Unpopular Advent 2019 – Day 13

Comet Gain – ’The Godfrey Brothers’ from ‘Fireraisers Forever!’ LP

Before Unpopular there was a webzine called Tangents, and before Tangents there was a paper fanzine called Fire Raisers. These things were important. We once painted ‘Boredom or Fire Raisers, you can’t have both!’ on the wall of a beach shelter in a godforsaken Ayshire coastal town. It burned down six months later (the shelter, not the town). The spirit of Fire Engines channeled through Paul Morley and Max Frisch lit matches, literally and metaphorically. Such things were vital. Such is the story of some of our lives.

How then could we resist a record titled ‘Firerasiers Forever!’? We could not. Particularly one made by a group as beloved as Comet Gain, a group who have never failed to deliver extraordinarily terrific records down the past twenty seven years or so and whose DNA feels inextricably connected to that of our Unpopular universe.

Twenty seven years. One of the most depressing aspects of contemporary life that has fermented over that time, and in the UK at least accelerated enormously in the past five, must be the way in which we are encouraged to be so disparaging about anyone who does not align with our perspective (and let’s face it, that’s everyone to some lesser or greater degree). And if those twenty seven years spent teaching children has taught us anything (and it probably hasn’t) then it must certainly be that positive reinforcement and praise are immeasurably greater tools for generating progress than punitive sanctions and negative labelling (cue ‘track 1, track 2 and track 3’ scene from Freaks And Geeks). Comet Gain kinda get this and kinda too cannot help but rise to the baits and the traps we set ourselves. “WE are all fucking morons” they sing on incendiary album opener, openly admitting to our collective responsibility and communal culpability for all that’s gone to shit in the world whilst simultaneously being unable to avoid pointing the finger. Rage and frustration is fired through ‘Firerasiers Forever!’ and as often as not it’s turned inwards as much as outwards.

They may be raging, but Comet Gain have always been sensitive souls, keenly attuned to the lives of those “lonely tramps and awkward misfits” that Kevin Rowland reminded us about all those years ago. There’s a reference to this in the midst of the claustrophobic psych(o) garage squall of ‘Bad Nite at The Moustache’ where we hear pleas to the “housewives, packers and postmen, plumbers and midwives and drivers, shoplifters, singers and bruisers and anarchists and schemers, day-dreamers…” (they forgot the teachers) not to spend their/our lives on our/their knees. And if that all falls into the trap of divide/conquer (such setting up of lists inevitably leads to lines being drawn and lines that are drawn are always done so arbitrarily and always deflect attention from the problems at the very peak of the triangle) then let us shrug our shoulders to the wheels and remind ourselves these are only songs, this is only music, this is only a record after all.

Except we know it isn’t. And there’s the tension, the inherent contradiction that we need to both embrace and reject. This knowledge, this acute unsettling sensitivity threads through our favourite moment on ‘Fireraisers Forever!’, the tingling sparse sorrow of ‘The Godfrey Brothers’.

Is it ‘about’ the Morcheeba Godfreys? Is it a response to Bowie’s ‘Bewlay Brothers’? Is it neither? Or both? We are not sure we care either way, but what we do care deeply about is the way in which it delicately carves out a surreal (auto)biographical portrait of anyone who ever had a heart that beat UP, love, who ever felt the desolation angels kissing the soles of their shoes and the souls of their very existence. We do not need to live in a West Hampstead room fighting the gloom with five hundred Beach Boys’ bootlegs to know exactly what this means, how this feels, where this goes. Inwards, upwards, outwards and back again. Revolutionary cycles of our lives. Literal and metaphorical, always.

Boredom or ‘Fireraisers Forever!’ You can’t have both.

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