March 20, 1998
from Slant, Orlando’s Community Webzine
Come’s music is an acquired taste, and to those who’ve never heard it, I have to say that there’s little simplicity to it. Those looking for an immediately pop riff or a happy-go-lucky tone should look elsewhere. This is the real deal. No patronizing, no quickies.
Come performs an improvisational blend (though I’ve read that the music is very structured with the appearance of improvisation) – blues, free-form jazz, punk, etc. The music starts, stops, changes pace, speeds up, slows, crawls, then builds to a thundering climax. The guitars, by Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw, play off of each other in a way I’ve rarely heard before: one plays and the other doesn’t complement it but rather challenges it. Behind it all, the rhythm section, by drummer Danny Coughlin and bassist Sascha Steinfurth (substituting for Winston Bramen, who played bass for Come on their amazing new album, Gently Down The Stream – behind which they are touring), gives the impression that it is trying to keep up, despite being in complete control – a true core to the music.
And then there is Thalia Zedek’s singing: an angry, pained, snarl – the sort of voice you’d attribute to some late-night torch singer. When she sings, people stop and stare, half out of pity, half out of amazement.
All this was in top form for the show at the Go Lounge on March 17, and the crowd, which at first seemed unsure of what to make of Come, quickly fell under their spell.
It took Come only seconds to reach full-throttle. They opened with ‘Hurricane,’ the first track from their previous (and near-perfect mini-album Near Life Experience), and immediately that fury that I have come to associate with Come was established. The drums and bass pounded and balanced. The guitars swayed in noise and precision.
Then they quickly went into ‘In/Out,’ a high-speed rocker from their second album, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. (If you’re interested in an introduction to Come, I highly recommend this album as your starting point.)
And from there, it was sheer bliss.
A majority of the songs came from the Gently Down The Stream album, including intense versions of ‘Stomp,’ ‘Sorry Too Late,’ and ‘A Jam Blues,’ the latter being perhaps the best example of how two guitarists can change the pace of a song without having the rhythm section help them out.
In the middle of the show, Chris Brokaw took over the vocals for a few songs (as he has on the last two albums). His singing is a complete opposite to that of Zedek’s. While her voice instantly grabs attention, his is quiet, controlled, well-aware of itself. He sang ‘Shoot Me First’ from Near Life and ‘Recidivist’ from Gently with great earnestness, starting each song quietly and then building into something captivating.
The set ended with ‘Saints Around My Neck,’ one of my favorites from the new album, and a song that Zedek professed to me before the show as being one of her favorites of the band’s. The song starts slowly, with chiming guitar plucking, and then, over the course of its ten minutes, builds to several climaxes before finally finding it’s groove in the last quarter of it. The song itself is quite an accomplishment in the precision of song-writing, and their performance of it was nothing less than breathtaking.
After a short break, the band then came back for two more songs, the fast and furious ‘Off To One Side,’ from their first album, 1991’s spellbinding Eleven: Eleven, and ‘String,’ another from Don’t Ask.
And then they left the stage, leaving the audience rattled and wanting more.
I am a fiction writer supporting myself as a government clerk for the US army. Until I can fully live off writing, I plan to milk all the luxury I can from the American taxpayer.