Rarely has the Recommended star at the top of a review been so icily ironic. Because, reckons DAVID BENNUN if Come’s brutal rhythm’n’bruise says anything to you about your life, you’re already in a worse state than we ever wanna be
from Melody Maker, 1994
DON’T ASK DON’T TELL
Beggars Banquet BBQCD160
10 tks/51 mins/FP
Last time it was heroin. This time it’s love. Love seems to hurt worse. Come’s first LP, “Eleven: Eleven”, never explicitly descended into junked-out despair, but the taste was there. Not of the drug itself. Users who’ve just fixed will tell you that they’ve never felt happier, warmer or safer (Kurt Cobain said something very similar to The Stud Brothers during his last Maker interview). “Eleven: Eleven” plotted the course of the consequences, sinking into a squalid half-light where no one who ever cared if you live or die will come to find you.
However cruel the come-down from heroin, it never inspired in Come anything as painful as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. With the loss of love, the thermometer knows it. Come’s second album is one of the chilliest records you’ll ever hear. Touch something this cold and it peels the skin from your body when you try to pull away: “Mercury falls,” sings Thalia Zedek’s frail, bitter voice, “like skin off a bone/Mercury falls, since you been gone/This ugly time of year/When people disappear/Don’t you get sick alone?”
If losing love is the route to mid-winter, keeping it is little better. Thalia’s vision of love, as expressed in these songs, is one of misery over passion, of two creatures forever clawing at one another’s thin flesh. Which is an apt simile for the way Come’s music sounds — two guitars twining and lacerating, drums and bass that make up a double bed of nails. Thalia dislikes the depiction of Come as a hard blues band. She’s right. The blues existed for consolation. “Don’t Ask” is harsh and acrid, scarring the melodies that might otherwise have offered relief.
Since time immemorial, bands have made their fortunes by expressing their audience’s miseries for them. Thus the bizarre spectacle of, say, tens of thousands of Pearl Jam fans gathered together to commemorate their singular hurt. But Come give no comfort and no communion. I defy anyone to listen to this album in company. One of you will insist on turning it off. And if Come’s music truly sums up your life — well, it doesn’t. You wouldn’t be reading this, or buying records, or doing much at all.
“Don’t Ask” stings in way that no chest-beating rock exorcism ever could, perhaps because it is devoid of self-pity. On “Let’s Get Lost”, the album’s centrepiece, the desperation of wanting fetches up against an icy pessimism. If “Don’t Ask” has a theme, that must be it. Only on the closing track, “Arrive”, is there so much as a hint of warmth. And when you arrive, tattered and bloodless, at the far end of a forest of thorns, that’s little consolation.
I know of no other record that could make you feel quite so alone.