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Album review: Quasi, "American Gong"


By Joe Heim

World-gone-wrong rage courses through "American Gong," the first release in seven years for the Pacific Northwest band Quasi. The opening song, "Revulsion," hints at the darkness and seething despair to come. Lyrics slice. Guitars crunch and slash. Vocals snarl. The anger and disappointments, revealed to varying degrees on the album's 11 tracks, are both personal and global, intimate and writ large. To listen to such songs as "The Jig Is Up" and "Everything & Nothing at All" it is to be enveloped in existential gloom.

(Thrilling, even beautiful, after the jump.)

So, no, "Gong" is not a pop record. Not close. And yet there is much that is thrilling, charming, even beautiful about it. Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss have been making music together on and off now for nearly two decades. This is their seventh album as Quasi, but they have indie cred in spades with their other bands: drummer Weiss with Sleater Kinney, and guitarist and singer Coomes with Heatmiser. On this latest effort they're joined by bassist Joanna Bolme, a welcome addition whose playing powers the band's hardest rocking efforts.

It is Coomes, though, who most gives the band its identity. On the ironically titled "Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler," he slows his delivery to a mournful crawl, singing, "It don't matter who you are / We're all children of the self-same star / All adrift on the self same boat / All gonna drown if this thing can't float." It's the sound of someone walking a razor wire between hope and helplessness without any real sense of how things will turn out. As if to echo the assorted plaints of the preceding tracks, the CD closes with "Mac Howling," 40 seconds of assorted howls as eerie as any sound you'll hear an animal make. Or perhaps they're human?

Quasi will perform at the Black Cat on April 24.

Recommended tracks: "Rockabilly Party," "Little White Horse"

By David Malitz  |  February 23, 2010; 7:45 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Quasi  
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