Little Comets thrive off being exceptions to the general rule. Their 2011 debut ‘In Search Of The Elusive Little Comets’, with its observational lyrics and jangular (jangly and angular) guitars, firmly took the helm of a ship that everyone else was abandoning apace. Since then their DIY approach and commitment to producing genuine indie (as in independently released) music has largely kept them off magazine covers and the critical radar. All the while they’ve been gainfully plugging away, crafting well-hooked pop songs in their garage and penning thoughtful lyrics with unabashed socio-economic messages, the result of which is that they’ve managed to earn a place in the hearts of a far larger fan-base then very few other non-grime acts without a label could ever dream of.
Camden’s KOKO is not a small venue, but Little Comets still pack it out convincingly. The crowd is a healthy mix of nostalgic indie kids who, with a noteable lack of self-awareness, lost their virginities to ‘Joanna’ back in the day and haven’t heard anything by them since alongside diehard fans keen to hear material from the latest album ‘Worhead’ (for evidence of just how removed Little Comets are from the mainstream music industry, just try finding a review of this online.) The band, now technically a three piece with a touring drummer and keyboardist, toe a steady line between old and new material throughout the show. New tracks such as ‘The Man Who Wrote Thriller’ and ‘À bientôt’ are picked up quickly by the receptive crowd, the latter’s anti-Brexit refrain about escaping over the English Channel chiming a chord with the crowd here deep in the heart of the ‘metropolitan elite’.
Robert Coles chats amiably with the crowd throughout the set, it’s just a shame most of them can’t understand a word of his strong Geordie brogue. The language he speaks when he starts singing, however, is impossible to misconstrue. “Question the agenda of an industry that only can objectify, You write about a non-existent blurred line but not about abortion rights,” he cries on the rapturously received ‘The Blur, The Line and the Thickest of Onions’, possibly the greatest ever feminist ballad to be written by a man. Elsewhere his twisted tale of Tory politicians substituting foxes for the homeless on ‘Hunting’ proves that few other writers can spin out such funny yet erudite anti-austerity polemics time and time again. It´s just a shame he keeps on being given so much material to write about on each record.
Midway through the set there’s a surprise. “It’s great to be able to get on tour and show you all our new songs, but it’s also great to be able to play some old songs!” Rob exclaims before breaking into original album opener ‘Adultery’. Given that they’ve been keeping this song off their setlists for years, it feels a little like MGMT deigning to play ‘Kids’ or Radiohead doing a rare rendition of ‘Creep’. It’s followed up by fellow old flame ‘Joanna’, momentarily transporting the crowd back to a simpler time. But despite the cheers that this diversion down nostalgia alley elicit, the greatest moments of the night come on the more quiet, considered songs. An unexpected solo performance of ‘Woman Woman’ in particular, with its simple exploration of the expectations placed upon one another within a relationship, leaves nary a dry eye in the house.
The way that Little Comets are able to flip so effortlessly between the politics of relationships and the politics of, well… politics, marks them out as the worthiest successors to Paul Heaton’s The Beautiful South (The Beautiful North?). They’re a band who earn every iota of their fans’ love for them through hard work and open hearts, whose songs continue to resonate with audiences on every level while elsewhere hyped musical trends wither and die. Label-less, non-grandstanding and totally genuine, Little Comets are the protest band for ordinary people.