Surprisingly orthodox for a band generated by such “out” bloodlines, Come spends much of its time poking about in the more opiated, murkier corners of post-Stones blues-noise. Led by the charismatic Thalia Zedek — whose mightily lascivious vocals take their just place in the spotlight for the first time in a decade-long career — the quartet heaps tension atop tension, rarely providing even a semblance of release. (An ironic state of affairs, given the moniker.)
Eleven: Eleven is very much a guitar tour de force, drenched as it is in the sweaty fluids that come forth when the six-strings of Zedek (a veteran of Boston’s Dangerous Birds and New York’s Live Skull) and Chris Brokaw (who served concurrently as Codeine’s drummer until 1993) rub against each other. The guitarists seldom settle into standard lead/rhythm roles; rather, they hydroplane in roughly parallel arcs over the steadfast rhythms laid down by drummer Arthur Johnson (formerly a member of spazz-punk ensemble the Bar-B-Q Killers) and bassist Sean O’Brien (who played with the Kilkenny Cats). On tracks like “Brand New Vein” and “Submerge,” the atmosphere verges on the oppressive, the air heavy and blue-black with a pharmacological ennui that only abates on the double-barreled windup of “Fast Piss Blues” and a cover of the Stones’ “I Got the Blues.”
The hues don’t get much brighter on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but the odd sliver of light does peek through the between-note fissures. The mere fact that those cracks exist not only leavens the claustrophobia of more dynamic tracks (the dervish-like “Yr Reign”) but also accentuates the power fomented when the foursome re-thickens the mood, as on the Iberian-tinged dirge “Finish Line.” Again, both Brokaw and Zedek coax all manner of licentious notes into the darker corners of tracks like “Poison” and the slow-dance enchantment “Let’s Get Lost,” but this time the mood that lingers is one of liberation rather than pressure buildup.
Johnson and O’Brien departed before the recording of Near Life Experience, which was completed using two different rhythm sections — the team of Bundy Brown (Tortoise) and Mac McNeilly (Jesus Lizard) and ex-Rodan bandmates Tara Jane O’Neil and Kevin Coultas. Zedek’s affinity for narcoleptic waltz-time constructions — like the one that wraps around “Hurricane” — has never been more apropos, given the dazed tone of most of the album’s eight songs, particularly the pair that ramble forward led by Brokaw’s parched lead vocals.
Between the Dangerous Birds and her relocation to New York, Zedek fronted Uzi, a gloomy, overly elliptical band that concealed her raspy singing behind a veil of murky guitar effects and tape manipulation, the latter provided by Boston scene vet Phil Milstein (more recently of Pep Lester & His Pals and a solo career). The Matador reissue of Sleep Asylum adds the previously unreleased, but scarcely indispensable, “Underneath.”