Pale Saints The Comforts Of Madness
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When thinking of the finest dream pop records from the early '90s, The Comforts of Madness tends to get lost in the shuffle. Frequently and unfortunately, the Pale Saints were disregarded as just another part of the 4AD sound, lacking distinction and relying on the clichés of the time. Though they might have (arguably) fallen into those traps later in their brief career, their debut really does stick out from the remainder of the 4AD roster as well as the remainder of the then-current scene. The touchstones -- Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500 -- are somewhat apparent, but their debut is certifiably unique. Noise and melody duke it out, but in an arrestingly off-kilter fashion. Comforts is really as much of a "quirk-out" as it is a "bliss-out," experimental in many ways and apparently so from the beginning of "Way the World Is." The noisy rattling eventually gives way to wobbly bass and tunefully violent Wedding Present-like strumming, whipping up a tempestuous haze of frenzied pop. Throughout the record, the trio throws in countless tempo curveballs (with no sense of pomposity) and effectively balances the blasting chuggers with levitational banks of piled-on guitarscapes. The somewhat thin production lent by John Fryer and Gil Norton (on separate sessions) actually serves Comforts well, though it may take a few listens to settle in. The somewhat trebly, un-anchored production is properly suited for Ian Masters' boyish vocals, which sound like they're just on the brink of pubescence. His vocals are just as important to this record as Graeme Naysmith's guitars, not vanishing into the gobs of guitars like your typical shoegaze. "Sight of You" (retooled from their debut EP) is the centerpeice, a lovelorn gem that sounds vaguely like the lost track to Psychocandy. In whole, this debut remains a brilliant example of insular, adventurous, and charmingly flawed noise pop.