Kill Rock Stars
Dec 06, 2013 Issue #48 - November/December 2013 - HAIM
Mole City marks Quasi's eighth studio album and 20th year as a band. You could call them a duo—it's almost always been just Sam Coomes (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards) and Janet Weiss (drums, backing vocals)—but that sounds awfully small. Grounded in a loose tradition of Northwest indie, Quasi are defined, if at all, by their expansiveness. Their raucous yet cerebral—and highly creative—brand of party rock has grown to stadium size and left genre in the parking lot.
Mole City, 24 tracks on two LPs or a single CD, is sprawling, unrestrained, and emotionally scattered—similar in its reverse ambition to The Beatles (aka The White Album) or Wilco's Being There. There's a clear roots nod and a feeling of ideas sketched and sent to tape forthwith. Short, mostly instrumental interludes reinforce this, inserting (more) ambient weirdness and cool sonics.
In Quasi's typical fashion, attitudes here are fun and free, with Coomes' lyrics seeking a turn of phrase over a shot to the heart. "You Can Stay But You Got to Go" opens the album with a growling riff that settles into a boozy stomp with boozy questions ("Everybody comes, everybody goes/What's it all about? No one really knows"). "Fat Fanny Land" distorts an electric piano and does headlong early rock & roll, like Jerry Lee jamming with The Faces and The Flaming Lips. There's modified country rock ("Bedbug Town"), ragged punk ("Double Deuce"), and downbeat numbers that offer advanced arrangements but border on ditties ("Chumps of Chance," "Geraldine").
There's much to admire about Quasi, and Mole City is effective and enjoyable on several levels. What's missing in most tracks is some sizeable degree of tension, something not so much applauded as internalized. Music that's the most fun to make isn't always the most satisfying to listen to. To craft a double platter for the ages, Quasi will have to take themselves just a bit more seriously. (www.theequasi.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 10/10