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Quasi

American Gong

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Kill Rock Stars

Quasi is one of those bands that never quite made it. Although coming from the same primordial murk that spawned mid-’90s gauze-rock superheroes like Sebadoh and Superchunk, they’ve never managed to distinguish themselves as one of the vital bands of that era. Odd, considering two of members are enduring members of Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks, drummer Janet Weiss is formerly of the seminal fem-rock collective Sleater-Kinney and they’ve been known to pal around with affirmed untouchables like the late Elliott Smith. However, regardless of all that ego-boosting cred, Quasi have remained unfortunately unsung in the grand scheme of things. Of course that hasn’t stopped them from being relentlessly prolific; the venerable trio has found itself releasing its ninth long-player on the indie-tastic Kill Rock Stars. The well-titled American Gong is enthusiastically tangled in tradition, sounding like it could have arrived undeterred in 1994.

Like most Pixies-adoring sycophants, Quasi subscribe to the most well-worn of classic indie rock standards; that is jangly guitar, surrealistic lyrics and occasional dips into DIY-induced tape fuzz. The first two tracks, “Repulsion” and “Little White Horse,” follow the time-honored ‘loud-quiet-loud’ formula to its powerhouse point, delivering careening, desultory guitars – their edges cut off by a well-produced haze; as frontman Sam Coomes imparts bumper-sticker angst like “If it’s not too loud / You’re not too old.” “Bye Bye Blackbird” is the distortion-addled jammer, complete with Star Trek phasers, monolithic amp abuse and an apocalyptic cymbal-smash. Their always entertaining country-tinged tracks come off more Fleetwood Mac than Conway Twitty as usual, with “Rockabilly Party” employing a massive, pick-mulching guitar shred in between clap-along verses. It’s a bit sonically limited, allowing no more than guitar, bass, drums and piano to clatter through the songs, but hey, this is lo-fi we’re talking about, right?

It would be an understatement to call American Gong a ‘throwback,’ as a record that has remained completely unaffected by musical trends past, say, Brighten The Corners. Everything about it drips of the dusty, Sub Pop-indie rock universe of old, belonging right alongside Vee Vee and Here Where the Strings Come In at your local record store – however there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Quasi are hardly disguising their intentions. They’ve set out, almost two decades since their inception, to play the music they want to play, write the songs they want to write and celebrate the fans that have been with them the whole time. Some might call them wash-ups, disheveled aging hipsters from a bygone era, and those people wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t heartening to see a group of grey-flecked comrades keeping their band together regardless of any mumblings of ‘relevancy.’ And guess what? The songs turned out pretty good too.

by Luke Winkie
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