I’ve been intrigued by The Gametes for about a year now. Every time they release music, I get a further glimpse into the creative world they’ve conjured through their lyrics, live sets and social media presence. A world much like our own, but littered with sci-fi lore, pulp fiction action, meme humour and a little bit of Japanese dictatorship. They are one of, if not the most, interesting band in Brisbane, certainly most creative. So when I was given the opportunity to listen to their debut album, The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones, for review, I screamed louder than an intoxicated girl front row at a Gang of Youths gig. Each word uttered from an individual Gamete adds to the mythos they’ve created in the short time they’ve been on the scene. There’s a level of mysticism that surrounds the band; showing dedication to their art and to their story. All I can really tell you about The Gametes is that each time I’ve seen them live they’ve been in the same uniform, they are under the possibly peaceful control of their CEO: Mr. Takiyama, and they write some fucking great music.
The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones details the journey of Comet Jones as he pilots his ship, The Star Surfer IX across the galaxy. Comet Jones touches down on foreign worlds and encounters deadly creatures throughout what could easily work as a 1940s radio show with a punk soundtrack. It’s a concept album of pulp-sci-fi proportions and a mighty effort for a debut album. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard. And this is coming from a band who had very little music out a year ago.
The album begins with The Colour Out of Space, an epic eight-and-a-half-minute track that introduces both the tone and the story of the album. Lead Gamete, Tom Harden, sings “Comet Jones, you’ll never return,” against tinny DEVO/Talking Heads inspired guitar riffs. Throughout the length of the track, The Gametes twist and turn through genres, like a space ship weaving throughout an asteroid field. The band change tempo multiple times, switching from the thinly distorted guitars to overdriven punky chords, drummer John Beckinsale doing an excellent job of keeping up with the chaos. It’s a great opener that only continues to get better with each listen.
Second track Arise! Awake! continues to develop Comet Jones’ epic tale as an android voice on Star Surfer IX informs Jones on what he’s missed while in his deep-space-slumber. The creativity of The Gametes continues to astound me on First Contact, a polyrhythmic tune littered with disturbing whispers, woody percussion and beautifully atonal melodies. It’s odd and gives me a feeling of claustrophobia as I listen in on the intricacies The Gametes have laid out. Arise! Awake! leads itself perfectly into the following track, The Hive Pt. 1; one of my favourite tracks on the album. A pulsating bass and guitar riff echoes against the driving drum beat. Harden sings his verse before a sudden, blood curdling scream, leading into the chorus. He repeats, “the hive awaits, the hive awaits.” It’s like a demonic chant against a 1970s punk riff. Harden’s dedication to his performance is commendable throughout the album, as he morphs his voice to enhance the storytelling. And he’s at his best on The Hive Pt. 1.
Sleepless Paradise and Calamity are other standout tracks on The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones. The former is a dreamy, French-pop tune that is littered with hard transitions into fast paced, energetic surfer rock. Once again, the creativity astonishes me as The Gametes continue to morph and twist genres at their will, while keeping the old school punk riffs as their foundation. Calamity ends the parable of Comet Jones, Harden spits his lyrics at rapid speed against great performances from the rest of The Gametes.
The album finishes with A Lullabye for Comet Jones, a simple, spacey piano melody plays, and I envision the credits rolling on this pulp tale. I’ve never felt so many emotions on what could be described as a pulp-punk album. Feelings of excitement, hypnotism, disturbing claustrophobia and satisfaction were not what I had on the cards when I sat down with this album. The Gametes are so punk rock, I don’t even think people realise it. Yes, they have overdriven guitars and fast paced drum rhythms, but while every other band is trying to replicate each other’s sound, The Gametes have come up with something completely original. They aren’t sticking to the rules, they aren’t churning out another indie rock track; they’ve dedicated themselves to the story they’ve written not only on this album, but the story of their own mythos. They are the outsiders, and by not giving a fuck about what everyone else is doing, they’ve come up with one of the most original and creative projects I’ve ever listened to, while still operating in a state of mysticism. There hasn’t been a band this dedicated to their music, whilst simultaneously being so mysterious and outright punk since TISM. That alone should be reason enough to listen to this album.
The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones is out now on streaming platforms and vinyl. Give it a listen.