Although very much a sociable entity in the fertile Boston underground rock scene of the early-‘90s, Come still stood aside from many of their peers. Not indebted enough to Hüsker Dü and plaid shirts to be like Buffalo Tom, not as melodically-honeyed as Belly to follow an indie-pop path and not into sufficient soap opera hedonism to keep up with The Lemonheads, the quartet led by co-founders Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw never quite slotted into an easy pigeon-hole despite the good company they kept. This largely explains why the band’s four album run still retains a heavy sense of inscrutability. With this in mind, the entire Come catalogue is undoubtedly worthy of an enhanced re-exploration, especially with recent live reunion shows spiking a renewed interest in the group. Whilst hopefully 1994’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, 1996’s Near-Life Experience and 1998’s Gently Down The Stream will all reappear in expanded form eventually, for now this standalone deluxe edition of 1992’s Eleven: Eleven reminds us how it all began.
A dark and churning record, Eleven: Eleven – much like it subsequent sequels – still dodges simplistic description. Certainly there are strands of Zedek’s respective stints in post-punk and no wave outfits Uzi and Live Skull and there are perhaps deeply buried atmospheric elements of Brokaw’s time with slow core pioneers Codeine, yet ultimately the nascent Come idioms seemed to have mainly been birthed from Zedek’s heart-via-the-gut lead vocals and lyrics being directly mirrored by her turbulent guitar interlacing with Brokaw and the heavy rhythmic anchoring of bassist Sean O’Brien and drummer Arthur Johnson.
Being an album still not willing to provide quick access to its hooks, Eleven: Eleven relies on three standout spine-tingling tracks to make sense of the record as a whole. The first such moment is undoubtedly the opening “Submerge,” one of Come’s borderline ‘hits’ (at least in the indie-rock pantheon); which displays both Zedek’s overlooked prowess as a wordsmith and the foursome’s assured dynamic interplay. Uncoiling from an almost delicate lapping introduction to hit cresting and intermittently receding waves of low-end weight and gritty galvanising guitars – without ever coming close to dated quiet/loud grunge interchanging – “Submerge” justifiably remains one of Come’s most defining statements. The second large vertebrae defining the record’s backbone is the epically bleak “Brand New Vein,” wherein Come’s thickening quicksand-blues side drags you in and nearly doesn’t let you come up for air. Yet arguably the most memorable masterwork of the long-player comes in the form of the towering “Off To One Side,” which initially unpeels with a prolonged plaintive electric slide-guitar meditation before erupting into a post-punk adrenaline-releasing geyser, with the full band in flying formation and Zedek’s snarled promise that “There’s no one left to coming looking for me / There’s no one left to coming looking for you,” hitting the solar plexus like an apocalyptic Patti Smith.
With those three tremendous worth-the-journey-alone peaks found on the map, the rest of the record may not quite reach further such high-points but its terrain unrolls a lot more openly. Hence, amongst the remaining five tracks you’ll find the edgy visceral “William” paying an indirect homage to late-period Birthday Party, the jagged juddering “Dead Molly” nodding honourably to The Jesus Lizard and the yearning “Sad Eyes” unfurling into a strung-out near-duet between Zedek and Brokaw.
Extra material wise, this reissue re-appends the original CD-only bonus tracks in the shape of the searing onetime single A-side “Fast Piss Blues” and its impressively smeared yet soaring B-side cover of The Stones’ “I Got The Blues.” Although it’s sad that the opportunity to rescue the three recordings from the contemporaneous Car EP has been missed here, the eight-song 1992 Vermonstress Festival live bonus disc provides a solid appendix to the band’s aural history. Featuring a string of songs from the main Eleven: Eleven tracklist alongside a clutch of non-album cuts, the all-too-brief recording captures the even deeper intensity of the Come on-stage experience with emphatic rawness.
Taken as a whole this carefully restored and expanded reissue of Eleven: Eleven may still not fully explain what made the Come muse tick but it does finally give the band some greater and much deserved retrospective reverence. Fingers crossed that the balance of the bank catalogue also gets similarly curatorial attention before too long.