The Comas opening for Mando Diao at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (April 29). $10. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
When Andy Herod finally picks up his cellphone, the Comas frontman sounds bagged. He's just finished a shift tending bar near his Williamsburg apartment. Yet even after a long day serving Red Bull and vodka to suburban hipsters, he's still in the mood to celebrate.
Herod just found out that the Comas have finally been released from their contract with former label 679 Records - the UK-based Warners subsidiary that put out Death from Above 1979's stuff in England - so his group won't have to perform in matching stagewear and speak in phony Swedish accents after all.
"Well, we're not planning a celebration," explains Herod. "But it was a relief the other day when we heard that the big man at the label has no desire to make things difficult for us. They could've shelved the record they paid for, but instead they licensed it to Yep Roc, which means that at least it's out now in North America.
When the band initially submitted their demo to 679, the label had a very clear idea of how it wanted the finished versions of the songs to sound. Dropping specific references to the Hives, the Vines and the Strokes, 679 was determined to slot the Comas right in there with them. But according to Herod, the band failed miserably at fitting in with that plan.
"We eventually ended up trashing that first recording because it felt like we were being really fake. So the Conductor album is a re-recording of a few of the songs, along with some newer stuff we did with a friend of ours, Alan Weatherhead, producing. We're really happy with the results, but it seems like it took forever to get out."
The lengthy ordeal the Comas went through between writing and demoing the songs for the new album and finally recording them could explain why the disjointed Conductor album - which shifts from brooding shoegazer drone through gently introspective pop ballads to raunchy blasts - sounds as though it was made by three different bands.
Apparently, the accompanying DVD, Conductor: The Movie, was conceived with the notion of helping to bring the disparate strands together into a coherent statement.
But watching animator Brent Bonacorso's non-linear sequence of dark vignettes in which the blank-faced band members wander aimlessly as snow falls on a decaying cityscape - and then robots zoom in for no apparent reason - it feels like the sci-fi headscratcher raises more questions about the meaning of the songs and how they connect than it answers.
"The original idea was to do an animated movie about a scientist whose obsession with the moon eventually destroys his life," explains Herod. "A very simple narrative. So I explained my idea for the movie to Brent, who's this weird, creative guy - and he just took it over and did his own thing.
"To be honest, the movie didn't quite come out the way I envisioned it. I think a lot of the images he wound up using were things he already had sitting in his computer - he just found a way of working them into the story.
"But while it wasn't exactly what I was looking for, I'm happy with the way it looks and I'm glad that we did it."