Compulsion has a run of bad luck -- The British punk band wants to make it with debut album ''Comforter''

By Nisid Hajari
Updated June 30, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT

”Cursed? No! Not at all,” Compulsion’s steel-jawed frontman, Josephmary, scoffs bravely. ”Look, we’re sitting in New York City, we’re doing an interview…how can we be cursed?”

Let us count the ways. Hailed with the likes of Elastica as saviors of British rock &amp roll, the hyperkinetic London-based quartet has been saddled with an epic run of punk luck. In the past year they have: (1) confusingly delayed the release of their American debut, Comforter, by switching from Elektra Records to Interscope Records at the 11th hour; (2) renamed what became their first single (from ”Basketcase” to ”Delivery”) after an identically titled Green Day song usurped the charts; (3) had their industry coming-out at the 1994 CMJ Music Marathon aborted by the NYPD (for playing in a club with no liquor license); (4) had a $100,000 video for ”Mall Monarchy” — a biting spoof of talk shows, starring Morton Downey Jr. — rejected by MTV.

Fortunately for Compulsion, the lows are rivaled only by the depth of their talent. They can’t bear the Next Beatles yoke any better than Oasis, but they do have the spunk (and more than enough chops) to be the next Sex Pistols. The criminally overlooked Comforter is lined with some of the most fiery, impassioned, crisp postpunk since the Pixies. And the band’s live antics fracture more than those tight arrangements: Josephmary, 31; aptly named bassist Sid Rainey, 27; drummer Jan-Willem Alkema, 30; and guitarist Garret Lee, 27, have leaped, collided, and writhed their way to a succession of stage injuries, including concussions, bruised kidneys, and a burst urethra.

That’s nothing compared with their career mishaps, though. In May 1994, the band abandoned Elektra at the altar, reneging on a verbal commitment because of contractual and philosophical disputes. Irked would only mildly describe the label’s reaction. ”Their lawyer said he would bury us so deep that nobody would ever know the album existed,” Josephmary recalls with impish glee.

That curse, however, hasn’t dissuaded another ill-starred star. ”Courtney Love liked our record,” affirms Lee. ”She said if we were girls, we’d be the best all-girl band in the world.”