The Comsat Angels are another example of a band who should’ve been U2-massive, but have instead been relegated to the footnotes of rock history. Despite substantial critical acclaim, and even some record label finagling from unlikely supporter Robert Palmer, the band never had an album that broke into the UK chart’s top 50. Their records have, with unfortunate consistency, gone out of print, making it even more challenging to achieve a reasonable level of posthumous success.
The Comsat Angels released their debut EP, “Red Planet”, in 1979, a record that culminated in a three-album contract with Polydor. Joy Division was attracting quite a bit of attention at the time, and The Comsat Angels’ post-punk melancholia was clearly in the same sonic orbit. Their debut LP, Waiting for a Miracle, was released in September of 1980 to trifling sales but near-unanimous critical plaudits. It’s a fantastic debut that holds up very well against other classics released the same year (see: Joy Division’s Closer, The Sound’s Jeopardy, Magazine’s The Correct Use of Soap, and Echo and the Bunnymen’s Crocodiles).
As good as that record is, it’s still a step behind the follow-up, Sleep No More. The sophomore album was released almost exactly a year after Waiting for a Miracle, and was met with an even more enthusiastic critical reception. The record quickly sold out its’ initial pressing, but Polydor’s lagging shipment of additional copies seemed to severely hamper the album’s momentum.
Sleep No More is one of the most consistent batch of songs released in the 1980s, and the album’s rich sonic pallette continues to be influential to this day. The opening trio of tracks (“Eye Dance”, “Sleep No More”, and “Be Brave”) are absolutely flawless; they are ominous, imposing, and completely enveloping songs. It would be hard for any band to follow up such a strong opening, but the album never lets up in terms of quality, even when treading in some rather bleak emotional territory. It doesn’t take one long to understand why this album has had such an impact on the few people who have taken the time to live inside this music.
The Comsat Angels will be re-uniting to play the Sensoria Music Festival on April 26th.