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  • Fiction's lightness in relation to Sleep No More does not come as much of a surprise. Perhaps only a song-by-song cover of Nico's Marble Index would've topped Sleep No More in terms of bleakness, so it didn't really require a conscious effort on the part of the Comsat Angels to use some brighter tones and leave a little room to breathe on their third album. In fact, Fiction begins with a song that's as much an affirmation in "After the Rain," a fragile, resilient opener that applies the band's long-established sense of economy with the kind of sprightful mallet work that could've been learned from Japan's Tin Drum. (Another aspect that indicates the band might've been listening to Tin Drum is evident in the rubbery, slithering quality in some of Kevin Bacon's basslines.) The abstract propellant bounce in "Not a Word," "Zinger," "Birdman," and the especially stripped-down "More" -- which is powered almost entirely by Mik Glaisher's short-step marching beat -- recalls the poppier moments of Waiting for a Miracle without retracing them. "Now I Know," "Pictures," and "What Else?!" are bracing extensions of the irreparable-relationship songs on Waiting for a Miracle and Sleep No More, using slightly different shadings and containing line after line of Stephen Fellows' quote-worthy lyrics. On "Pictures," "I was tired of explaining why you were still around" is expressed with exhausted frustration instead of malicious hostility, while on "What Else!?," he's undoubtedly bewildered: "I know you have some ambitious plans/The big bad world did not agree/You feel caught in your circumstances/Don't take it out on me." So, although there are some reprieves from the suffocating possibilities of the band's prior releases, Fiction does not amount to a significant departure. It doesn't approach the greatness of the Comsats' first two albums, but it certainly deserves to be filed alongside them. This closes out a trilogy spread across three years that either matches or exceeds similar runs by any of the band's contemporaries. ~ Andy Kellman
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