Release Date: Aug 8, 2006
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The Comets on Fire time warp sounds like a fun place to be. With their brand of classic rock filtered through too much Calpol and whisky chasers, the Santa Cruz band are still firmly based in 1973 - quite probably in a desert, wearing sunglasses. Still, they have come a long way since their last album, the hazy, hypnotic Blue Cathedral. It's not often that violent noisecore comes anywhere close to being tuneful, but on Avatar the two disparate methods meld splendidly.
Two full years after the dazzling acid-dredged, sonic song mash-up that was Blue Cathedral, Comets on Fire return, all members intact -- despite many solo projects in the intervening years -- with Avatar. There are distinct nods to the distant West Coast past on Avatar and yeah, it is a good thing For starters, the double- and even triple-tracking of Ethan Miller's voice on many of these cuts sounds like the triumvirate of Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, and Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane! The rhapsodic clamoring for ecstatic release sound in this method is beguiling, and offset by the sheer acid rock heaviness of the band's instrumental attack. Take the opener "Dogwood Rust" as an example.
Comets on Fire get to sit in a catbird seat of their own making, surveying the landscape of modern psychedelic rock, and the long-haired, bearded (or peasant-skirted), Arthur-approved free spirits that people it, from way up high. They certainly didn’t resurrect this whole she-bang, but it’s their output and their personnel that have put out its most righteous salvos in the front half of the ‘00s; it’s their influences that have hit the most satisfying touchpoints; it’s their high points that rank among the most memorable moments the movement has produced. They set the scene for how much freaking out is acceptable in an album while still maintaining coherence and chops.
Comets on Fire have finally gotten a handle on their big, hot noise. Avatar, the band's third full-length, sparks up immediately with the churning of "Dogwood Rust," complete with a patented Comets on Fire freak-out/breakdown at the end. Singer/guitarist Ethan Miller's vocals have become more focused, descending into a blues croon rather than a sandpaper peyote howl, and you can usually understand what he's saying.