• Comateens
  • Comateens (Cachalot) 1981 
  • Pictures on a String (Virgin/Mercury) 1983 
  • Deal With It (Virgin/Mercury) 1984 

This New York trio played a bouncy brand of dance rock rooted in chintzy ’60s Farfisa organ pop and spooky horror- movie soundtrack music. The group first gained recognition in 1979 with a homemade single that featured a stripped- down version of Bowie’s “TVC 15,” which they re-recorded for their first LP. After a number of personnel changes, the lineup solidified at Lyn Byrd (keyboards), Oliver North (guitar, not international subterfuge), Nic North (bass) and synthetic drums. Comateens is a delightful distillation of the aforementioned influences, with neat contrasts between the thin-sounding synth fills and the chunky, rhythmic guitar. There’s also a three-track 12-inch — on the same label — of the hypnotic “Ghosts,” the pure pop “Late Night City” and the theme for TV’s Munsters, which pretty much sums up the Comateens’ music.

Signed to a major label, the Comateens made Pictures on a String, which diverges into rock quirkiness and danceable commercialism, pushing a powerful disco beat on “Get off My Case,” “Cinnamon” and other numbers. The rock-oriented material, especially the Beatlesque “Comateens,” with its awesome fuzz-blizzard guitar solo, and a weird overdrive cover of the oldie “Uptown,” are more intriguing; the dance tracks don’t really go anywhere.

With a guest drummer and veteran hitmaker Pete Solley producing, Deal With It sublimates the big beat into various styles, much the way Blondie often did. Rather than base tunes on rhythms, these songs explore widely differing pop modes, welded to strong, emphasized drum tracks, resulting in a fascinating mix full of unexpected, delightful juxtapositions. This is the album that finally and fully realizes the Comateens’ hybridizing potential.

After Oliver North’s death in 1987, Nic North and Lyn Byrd continued to work together, recording for French Virgin under the name of West & Byrd.

[Dave Schulps / Ira Robbins]