Comet Gain embodies a certain outsider-pop sensibility so perfectly — that is, so imperfectly — that the veteran British group appears doomed to forever remain a cult phenomenon. Howl of the Lonely Crowd, the sixth proper album from culture addict David Feck and his ever-changing band of enablers, is a timely reminder that this isn’t such a bad thing to be.
Another ramshackle set of poignant, punk-streaked indie pop inspired by books, movies and, yes, connoisseur-adored records, Comet Gain’s latest veers little from a classic template that has influenced Love Is All, Los Campesinos!, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and many others. Rather, Howl represents a sort of passing of the torch, with underdog-pop forefather Edwyn Collins (Orange Juice) and heir Ryan Jarman (the Cribs) helping produce. Shrag’s Helen King (vocals) and the Clientele’s Alasdair MacLean (guitar) also contribute. But the album’s real charm is some of Comet Gain’s most welcoming warts-and-all songwriting yet.
Feck, for his part, does kiwi-pop wistfulness (“Clang of the Concrete Swans”), foul-mouthed Lou Reed street-punk (“Herbert Huncke Prt 2″) and tender acoustic balladry (“Some of Us Don’t Want to Be Saved”) with equal wry aplomb. Co-vocalist Rachel Evans doesn’t miss a beat, either, whether on nightlife fantasy “The Weekend Dreams” or Blue Orchids binge “Yoona Baines.” But Feck sums up his long-underrated band’s patient approach best when he asks, far too modestly, “Will you still sing my song/ After I’m gone?” For many in the 21st century’s always-connected lonely crowd, the answer should be a resounding yes.