I’ve been going on a binge of shoegaze of late. As an avid record collector, that means picking up some elusive albums from the original shoegaze era. I already have there three that seem to be the ones that top everyone’s list: Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, Souvlaki by Slowdive, and Nowhere by Ride. Today, I’m going to look at an album that tends to be in the top 5 — The Comforts of Madness by Pale Saints.
The Pale Saints: An Overview
The Pale Saints consisted of Ian Masters on vocals and bass, Chris Cooper on drums, and Graeme Naysmith on guitar. Masters’ vocals are soft and dreamy, while Cooper’s percussion provides a driving and rhythmic foundation to the sound. Naysmith’s guitar work is lush and atmospheric, creating a sonic landscape that is both ethereal and a bit grounding.
The Comforts of Madness preceded a number of other notable releases by Pale Saints, including In Ribbons (1992) and Slow Buildings (1994) before the band’s hiatus in 1996. It also preceded the band’s 1991 compilation of early singles, Mrs. Dolphin, which was released on CD-only until it was pressed to vinyl in 2020.
Let’s dig into the album at hand.
The Comforts of Madness Album Review
The Comforts of Madness is the debut album by the British shoegaze band Pale Saints. Released in 1990, the album received critical acclaim upon its release and has since become a cornerstone of early shoegaze. To this day, it continues to influence countless of modern shoegaze, dream pop, and indie bands.
What you get within the LP is dreamy, atmospheric soundscapes, heavy guitar reverb, and ethereal vocals. The album has been compared to the work of other early shoegaze acts such as—to no surprise—My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and Slowdive.
Here’s a quote from Pitchfork:
The Comforts of Madness established Pale Saints as one of the leading lights of the shoegaze movement.” The review also highlights some of the album’s more notable tracks, stating that “the dreamy ‘Way the World Is’ and the shimmering ‘Sea of Sound’ showcase the band’s ability to create a dreamy, otherworldly soundscape.Pale Saints: The Comforts of Madness Album Review [Pitchfork]
One highlight on The Comforts of Madness includes “You Tear the World in Two” with mesmerizing guitar work and haunting vocals. Check that one out below:
Other favorites include “Time Thief” and “Little Hammer,” both of which highlight the band’s unique approach to shoegaze. At times, you can almost hear the influence of 1980s indie rock on the album—in “A Deep Sleep for Steven,” I can pinpoint elements that would have sound at home on a jangly early album by The Feelies.
“Sight of You” by The Pale Saints
Perhaps the most notable track is the single “Sight of You”, which showcases the band’s ability to really create these atmospheric, layered soundscapes injected with true pop sensibilities. This seems to be the go-to track for most fans, and the spotlight single that gets called out whenever anyone mentions The Pale Saints.
In that regard, it’s much like “Vapour Trail” by Ride off their LP Nowhere.
The Comforts of Madness really is a landmark shoegaze album that cemented the Pale Saints’ place as one of the most innovative and influential bands of the movement. It helped define the shoegaze sound and give it legs. And its impact can still be felt today, remaining a must-listen for fans of shoegaze, dream pop and the blanket alternative music genre.
Remastered 30th Anniversary Edition
Further listening: Spotify includes both the original album and the remastered 30th Anniversary edition. It would be prudent to do a side-by-side comparison. For this, we’ll take one of my favorites from the LP, closing track “Time Thief.” Here’s the original:
The original is pretty great! It’s nostalgic to the era of the early 90s, steeped into early shoegaze.
On the remastered version, the production is phenomenal. It has a clean, crisp sound that works perfectly with the dreamy vocals and atmospheric instrumentation. Right off the bat, you can hear the difference in the percussion. But digging deeper, the guitars are fuller and hit even harder with an even bigger sound.
Check out the remastered version:
Vinyl Versions of The Comforts of Madness
Let’s take a look at the various versions of the album from the past 30 years.
As previously mentioned, the album was originally released in 1990, and that year it received a variety of vinyl pressings throughout Europe and the world, including the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and Canada. It was also released in many of these countries on CD and Cassette. Most of these version were on 4AD, though a few other labels make an appearance here or there.
It was originally remastered for release in 2011. This came on two pressings, one on black and one on silver. And it was the first time the album had been released in the US.
That brings us to my copy, which was released in early 2020 — the 30th anniversary. There are three variants — a CD version, a limited special edition on clear vinyl, a standard black vinyl pressing. Mine is the black vinyl copy.
Take a look as I unbox and discuss the album in my YouTube Channel coverage below:
Get Your Copy
You can snap up a copy on Amazon for quite the reasonable price as of the publishing of this post (April 2023). Also, find a few other similar Shoegaze gems to add to your collection below: