Comsat Angels - Chasing Shadows/Fire on the Moon

by Gerry Hathaway Rating:8 Release Date:2015-11-20

After years of price-gouging on the second-hand market for the long out-of-print Renascent reissues of their seminal first three records, beloved post-punk stalwarts The Comsat Angels are up for reevaluation again with special editions of Waiting for a Miracle, Sleep No More, and Fiction arriving from Edsel November 20th. The gem in this reissue series is the inclusion of the band’s last classic record, Chasing Shadows. Unavailable since its original release in 1986, Chasing Shadows has been reissued and remastered for the first time and comes packaged with the band’s one-off record as Dream Command – 1990’s Fire on the Moon.

While The Comsat Angels were oft-trivialized and underappreciated during their career, the passage of time has afforded them the coveted status of cult heroes. Their records have aged incredibly well in comparison to that of their peers due to exceptional production values other groups lacked. Aided by the powerhouse rhythm section of Mike Glaisher and Kevin Bacon, as well as singer-guitarist Stephen Fellow’s thoughtful introspections and stately guitar lines, The Comsat Angels would eventually break into the commercial market albeit with increasing diminished returns such as the clunky Land (1983) and overproduced 7 Day Weekend (1985).

Struggling to maintain their relevance as a major label act, The Comsat Angels returned to the dark melodicism of their early albums for 1986’s Chasing Shadows after inking a new record deal with the help of fan and label mate Robert Palmer. The record finds the band successfully transforming their previous insipid commercial fluff into genuinely moving material such as the pleading desperation of The Cutting Edge and aching ballad Carried Away. Chasing Shadows is especially noteworthy for containing Fellow’s finest vocal performance, as evident with the dark rock swagger of Under the Influence and plaintive Pray for Rain.

Palmer himself shows up on You’ll Never Know, while Bacon’s throbbing, commanding bass drives The Thought That Counts. Keyboardist Andy Peake provides further emotional weight, as washes of ambient pads and electric piano give the record a slight adult contemporary flavor. Previously a vinyl only b-side to The Cutting Edge single, the excellent Something’s Got to Give sees the light of day as a bonus track. It’s one of the darkest songs from the Chasing Shadow sessions and should have been included on the original album.

Unfortunately, The Comsat Angels hopped back on the manufactured pop bandwagon for 1990’s Fire on the Moon (released under the terrible pseudonym Dream Command). The stiff performances and perfunctory songwriting void any replay value, making Fire on the Moon sound as if it could have been released between Land and 7 Day Weekend. Now a spent creative force, the band released two more lukewarm albums before respectably hanging it up in 1995.

Admittedly, a large portion of The Comsat Angel’s canon is spotty at best. However, at the height of their prowess they made some of the finest music to come out of Britain in the early 1980s. Chasing Shadows remains an exemplary record in The Comsat Angel’s discography and proved after a string of duds that the band was no one-trick pony. 

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