It's unlikely that when the four members of Come entered Boston's Fort Apache Studios in July of 1992 to record their Matador debut, they had any idea the result would be heralded as one of the finer indie releases of the decade. Or that 21 years later it would get a deluxe reissue complete with bonus songs and a searing live concert from the following tour — a royal treatment generally reserved for major-label superstars.
But here it is in all its gritty, raw glory, back in print and expanded for those who missed this dark, wiry, guitar-driven tour de force the first time around.
Looking back on the foursome's credentials, it seems implausible that its initial studio set — recorded nearly two years after joining forces — would result in such a remarkably fertile album, leading to cult fans that followed in the music's wake. Singer/guitarist Thalia Zedek was already respected in underground circles for work with Live Skull, Uzi, and the Dangerous Birds. Guitarist Chris Brokaw had just finished a stint playing drums in the lauded slowcore outfit Codeine. Athens, Ga., provided the rhythm section of bassist Sean O'Brien and drummer Arthur Johnson from the Kilkenny Cats and the Bar-B-Q Killers, respectively. None of these bands broke through commercially, but the members shared an edgy sensibility that yielded a roaring combustion. After a year of rehearsals and one Sub Pop single, "Cars," they pounded out Eleven: Eleven in less than eight days. More than two decades later, the intense, grinding 47 minutes of minor-key aggression led by Zedek's angry lyrics and a tortured voice that makes Patti Smith sound like a choirgirl hasn't lost an ounce of its raucous power. The intertwining guitars are more defined with the remaster, as the claustrophobic collision of instruments and Zedek's snarling torrents of ravaged words hit with a force akin to the eruption of a once dormant volcano. The fiery combination of Black Sabbath riffs, Television's twin leads, the Stooges' punk/garage punch, and a rhythm section strong enough to push it into overdrive isn't an easy listen, but it's not meant to be. The reissue's murky, grainy, mainly black-and-white group photos and song titles such as "Brand New Vein," "Dead Molly," "Submerge," and the added single "Fast Piss Blues" (with the memorable opening line "I don't remember being born") provide a vivid indication of the menacing contents before you even push play.
The short but penetrating live performance catches the original band — who only released another EP and subsequent album that wasn't as artfully abrasive — at the peak of its powers, bulldozing through a 40-minute concert recorded at 1992's Vermonstress Festival. Zedek's appreciation of the crowd results in her zombiefied "It's really great to be here tonight, it's fun." Which is probably the only time "fun" is used when describing anything related to Come. Only four tracks are reprised from the studio set with rare singles and previously unreleased material providing the rest. A version of "Cars" is pushed to nearly seven howling minutes with guitarist Brokaw in particularly ragged form. The Georgia-based rhythm section urges Zedek to new growling heights. The concert lumbers into overdrive, threatening to go off the rails at any time yet careening back on track through loose yet rehearsed arrangements.
It's that tension, both live and in the studio, which creates unnerving, some might say disturbing, music which has given Eleven: Eleven a second chance to be heard and appreciated. Love it or hate it, no one can deny the tautness and nervy energy of slow-burners such as "Power Failure" and "Sad Eyes," songs that take a few listens to sink in. But when they do, they get under your skin and stay there. Figure in the double entendre inference of the band's name and the equation for edginess is complete. As the album's initial 1992 press release so eloquently stated, "Come makes music that leaves a stain."
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
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