every minute of every day, the ‘yoof’ need some direction in a world leading badly by example, in addition perhaps to a sometimes badly needed slap (metaphorical or otherwise) to dispel the ever growing air of entitlement and expected privilege that is so predominant with today’s society bred by acceptance and worship of celebrity culture and the idea of being celebrated for doing nothing.

Behold: Little Comets.  The northeast Trio with three albums under their belts have now expanded to a five-piece live band.  The transition has further garnished their dynamic and blistering live set with the addition of extra guitar/synths/percussion and backing vocals.  As the blue lights fill the room at the start of the set, the energy in the room is tangible and the audience respond.

Tonight a string of their previous singles are celebrated by the partisan crowd with utmost admiration, with a splatter of tracks from brand new fourth album ‘Worhead‘ thrown in for good measure.  Recent single ‘Common Things’ is received (as if it is an already established standard) by the audience in amongst ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Little Italy’ proving that wherever Little Comets go musically or lyrically, their fans go with them with equal part complete dedication and a committment to exploration and experimentation.  There aren’t too many contemporary bands out there whose current single begins with lyrics line “When she first gave me cold sores on a park bench in Walsall” but then Little Comets are far, far from a conventional band.  Likewise, moments later they drop ‘The Man Who Wrote Thriller’.  Their nod to Rod Temperton and his detachment from celebrity is once again not a traditional type of song but it goes down well with the crowd despite the fact that the new album has only just been released.

The most life-affirming thing as the gig progresses is that the audience of such a young average age are singing along with lyrics about social mobility, distribution of wealth, political corruption and domestic abuse, whilst letting their hair down and losing themselves in the music with free abandon.   It makes you just sit and wonder what social change Adele, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and One Direction could affect if they just worked a little bit harder at their English Lit and modern history homework!

But it’s not all just about the words.  Little Comets have a sound unlike most of their contemporaries at the moment.  There is a clear Paul Simon and almost ‘World Music’ -like influence on the rhythms and riffs at times that not only make the tunes infectiously catchy but also mean that their songs encourage the body to let go of restraint.  Funny enough the music ultimately matches the lyrical content in that it challenges and motivates the listener to change their position.

LITTLE-COMETS-at-KOKO-Guifre-de-Peray-The-Upcoming-12
Photograph by  Guilfre de Peray

Fan favourite ‘The Blur, The Line and The Thickest Of Onions’ is one of the highlights of the night as lead singer Rob Coles drops his guitar and switches with new touring member Matt Saxon to play keyboards at the back.  The reverence for the words of arguably one of the Comets’ finest works is prevalent around the venue as you can hear teenage girls singing along word for word with lines about misogyny, violence towards women, media hypocrisy and the failure of these issues to be discussed by other artists.  Later we are treated to a rare outing of ‘Woman, Woman’ as Rob lets the rest of the band nip out for a wee break and has the audience in his palm – ‘preaching to the choir’ has never been a more apt idiom, as for a moment the whole hall is one with the singer.

I often wonder if there is some sort of ironic force at work in the universe that means that if you are an act of artistic merit (and actually have something to say or to challenge the status quo) that you can’t have significant commercial success.  Whether Little Comets follow the mould of say the Velvet Underground in being a band that doesn’t get the credit it deserves at the time but goes on to inspire a multitude of others, we will have to wait and see but in the meantime, this Koko crowd tonight celebrates them with what they deserve: a sweaty, passionate and devoted rapturous response.

They say farewell with new track ‘Hunting’ – one of the standouts from the new album which tells the tale of a fox hunter seeking a new way of feeding his pleasure for causing pain.  It begins with a cute 60s girl group refrain, before growing into an all out audio assault as the band wig out and the lights go Olympic, Rob’s falsetto takes off and at one point all 5 band members are getting in on vocal duties.. sublime.  The night ends in the way all Little Comets shows end, with a dance, as Koko rings out to ‘Dancing Song’ and the crowd pogo and conga their way out into the streets of London.

Trump and Brexit, injustice and discrimination are forgotten about and have no place throughout the duration. “For tonight Matthew..We are all little ever-evolving gasses.”

Little Comets fourth album ‘Worhead’ is out now – Buy it here!

Little Comets official website

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Starman Stamps: Royal Mail to honour David Bowie with a special set of stamps

  • The Thin White Duke is the latest cultural icon to be acknowledged by a signature series of stamps
  • 6 of his iconic album covers and 4 of his live tours are featured
  • The stamps are available from 14th March

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By RS TONER @rstoner808  FOR VOXRADIOLAMBETH @voxradiolambeth


On 14th March, in the year that would have marked his 70th birthday, Royal Mail honours the late, great David Bowie with an exclusive set of ten stamps as part of their Music Giants Special Stamp series.  The stamps feature artwork from 6 of Bowie’s classic albums and 4 of his ground-breaking tours.

Royal Mail have had themed stamps before and in recent years have marked the arts and culture (there was a set of Star Wars stamps released in 2015).  In fact Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ album previously featured in a 2010 set of classic albums picked by Jimmy Page. Whilst Royal Mail have previously honoured musical acts such as The Beatles and Pink Floyd, this is the first time an individual cultural icon has had a set devoted to them.

Philip Parker Royal Mail’s Strategy Manager said

“For five decades David Bowie was at the forefront of contemporary culture, and has influenced successive generations of musicians, artists, designers and writers.  Royal Mail’s stamp issue celebrates this unique figure and some of his many celebrated personas.”

The stamps are on sale from 14th March and are available to buy directly from Royal Mail online.


Which cultural icon would you like to see on the next set of Royal Mail stamps? {tweet us with your alternative suggestions}#Bowiestamps

— VoxRadio (@voxradiolambeth) January 30, 2017


The stamps featuring 6 of Bowie’s classic albums and 4 of his world tours


Presentation packs, fan sheets and framed stamps are also available from the Royal Mail Website


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Acknowledgements Hunky Dory, Let’s Dance, Earthling and Blackstar album covers © Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Company LLC; Aladdin Sane album cover © Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Company LLC and Duffy Archive Limited; “Heroes” album cover © Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Company LLC and Masayoshi Sukita. The Ziggy Stardust Tour, 1973, London © Ilpo Musto/REX/Shutterstock; The Stage Tour, 1978, Frankfurt © Hans H Kirmer/DPA/PA Images; The Serious Moonlight Tour, 1983, Brussels © Andre Csillag/REX/Shutterstock; A Reality Tour, 2004, Isle of Wight, photo by Mark Shenley © Camera Press London; miniature sheet border image of The Glass Spider Tour, 1987, Mendig © DPA/Alamy Stock Photo.


See also:

Bowie’s Silhouettes and Shadows

Starman Road?

The Red, The Wilco and the Blues

 

R S Toner @rstoner808

Support act for the night, William Tyler, thanks the crowd before introducing his final number, with a partial apology for the current state of his nation but encourages everyone to “hold on to this stuff”. ‘Stuff’ on this occasion being music and the indescribable feeling a night of great American music can do to medicate the soul at a time when politically the world appears to be losing its collective mind.

Tyler prepares the crowd perfectly, both musically and theologically. His cowboy guitar instrumental set helps curate a suitable mood, but the sentiment in his sign off is exactly what Wilco are about.  Their set lets the capacity audience forget about Donald Trump and all the other scary elements of living in 2016 for a couple of hours and rejoice in some great, great music.

They touch on the first few songs from the newest Wilco long player ‘Schmilco’ at the beginning of the set (‘Normal American Kids’, ‘If I Ever Was A Child’ and ‘Cry All Day’) before tearing into some of their more established material with ‘I Am Trying to Break Your Heart’.  The crowd are immediately onside and bobbing along in tandem with the band.

Undoubtedly one of the many highlights of the whole night is 5 songs in: ‘Art of Almost’ takes the things to an altogether darker, eerier destination.  Nels Cline once again uses his guitar and chaos pad to strangle his solo into some acid-jazz Johnny Greenwood territory.  The band create a mood, (dare I say it) a groove that Primal Scream would be proud of, before climaxing with an almighty build and breakdown jam reminiscent of MC5 or The Stooges.  All around the Academy, feets are tapping and heads are nodding in severe approval.

Likewise, a couple of songs later, a stripped-down campfire rendition of ‘Misunderstood’ is something of a delightful curveball.  The vitriolic venom and anger of the usual outro refrain is replaced by acoustics, pedal steel and some fine banjo playing from Pat Sansone.

For ‘Via Chicago’ however, the crowd get what they want and Wilco tear the song apart with white noise during the second verse and somehow manage to stick it back together in time too on multiple occasions.  Nels Cline’s guitar playing is once again at the fore of the Wilco sound.  At moments some of the crowd might be speculating that he has gone too far but it is of course during ‘Impossible Germany’ when Cline’s avant-garde approach to playing really hits its full potential.  A solo that seems to go on forever, builds to a fantastical crescendo with the entire band breaking out at the end.

The band return for two encores, servicing the crowd with ‘Jesus Etc.’ (which as expected receives the biggest cheer of the night), before ending with ‘California Stars’ (from their 1998 collaboration with Billy Bragg ‘Mermaid Avenue’ putting the lyrics of Woody Guthrie to music) joined by William Tyler and finally signing off with a raucous version of ‘Shot in the Arm’.  The crowd are on their feet screaming back at Jeff Tweedy in unison: “…what you once were isn’t what you want to be anymore”. Tonight, Trump didn’t have a look in!