In the era of stark doomy guitar bands from the North of England, The Comsat Angels were one of the eighties most interesting and least well known. They briefly occupied the bottom of the album chart once or twice and were dropped by Polydor Records after three albums, Jive records after two and Island records after two more, one with the same line up under a different name. They made two more albums for RPM/Caroline before disbanding
The Comsat Angels are a forgotten Post Punk experiment in edgy pop, a discordant sweetness strangled out of the guitar parts over the human machine that sat unnervingly under the detached vocals. They were like rowdy ghosts set amid tempered angst. They didn’t have as many personal demons as their Southern contemporaries The Sound and didn’t quite have Echo And The Bunnymen’s charisma but they reflected the bleak hopelessness of Thatcher’s England.
Sheffield, Yorkshire in 1980 was a hot bed of talented innovators: The Human League/Heaven Seventeen, Cabaret Voltaire and Clock DVA. As the decade progressed more traditional indie pop developed with Jarvis Cocker & Pulp and Babybird and many more – more recently Richard Hawley and Arctic Monkeys. But in those days it was a non-violent thinking man’s anti-establishment scene, disillusioned with Britain like everyone else but brimming over with ideas and buried in creative pursuit.
The band’s first album Waiting For A Miracle 1980 failed to chart but a single Independence Day brought the band attention and their sparse angular melodic scratch impressed the critics. Their next album was Sleep No More 1981 where they established an even darker sound. On this album they hit the British charts at Number 51 but had no single, despite more good reviews – nothing happened. Their third album Fiction 1982 also failed to chart. Later on they re released Independence Day after re recording it for the fourth album Land 1983 and their first album for Jive after Polydor dropped them. Jive wanted hits – a new A Flock Of Seagulls and after their fifth album 7 Day weekend 1985 it was already the end of their Jive contract as the band’s attempts to have more commercial sound failed to deliver any hits.
They then went to Island records as unlikely fan Robert Palmer convinced the label to sign them. (At this time Palmer was having a lot of success and would have had influence). A communications company threatened to sue them over their name so they changed it to The CS Angels for America and released their sixth album Chasing Shadows 1986, but still nothing happened driving them to the conclusion that they should change their name altogether. They released their seventh album Fire On The Moon under the name Dream Command, no one had any idea it was them and consequently – nothing happened.
RPM Records in the UK and Caroline in the US released their eighth album, My Mind’s Eye in 1993 and the final album The Glamour in 1995 to little interest from the public as a whole.
After nine albums the band broke up. Lead singer Stephen Fellows went on to make a solo album Mood X 1997 but that also fell into obscurity. He then went into management after discovering Gomez. Bass player Kevin Bacon left after My Mind’s Eye to concentrate on production replaced by Terry Todd as the band added a second guitarist in Simon Anderson. Keyboard player Andy Peake and drummer Mik Glaisher have kept a low profile since The Comsat Angels broke up.
It’s a classic sad story of a great band that everyone liked but no one ‘s heard of. Sleep No More is an ideal place to start in discovering this unsung Yorkshire quartet who have been a major influence for Editors, Interpol and other bands you have most definitely have heard of.