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Led by singer, guitarist, and songwriter Thalia Zedek, Come generated a singular fusion of blues, post-punk, and indie rock, whose dark, dissonant tone is powerful and evocative. The buzz and slash of Zedek's guitar soars and dives over the precise scatter of the rhythm section, while her vocals are a primal howl whose canny use of dynamics adds depth and shading to the challenging emotional landscape of her lyrics. Come made a striking debut with 1992's Eleven : Eleven, they wowed critics with 1994's Don't Ask Don't Tell (widely regarded as their best album), and 1996's Near Life Experience saw them reworkling their sound after replacing their original rhythm section. Born in Washington D.C. in 1961, Thalia Zedek already had an impressive resume in underground rock circles before she formed Come in 1990. A fearless personality who was open about her recovery from heroin addiction and her queer sexuality, Zedek started making music in the late 1970s after relocating to Boston, and she'd worked with the groups White Women and Dangerous Birds before founding her own band, a gritty post-punk outfit known as Uzi. Uzi issued one six-song EP for Matador prior to their premature breakup; in the wake of the group's collapse, she accepted an invitation to play guitar in a pre-stardom lineup of White Zombie, moving to New York City to help keep up with their busy schedule. In 1990, Zedek quit White Zombie and moved back to Boston, putting out feelers about launching a new project. As it happened, guitarist Chris Brokaw (who played drums in the slowcore band Codeine), bassist Sean O'Brien (formerly of the Kilkenny Cats), and drummer Arthur Johnson (ex-Bar-B-Q Killers) had just started a band when they lost their lead singer and guitarist, and they asked Zedek to take his place. Come spent its first year of existence exploring improvisation and jamming together before recording "Car," a single for the Sub Pop label which made them one of the most talked-about new bands in indie rock. Matador Records signed Come, and in just over a week, they recorded 1992's Eleven: Eleven, a keenly atmospheric effort that won rave reviews in the indie music press, while Bob Mould, J. Mascis, and Kurt Cobain all offered praise for the band. Come delivered their second full-length release in 1994, and Don't Ask Don't Tell received even stronger press than Eleven: Eleven. Former Dream Syndicate leader Steve Wynn showed his admiration for Come by recruiting them to be his backing band for his album Melting in the Dark, which was issued in 1996. That same year, Come issued their third LP, Near Life Experience, but by the time they began work on the project, Sean O'Brien and Arthur Johnson quit the band, and two different rhythm sections sat in for the recordings -- Bundy K. Brown of Tortoise and Mac McNeilly of the Jesus Lizard played on half the songs, while Tara Jane O'Neil (of Rodan and the Sonora Pine) on bass and Kevin Coultas (another Rodan alumnus) on drums handled the chores for the rest of the album. After touring behind Near Life Experience (which would include dates opening for Sugar, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth), Come began work on Album Number Four, 1998's Gently, Down the Stream, their longest album at 66 minutes, with Zedek and Brokaw joined by bassist Winson Bramen and drummer Daniel Coughlin. Following the touring cycle after Gently, Down the Stream's release, Zedek and Brokaw opted to take a hiatus from the group. The group never fully reunited after that, though Zedek and Brokaw remained on good terms and Come would play occasional reunion shows in the 2000s and 2010s. Chris Brokaw would go on to a solo career and record with the Lemonheads, Consonant, and the New Year. Thalia Zedek, meanwhile, would record and tour with her Thalia Zedek Band and in the experimental trio E. In 2021, Come's Don't Ask Don't Tell was reissued in a special expanded edition, adding ten demos, single sides, and unreleased tracks to the original ten-song effort.
© Mark Deming /TiVo
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