COME – ” Peel Session “

Posted: February 27, 2022 in MUSIC

For a significant section of the music-loving public, a ‘Peel Session’ is a more definitive chronicle of an artist’s sound than a “proper” LP.

Particularly for acts who cut their teeth on the live circuit rather than in the booth, the radio-ready recordings on John Peel’s radio shows often found a good middle-ground between studio and stage. They mark not only a moment in time, but also something more ineffable, that strange alchemy which arrives when a group of musicians are asked to turn out their material with the usual chutzpah but without an audience to feed off. John Peel may no longer be on the air, but the ‘Peel Session’ and its derivatives remain an evergreen watermark.

What makes Come’s ‘Peel Sessions’ interesting is that this compilation is not only a demonstration of their chops live in-studio, but it also makes for a neat survey of a broader period in the band’s development. Formed by members from a variety of stellar acts from the East Coast of the USA (Codeine, Live Skull, more), it was no surprise that Come came out of the traps with a sound that put them right amongst the early 90s alt-rock scrum. They played with indie steez, sure, but there was enough chug and squall to their sound to nudge them towards noisier and no-wave-ier rock climates too. 

The style was at once of its time yet also pushed out towards jagged fringes that many of their contemporaries didn’t dare explore, and Come had become one of the buzziest bands in the U.S. rock underground by the time they dropped 1992 debut LP ‘11:11’. ‘Peel Sessions’ focuses on the BBC recordings the band made around this time – the first quartet of tracks culled from a 1992 taping, the next four made a year later as Come geared up for sophomore drop ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

1992’s four track session is direct from their debut; but more mangled, strangled and abrasive. The follow-up set from a year later includes live favourite ‘Mercury Falls’ and ‘City Of Fun’ neither of which surfaced as studio recordings.

Come appear to have thrived in the immediacy of Maida Vale. While the albums either side of these sessions remain fine examples of what the band could do, they suffer a little from that slightly thin production style that one finds on some early-90s alt-rock. With the ‘Peel Sessions’, however, we encounter no such problems. These takes are ripped and raw, a perfect blend for a sound as ragged-edged as Come’s.

Vocalists Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw both benefit from going live and direct, albeit in different ways. Brokaw exudes leather-jacketed cool on The Only Ones cover ‘City Of Fun’, his incantation of “hey hey, what you say?” almost as chic as Lou Reed. Zadek backs him up on that track, and she serves similar flintiness when leading cuts like ‘Wrong Side’, but the moments when she rags her voice amid the grungy jank of ‘Dead Molly’ and ‘Sharon Vs Karen’ make for some of the record’s highest points.

The pair of ‘Peel Sessions’ here find Come in their element, a band riding the zeitgeist while simultaneously toying with it. They sound confident, assured, full of muscle and brio, and the chunky tapings bottle that energy fabulously well. However, perhaps the most interesting artefact on all of this LP is the one track which wasn’t recorded in London. 

Closing cut ‘Clockface’ is a live capture made in 1991 in Come’s home city of Boston. Compared to the relative gloss of the BBC songs, this track sounds positively homely – you can hear audience chatter over the opening strains, and the presumably off-the-cuff circumstances of the recording make for a muddy sound which gives Come’s bluesy noise-rawk an intriguingly pinched quality. Particularly when ‘Clockface’ itself expands for its final section, the whole affair has a curious and beguiling intimacy about it.

Peel Sessions” is an essential nine-track set catching Boston’s mighty Come at the peak of their powers. The collection includes two sessions recorded for John Peel in both 1992 and 1993, plus a previously unreleased live track ‘Clockface’ from 1991, unwrapping the blueprint of their sonic idealism. Raw, loud and live, exactly where the band’s dissonant blues noise rock originates.

Track List:

Side A, Dead Molly , Bell , William , Off To One Side (Peel Session, 1992)

Side B, Wrong Side , Sharen vs. Karen, Mercury Falls, City Of Fun (Peel Session, 1993) Added Track Clockface (Live in Boston, 1991)

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