Despite a high volume of roster changes over its near-two-decade existence, Comet Gain thrives on its consistency. David Feck and his revolving crew of musicians have been turning out single-oriented indie pop since the early ’90s, and many of the songs on Howl of the Lonely Crowd, Comet Gain’s sixth album and first studio record proper since 2005, would be at home plugged in at any place throughout the band’s career.
At what point, though, does consistency turn into stagnation? Feck and company are tiptoeing gingerly closer to that precipice. That said, it’s hard not to recommend Howl of the Lonely Crowd to an interested listener, as it’s full of the wordy, clever jangle-pop songs that are their mark and trade; there’s just little reason to recommend it over any other album in the Comet Gain discography. Some of the best bands of our day (R.E.M., U2) never found a grand reinvention to be necessary, and it isn’t, but perhaps that’s a large part of the reason why their earlier, more groundbreaking catalog entries will always be the ones we return to first. Or, in Comet Gain’s case, why it’s failed to ascend beyond more than a cult act after plugging away for almost 20 years.
So here we are, with a record really no better or worse than the last. The heartfelt pop ballads (Clang of the Concrete Swans, The Weekend Dreams) are as solid as ever, as are the noisier, garage-rock tributes (Yoona Baines). You’ll find your customary Comet Gain literary references (Herbert Huncke Pt II, Ballad of Frankie Machine) as well as a mostly spoken-word, near-tearjerker (A Memorial For Nobody I Knew). It’s difficult to be so down on an album that’s this agreeable, but you can’t help but feel you’re listening to a band that’s just settling with familiar patterns.
Essential Tracks: Clang of the Concrete Swans, The Weekend Dreams, and An Arcade From The Warm Rain That Falls