Barbara Manning, Simon Comber (NZ), Meridians

Tue Jun 14, 2011
Hemlock Tavern
Show @ 9:00pm
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Simon Comber’s first album Pre-Pill Love (2006) introduced New Zealand to a songwriter of quiet insight and shrewd economy. Written whilst Comber was based in Dunedin, and recorded both in Dunedin (with Graeme Downes of The Verlaines producing) and Auckland (with Flying Nun’s number 1 eccentric pop genius Edmund ”Bressa Creeting Cake” Mcwilliams ) it was a tale of two cities. Predominantly acoustic songs like Early Spring Rain, Sunday Horrors and Marylands said what they had to say (on topics ranging from watching horror movies with the one you love to child abuse) and got the hell out, occasionally not even breaking the 2 minute mark.

His second album Endearance, reversed the geography of the debut, being written in Auckland and recorded back down south by sonic sculpter Dale Cotton. His sophomore album demonstrated that Comber had grown more comfortable taking his sweet time in a song, with some stretching out past the 5 minute mark. His love of narrative songwriting had not diminished, with songs like The Jaws of Life and Please Elvis staring down the barrel of family dysfunction with characteristic lyrical candour, but the guitars made their presence felt more, and not just because they were now amplified. The title track was (surprisingly enough for an artist acclaimed as a lyricist of “almost forensic precision”) a hymnal solo guitar instrumental influenced by, as Comber said, “the hours of peace and wonder I’ve got from listening to John Fahey and Loren Connors.”

Having done two national tours to promote Endearance in 2010, Comber once again returned to the empty page and the recording studio. His forthcoming release is a shorter batch of songs – a 5 track E.P entitled The Right to Talk to Strangers, recorded and co-produced by Auckland-based musical renaissance man Thomas Healey (whose C.V includes working on recordings with Die Die Die and The Pop Strangers, playing guitar for The Verlaines, and penning his own tunes for The Low Spark and new solo project Paquin).

Lead single New Day combines chiming guitar arpeggios and yearning synth lines with a 3rd person narrative about the difficulty of connecting with one’s fellow humans. “Love is all around” Comber sings, coupling it with a sucker punch: “Sedated, gagged and bound.”

Twin Insomniacs starts off sounding like Neil Young circa the Dead Man soundtrack – with lyrics. Just over two minutes in and it’s segued into a brooding e-bow driven rock band number – without lyrics.

Two more original numbers (the dreamy, lilting ode to romantic masochism Here I Go Again, and the bona fide jangle pop of Young and In Love) and a cover song round out the E.P. The cover – G. Frenzy’s wonderfully poignant Tonight the Kids Sleep in the Car – has been one of Comber’s favourite songs ever since he first heard it. Recorded live in a garage at the end of a draining musical session and more than a few beers, not including it on the E.P was simply not an option. (Frenzy has told Comber to spend his share of the royalties on donations of beer for the homeless).

Comber has done national tours with The Verlaines and The Chills, both iconic New Zealand bands, and has honed his shows both with a band and as a solo performer. In June 2011 he is heading to the U.S.A to play any gigs he can find and put his songs on a different part of the world map. Upon returning he looks forward to getting to work on album number three AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. . .



  1. Hemlock Tavern
    1131 Polk St, San Francisco, CA