The Comsat Angels

Land

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    5
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After three remarkable records and a new label, the Comsat Angels decided to tinker with their formula. They had the critical approval, but they were intent to win public approval. Bringing in Mike Howlett (producer of Berlin, OMD, and Flock of Seagulls), the band threw caution to the wind and let him do what he pleased with the band's already commercial-leaning material. They didn't just sacrifice much of their trademark tension, atmosphere, and paranoia. Mik Glaisher's inventive drums are painfully missing in action for much of the proceedings; studio wizardry cuts up his playing for incidental use. Andy Peake's keyboards are transformed from mood mechanism to central character, which means Stephen Fellows' guitar gets lost in the shuffle. As far as synth-pop records are considered, Land is fine -- it still carries its own mood. For the high standard of such skilled musicians, enabling their work to be manipulated by outside sources results in a less-inspired record. Lodged beneath the gadgetry and shelved chemistry is a decent batch of songs, some of Fellows' most vocally melodic. The first side is solid, including a remake of their near-hit "Independence Day." The second side's "Nature Trails" matches earlier songs like "More" and "After the Rain" in gentle beauty. Truly, the only thing that sounds genuinely bad is "Mister Memory," thanks to an obstructive synth vamp that sounds like a ColecoVision video game sound effect. Connoisseur's 2001 reissue does wonders for the record, which was previously unavailable on CD. Full in sound and package, fans of the earlier records might want to consider picking it up. [It also includes a number of OK bonus tracks.]

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