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Comateens – Pictures On a String

June 15, 2011

The Comateens were a NYC new wave group that regularly shuffled line-ups between 1980 and 1984 yet managed to produce three proper full-length albums in this time. They are cited as one of the first groups to use only a drum machine in the percussive section, and per an earlier post, they found magic in the moments of pop songs where they held back rather than let everything go (producing a fragility that much of the music from the late 1970’s lacked).

Pictures on a String was released on Virgin Records in 1983, right in the middle of the pack. Even though it gained modest popularity for its danceable single, “Get Off My Case,” it’s the slower-paced tracks I’ve found stuck on repeat:

“Uptown” sounds like a strange Mary Tyler Moore Show theme-song remix, and oddly enough, it was released the same year as Billy Joel’s much more nostalgic and recognizable “Uptown Girl.” The Comateen’s version is a re-contexualized take on The Crystal’s 1962 original. Here, it’s about an early-80’s downtown financier finding solace in the arms of his uptown lover at her cheap “tenement.” The band mixes a bizarre showtune-quality in the vocals with splashes of distorted guitar and killer synths:

Comateens – Uptown

“Cold Eyes” is slower, and more melancholy. Nic North takes the lead vocals and tells the story of a girl caught in an abusive relationship who always shows up “with dark glasses on.” The song swoons into the chorus and peaks with a synthesizer crescendo:

Comateens – Cold Eyes

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