‘Peel Sessions’ is an essential nine-track set catching Boston’s mighty Come at the peak of their powers. The sessions feature the masterful guitar interplay of two central pivots of the post-post-punk and alternative noisenik underground, Chris Brokaw and Thalia Zedek, and the visceral bass and drums of Sean O’Brien and Arthur Johnson, documenting an essential era for the band.
There’s a scientific conundrum that occurs when you place the sadcore strangeness of Codeine (Brokaw) in a petri dish with a Live Skull stalwart (Zedek) acclaimed for “the permanent, aching rasp in her voice, her guitar’s bluesy bite, the startlingly clear-eyed lyrics about life and loss”.
Sparks fly, as is evidenced on the never-before-released ‘Clockface’, a live track that concludes this incendiary album of radio recordings by a band whose power and beauty lay in their stifling unity. It’s a stark reminder of how they smoldered.
Come came to fruition after jamming for 12 months in the early ’90s — back when such things were a thing. Chris Brokaw and Thalia Zedek’s duelling guitars created a wall of sound that would have scared Phil Spector, as they surfed the waves of O’Brien and Johnson’s sonic pummeling.
Come’s debut album, ’11:11′, appeared in 1992, and while in Europe they were taken to the backstreets of Maida Vale in north London to record a session for John Peel’s eclectic radio show. The fare was direct from their debut, but more mangled, strangled and abrasive.
A year on, before 1994’s ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ album, the band returned to the UK and recorded a second session that included ‘Wrong Side’ and ‘SVK’ from their ‘Wrong Side’ EP, as well as ‘Mercury Falls’, which would appear on ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’. The sound is less harsh, but the music remains tactile and intense; there’s even a nod to The Only Ones at their most potent (a cover of ‘City Of Fun’), but remember that this is a band who also chose to cover the beautifully ramshackle Swell Maps – a high-water mark way over most people’s heads.
30 years later, it’s hard to believe that Boston, Massachusetts, was home to The Lemonheads’ glorious ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ in the same year that Come was recording ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, doing the second of their Peel sessions and inspiring a new generation of sonic adventurers.