Welcome to Chateau Rex

A new day rising for Coma Coma
By CHRIS CONTI  |  May 26, 2010



75orLess Records strikes again with another stoner-rock scorcher in Chateau Rex, courtesy of Coma Coma. While the players remain the same — guitarist Steve Demers, drummer Dan Ulmschneider, and bassist/vocalist Eric Sampson — the East Bay trio have stepped up their game, and their official full-length debut will surely go down as one of the year’s best rock albums on the local front, as the Warren-based label continues to crank out excellent product ranging from Mark Cutler to the Jesse Minute.

For Coma Coma, it really is all about the music — to the point that obtaining any helpful press info, pics, or band updates is scarce at best. And while their past two releases are available at 75orLessRecords.com (debut EP Does Your Remote Control Have a Remote Control? and Live at Jake’s), a dormant MySpace page is about all you’ll find on these guys. While sitting in on the Six Star General recording session late last year, I recall Summing Point Studios engineer (and diePods bassist) Scott Rancourt referring to Coma’s then-work in progress: “The new Coma Coma record is gonna be a monster,” were his exact words. When I spoke with 75orLess ringleader Mark MacDougall following a recent Six Star show, all he could offer was, “I haven’t heard anything from it, but I’m just as curious as anyone to check out the final mix.”

Having 75orLess as an all-encompassing support system proves highly beneficial for Coma Coma, with Jeremy Withers (of electro-duo the Inclined) using his graphic design skills for the artwork (inspired by Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade); he accurately summed up Coma Coma’s sound as “modern influences mixed with SST-era post-punk and almost psychedelic solos.” As for the album release party next week, Coma Coma will perform Chateau Rex in its entirety, followed by an all-star 75orLess lineup joining Sampson for a set of covers, a Coma Coma specialty that usually closes out their live set. Past standouts include Radiohead’s “Just,” Ween, and Built to Spill, as well as a sick version of Pavement’s “In the Mouth a Desert” (I’ve since been pushing for an Archers of Loaf cover).

When I finally tracked down Sampson (after he pulled a no-show at their Swansea practice space), a smirk of satisfaction crept from his grizzly-bearded mug as he handed me the disc.

“It’s about time,” we said simultaneously.

Indeed, Chateau Rex is worth the wait and then some. With influences like Super Furry Animals and the Flaming Lips (along with Sampson’s staff-thumping, flannel-sporting allegiance to Mike Watt), Coma Coma sounds right at home on Chateau Rex. “Fourth of July” and “Cheap Disguise,” both written a few years back (first appearing on Live at Jake’s), provide a subtle wallop to open the disc. True to form, Coma Coma have honed the majority of the dozen tracks here through their live shows. Ulmschneider, now also full-time drummer for Six Star General and a frequent fill-in with the Propellers, is the busiest timekeeper on the live circuit, and his pinpoint fills bolster Sampson’s rugged bass lines. As for guitarist Demers, this dude is operating on an otherworldly level; skidding riffs careen through “On a Clear Day” and the meaty “Metaphysical Mistake.” His skewed chords and gnarled fuzz provide a literal ripple effect on Chateau, the jagged squalls expertly chopping through the nimble rhythm section. “I still can’t remember why I’m in the parking lot getting high,” Sampson says on “Cheap Disguise.” Don’t let the unshaven mug and wrinkled flannel fool you — Sampson and his bandmates take pride in their unique slacker-math rock leanings, and Chateau Rex is a four-star host. “When you got, you got it,” Sampson declares on “Argyle Satellite,” and indeed they do.

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