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The follow-up to "Blue Cathedral" is an earthy, more accessible, and downright beautiful album. "Avatar" veers from swinging, bluesy explorations to piano-laced, progressive power balladry to pure tribalism, evoking everyone from the Allmans to Quicksilver to Procol Harem to some insane Fela/Sun Ra/Crazy Horse hybrid, yet remains wholly Comets On Fire. Though they play cleaner and clearer, their firepower is evident and abundant.
What we have here is pretty simple: Men with beards. Blistering blues-rock riffs. Songs that refuse to die. On its fourth album, Comets on Fire takes the very foundation of rock 'n' roll (well, from the good years on) reheats it and serves it back up in gargantuan portions. We're talking the eight-minute solo-heavy opening track, which roughly approximates what it would have sounded like if the Stooges ever jumped on stage with the Grateful Dead. Produced just as well, too. Yes, this Santa Cruz quintet that shares member Ben Chasny with Six Organs of Admittance might occasionally qualify for jam-band status, but give them some credit. Phish could never come up with songs as euphorically ugly as "Lucifer's Memory" and "Hatched Upon the Age." --Aidin VaziriSee all Editorial Reviews
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Definitely a Bay Area-influenced band, their geographical location fits the band's 1969-71 influences. They never precisely recall-- but they continue the often-maligned and only recently re-examined and respected, striving, spirit--of the bands of this era that took the acid rock and moved it away from hippie vibes into more obsessively introverted aural and intellectual byways. That they create this music while living out in the countryside is no accident. It feels rooted, Americana for those who don't wear Stetsons but may wear boots! This is smart music, done in an organic way so that songs unfold and emerge slowly, and the pacing is not for the impatient. My four-star rating is earned since the band tends towards a bluesier foundation here than I prefer, but for others this may well be a strength this album around. Listening, I became at first disappointed in the more strictly paced song rhythms, and longed for more skronk. This album holds back rather than rushes towards release. It's rather a tease. But, the album forced me into its own march (like a Kubrick film), and I had to follow and slow down.
This may be a good place to start for those new to CoF. It's more accessible than Blue C or Field Recordings from the Sun [what a great album title], yet shows the band continues to put care and thought into this premeditated (in more ways than one?) exploration of the inner spirit as it wanders disconsolate. It's not as peppy, and much more soulful; while I prefer their second and third albums, I must admit that the continued evolution of this band towards more complex terrain bodes well for its career. I anticipate an even better fifth CD in a couple of years after more contemplation and taping from the band's rural coastal retreat.
Even as the chill mode is the path taken on "Jaybird," drummer Utrillo Kushner keeps apace with an intensely rapid flow of a be-bop scat-shot percussion groove that also remains tepid. With plenty of half-buried and squelching organ lines and a rustic overtone, it would be a topic of great debate to say that Comets on Fire veer off into an improv mode, but their free jazz approach is undeniable. The organ and keyboard elements are more audible here than they have ever been with Comets on Fire, especially with the druggy lounge blues of "Lucifer's Memory."
Being the mélange of intoxicating mind sets that it is, Avatar is like a sponge of sorts that is absorbed in a mixture of PBR pounders, potent cannabis, and Orange Sunshine LSD. The album also exhibits some of the flourishes of Six Organs of Admittance and Miller's side project Howlin' Rain. Overall, Avatar is a kaleidoscopically gritty effort that contains the sound and vision of an acid test party ethos and a belligerent dram of punk rock defiance. - Chris Pacifico
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