The shoegaze revival is upon us, so a revisit of the classics can only do a world of good. The first Pale Saints album, The Comforts of Madness, which came out in February 1990, is precisely a milestone record in the dream pop and shoegaze movement. For its 30th anniversary, it is being rereleased in a remastered deluxe version, in 24-Bit Hi-Res quality, adorned with never-before-heard demos.
At the time, the 4AD label was living a sort of golden age with the establishment of the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, This Mortal Coil and of course Pixies. The record label headed by Ivo Watts-Russell kept their roster fresh by signing bands such as Belly, Lush and Pale Saints. The Leeds-based group, formed in the late-1980s, based the originality of their sound in the duality of singer Ian Masters’ delicate voice and the wall of sound created by the guitars carrying fairly pop melodies. Evanescent fury, raging daydreaming… in a way, this is the dichotomy of shoegaze.
Gil Norton, who made a name for himself by producing Ocean Rain by Echo & the Bunnymen and Doolittle by Pixies, is in the mixing booth for five of the tracks, with John Fryer from This Mortal Coil covering the other half of the album. Once the album starts, the sound of this first Pale Saints opus is unmistakably Cocteau Twins or Jesus & Mary Chain. Some may even draw comparisons with My Bloody Valentine, despite their iconic Loveless coming out only a year and a half after The Comforts of Madness in November 1991.
More of a cult figure than he is given credit for, Ian Masters is more than just a run of the mill shoegaze singer: he knows how to orchestrate different rhythms and especially how to compose often-perfect pop songs, stringing them together so that the project as a whole feels like one single composition. This feeling is amplified by the absence of any gaps between the eleven tracks on The Comforts of Madness. Thirty years later, this masterpiece has not only not aged a bit, but stands out amongst its contemporaries.