Album Review: "American Gong"
World-gone-wrong rage courses through "American Gong," the first release in four years for the Pacific Northwest band Quasi. The opening song, "Repulsion," hints at the darkness and seething despair to come. Lyrics slice. Guitars crunch and slash. Vocals snarl. The anger and disappointments, revealed to varying degrees on the album's 11 tracks, are both personal and global, intimate and writ large. To listen to such songs as "The Jig Is Up" and "Everything & Nothing at All" it is to be enveloped in existential gloom.
So, no, "Gong" is not a pop record. Not close. And yet there is much that is thrilling, charming, even beautiful about it. Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss have been making music together on and off now for nearly two decades. This is their eighth album as Quasi, but they have indie cred in spades with their other bands: drummer Weiss with Sleater Kinney, and guitarist and singer Coomes with Heatmiser. On this latest effort they're joined by bassist Joanna Bolme, a welcome addition whose playing powers the band's hardest rocking efforts.
It is Coomes, though, who most gives the band its identity. On the ironically titled "Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler," he slows his delivery to a mournful crawl, singing, "It don't matter who you are / We're all children of the selfsame star / All adrift on the selfsame boat / All gonna drown if this thing can't float." It's the sound of someone walking a razor wire between hope and helplessness without any real sense of how things will turn out. As if to echo the assorted plaints of the preceding tracks, the CD closes with "Mac Howling," 40 seconds of assorted howls as eerie as any sound you'll hear an animal make. Or perhaps they're human?
--Joe Heim, March 2010
Album review: "In the Court of the Wrestling Let's"
It's hard to ask for much more from a debut album than what U.K. trio Let's Wrestle offers on its first outing. The lads are all in their early 20s and sound their age in every way. They're frustrated, funny and feisty, just the way a young band should be. They don't strive for perfection with their ramshackle indie-pop songs, and it's for exactly that reason that a handful hit that mark on "In the Court of Wrestling Let's." "I Won't Lie to You" and "We Are the Men You'll Grow to Love" are sprightly, buoyant numbers that don't bother with exact timing or on-key singing. A barrage of hooks, handclaps and "ba, ba, bas" do the trick just fine.
Youth is also reflected in the lyrics of singer-guitarist Wesley Patrick Gonzalez. He's alternately mopey, funny and lovesick and then usually finds his way back to mopey. There are more than a few punch lines -- an often-dangerous but, in this case, successful strategy -- in addition to some charming honesty. When Gonzalez warbles, "We aren't the most reliable guys in the world/But we got enough money to buy some G and T's for the girls," it's the kind of sentiment that might work for only a few more years but wins you over easily right now.
-- David Malitz, Weekend (April 2010)