Release Date: Oct 1, 2013
Record label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
For most bands, it can take a decade or two for them to really spread their wings and get a little weird with their music. Quasi, however, are not most bands. With early work that featured intricate pop songs crafted around a duo of rocksichord and drums, it was clear that the duo were going to be on a vastly different trajectory than their contemporaries.
Mole City hearkens back to the early years of Quasi, when vocalist/organist Sam Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss composed albums of eclectic and emphatic rock. It’s less connected from beginning to end than their last few albums, and less overtly political. At turns frenetic, quiet and jaunty, this album seems to be more about just getting together and making music.
With 2013 marking their 20th year as a band, Portland two-piece Quasi deserve nothing but the utmost respect. It’s a rare feat in today’s fickle music industry for a band to endure so long and outlast all the latest musical fads, but Sam Coomes and Janet Weis have continued to churn out album after album over the years. Appropriately, the pair are celebrating their two decades together by returning with new double album Mole City.
Most records that clock in at a hefty 24 tracks tend towards either the bloated and self-indulgent or the meandering and directionless. Oregon’s Quasi succeed where others have failed, however, by never really having had a direction. This is a good thing. ‘Mole City’ careers between giddy pop melodies (‘Blasted’), lo-fi punk charms (‘Double Deuce’) and ultimate genre-splicing (the lolloping jazz piano and fuzzy guitars cast ‘Fat Fanny Land’ as a bizarre kind of ragtime for slackers), often all in the space of one track.
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.
Quasi want me to listen closely. They want me to consider what’s being sung as much as what’s being played. “You say it’s all good? I’ll tear out your tongue.” That speaks to me; I can feel it right in my mouth. The headphones are on, and I’m rattled, creeped-out, enthused; I’m unsettled, I’m contemplative, and I’m throwing caution to the wind during those crescendos, cutting caustic as fuck.
There isn't much logic behind Quasi, the Portland-based band that Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss have occasionally returned to over the past 20 years. For instance: They produced a video for the song "See You on Mars" to herald the release of this record, a clip which consists of a blizzard of vintage clips all stuck together with scant regard for coherence. Coomes and Weiss don't deal in reason, at least not in this guise.
The most notable tendril of the Quasi root system might be Janet Weiss’s masterful drumming for Sleater-Kinney and Wild Flag, but the band refuses to be reduced to that sole connection. Weiss’ partner in this project, Sam Coomes, contributed in both the folk-leaning The Donner Party and grunge hitters Heatmiser, as well as session work with everyone from Elliott Smith to Built to Spill. This is a duo now more than 20 years into their time together, and they’ve done a little bit of everything over that period of time.
The problem with double albums nowadays is that they really prove the age and headspace of their creators. “We are old,” the double-album-making indie band says, “and we remember when an LP used to mean something. We remember when bands had a message – too much to say across just two sides of vinyl – and, in this digital age, we don’t want to compress or compromise our vision for anyone.