Release Date: Aug 19, 2016
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The first solo album from Quasi’s Sam Coomes is unique and uniformly weird, but while he shows a deft songwriting touch occasionally, much of Bugger Me seems to simply be strange for the sake of being strange. Musically, Coomes' debut is as straight forward as it gets; most songs are comprised of his vocals, sparse drums, and a cavalcade of organs that distort and warp like funhouse mirrors. In a release accompanying the album, Coomes said, "The fact that Bugger Me is a murky, maybe even a little creepy sounding album is no accident.
A veteran of the U.S. underground scene since the 1980s, Sam Coomes is probably best known as one-half of the Portland, Oregon-based indie rock unit Quasi -- drummer and ex-wife Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney) completed the duo. Having also worked with Elliott Smith, Built to Spill, and Jandek, Coomes' versatility has never been in question, and Bugger Me, his first outing under his own name, should do little to tarnish that reputation.
Is Sam Coomes okay? On the basis of this solo album, the Quasi frontman comes across as decidedly unhinged. Would any sane Texan-born Portland resident call their album Bugger Me? And why would he make it using only his voice, an organ and a non-programmable mid-60s rhythm box named “Conny”? In his press release, Coomes explains he’s trying to recapture some musical honesty in an era of technologically-manipulated sheen, only to talk himself out of his own argument within the same paragraph by questioning whether self-proclaimed “honesty” is even a good thing because it’s usually just another form of artifice. His lyrics packed with bitterness and regret (though not without a humorously vaudevillian self-awareness), Coomes was aiming for a “Suicide meets The Beach Boys” vibe, though he sounds more like one of the sneering voices inside Brian Wilson’s head during his drug-addled, bedridden lost years.
When talking about the lo-fi, indie-rock scene that arose around Portland in the first half of the Nineties, it's impossible not to name Quasi. But Sam Coomes and Janet Weis were also among the main cast of characters in that sound-defining era, not only when playing as that notable duo, but also when it came to collaborations –– with Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith, and Built to Spill, to name but a few. Now, 23 years after starting his experience as half of Quasi, Sam Coomes is releasing the first album under his own name.