June 23, 2021

Pale Saints - The Comforts of Madness (1990)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Shoegaze
Label Number: CAD 0002 CD
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© 1990 4AD
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
Pale Saints appeared on some micro-indie compilations in 1988 and early 1989, but it was a demo that enticed the 4AD label's Ivo Watts-Russell, who without haste caught a gig and consequently signed the band (along with support act Lush). Watts-Russell was particularly taken with "Sight of You," and in a few months, a remixed/retouched version of the drifting ballad led Pale Saints' debut EP. Almost sickly sweet and seemingly innocent until Ian Masters' chorister-like voice lets slip a covetous blood-soaked fantasy -- the escalation from "bad"/"sad" to "red/"dead" is easy to miss -- "Sight of You" went over well, landed on BBC DJ John Peel's listener-driven Festive 50 for 1989, and was covered by Ride. The following February, coincidentally between the recording and broadcast of Ride's take for a Peel session, "Sight of You" was placed in a new context on The Comforts of Madness. Perhaps seen as too significant to be left off, and downplayed so as to not overstress its signature status, "Sight of You" was tucked deep into the LP's second side, thereby emphasizing the many other colors of frayed-nerve dream pop -- as filtered through avant-folk, West Coast psychedelia, the Paisley Underground, power pop, and C-86 -- the trio had to offer. The album creates a kind of whiplash effect by starting with a violent existential tantrum, recharging with a swirling assault that gathers steam (concluding with "I'll destroy you," or something else suggesting emotional rupture), and halting with a chilling and diaphanous ballad cast in a soft shimmer (line one: "You're body's cold"). The rest of the sequence moves from one extreme to another, from the resemblance of a sugared-up Dream Syndicate in a wind tunnel to sighing and strumming through plaintive material ripe for This Mortal Coil picking. All the turbulence is mitigated by Masters' singular tenor, and further eased from song to song with Bad Moon Rising-style noise segues and subtle crossfading. These first steps still delight, startle, and chill.

tags: pale saints, the comforts of madness, 1990, flac,


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