Lost in the ’80s: Comsat Angels (C.S. Angels)
Ah, the age-old struggle of Art vs. Commerce. Many a critically acclaimed band has succumbed to the pressure for that all-elusive hit, sacrificing credibility for a chance at some cold, hard moolah. But I am here today not to judge the Comsat Angels for seeking to add some commercial sheen to their sound, but to praise them.
After three heavily atmospheric and Joy Division-esque albums, Sheffield U.K.-based Comsat Angels (sometimes billed as “The C.S. Angels” in the States, due to a similarly named satellite company) signed to Jive Records in 1983, and the push was on to score a hit. Teamed with OMD and A Flock of Seagulls producer Mike Howlett, the band decided to re-record one of its first singles, “Independence Day,” for the new album, Land. Covered in contemporary synthpop sheen, the new version of “Independence Day” (download) is superior to the earlier, rougher version, and even charted in the lower 70s of the U.K. pop chart while scoring the band its first American record deal.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to break the band entirely. After another album for Jive and a song (“I’m Falling”) featured in Val Kilmer movie classic Real Genius, Comsat Angels fan Robert Palmer used his pull to get the band signed to Island Records, but nothing there seemed to take either. The Angels continued to record into the Nineties before splitting up. As bands like Interpol and the Editors adopted a similar sound, the Comsat Angels saw their catalog re-released with bonus tracks in the early ’00s, but some have already slipped back out of print.
“Independence Day” did not chart.
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