The city of Portland, Oregon has produced some great bands over the last decade or so; The Thermals and Red Fang to name just two, and now Quasi are making waves as well. They’ve been going since the early 90s but haven’t yet made an impact over here, but all that could change with the release of Mole City.
Their time spent as Elliott Smith’s backing band can be heard, layered beneath everything they do, but they are not even remotely as mellow or melancholy. ‘You Can Stay But You Gotta Go’ begins the album as a rocket blasting off with a powerful melody to swing on and grizzly guitars to match, all of which draws you in. There are 24 tracks on this album, but with several tracks barely reaching a minute that might be a little misleading. This is actually a collection of concise bursts of indie-rock.
‘See You on Mars’ has some of the best lines (“Oh baby, you’ve got skeleton power”), and ‘R.I.P’ sees Sam Coomes leave the vocal duties to his drumming ex-wife. Puncturing the quick onslaught of songs are tracks like ‘Loopy’ serving no real purpose other than to frustrate and distort the flow of the album.
Here is a band which delights in swinging between a raucous racket and a melodious honky-tonk sound. ‘The Goat’ slams both together to great effect along with a messier version of a Brian May-style solo. This is no mainstream indie-rock though, and perhaps that’s why they don’t have mass appeal like some of their fellow Portland friend. It’s their use of rocksichord and keyboards which gives the songs their unusual texture.
By the time you reach ‘Beyond the Return of the Son of Nowhere’, you’ll feel like you’ve been dragged through a warp hole. It only takes one listen to get what this group is about, but multiple listens reveal intricate melodies which might have flown by you the first time.
Quasi is an apt name for the duo, resembling parts of prog rock, indie-rock and mainstream rock, but never really sitting on any long enough to be pinned. The listener might be confused, but after 20 years this band certainly aren’t.
Picture: Ella Mullins