The Concise Guide To The Comsat Angels
Easy On The Eye have contributed some photographs to a new book about The Comsat Angels, in my view the best band Sheffield has ever produced (despite strong competition!). Written by musician and academic Andrew Keeling, it’s a strange little (A5) offering, but oddly in keeping with the slightly mysterious nature of the band. Much of it is (as the title explains) a detailed look at the structure of the band’s music, chord sequences, even thirty-odd pages of sheet music (so if there is a covers band out there willing to try and tackle Sleep No More, now is your chance). The book is aimed squarely at fellow musicians or students of music, but I’m sure fans will get something out of the short but interesting interviews with the original band members, a brief look at each studio album (which was crying out to be expanded), a rather perfunctory discography (lose one house point for using the iffy reworking of the My Mind’s Eye sleeve rather than the original) and a gig list taken off the web seemingly for no other reason than it was there. I did enjoy an appendix written by my brother, who was a member of the group for a brief period and recalls his excitement and thrill at being so honoured in a way which perhaps those at the centre of the action would struggle now to do.
The book is one of those on-demand titles digitally printed by Blurb; hit their web site and look up Spaceward Publications. It sadly seems unlikely that the market would ever justify (or recoup) a more thorough biography of the band, and I kind of wish this title had tackled their history in more detail for that reason alone; eight pages devoted to pen sketches of contemporary bands seem rather over-indulgent as a consequence. Mind you the author has currently written four books on King Crimson, so maybe there’s still hope. Whether the book does, as Mark Kermode’s excellent introduction claims (he is a big fan), “reassess their often undervalued role in contemporary culture”, I’m not sure, simply as I’m not certain if they ever had (or indeed would have wanted) such a part to play. For many in Sheffield I’m afraid they will always remain ‘our secret’, despite the efforts of many to try and rectify that situation over the years.
As we’re on the subject of the band, here’s a version of the sleeve for the band’s last studio album, The Glamour, which was put together using Stephen Fellow’s artwork. It’s a little hard to recall the exact way this came about but he had done a number of richly layered and painted pieces on card using stars as the motif, designed to give us an idea of what he wanted. Once I saw this particular piece I suggested the only sensible thing to do was simply photograph it in high quality and use it as it was. It was early days on the Mac and digital colour co-ordination was uncertain, so there were no proofs and the jewel case CD cover came out a little redder than it should have done. I also think we asked the Dutch label who pressed it if we could gold foil block the text but clearly this didn’t happen, so it got a bit lost in the finished print. I wanted a sort of faded retro typeface and put it together from letters cut out of a pre-war book on type (no access to massive libraries of digitised fonts back then!). This was to contrast with the heavier face used for the band’s name, to reflect the brittle, abrasive edge to much of the music. There was a rather spiffing limited edition we did put together, which came in a double digipak format, with prints, lyrics and other interesting stuff tucked inside. I did a darker cover for this which is the one shown about.
The original CD pressing is still one of my favourite rock albums of all time (sadly it was never pressed on vinyl). There is a story (not in the book) that once the band split (shortly after the record came out) the studio where it was done wiped the album multi-tracks to record another band over…
There are some more images of the band in our photo library.