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.
Coming three years after the release of their eighth album American Gong, the album sees Quasi return to the original two-piece line-up following the departure of bassist Joanna Bolme, who was an official member of the band from 2007 to 2011. However, while the Quasi set-up is back in its traditional form, Mole City demonstrates once again just how progressive and unrestricted the band are, with 24 songs of fuzzy chaos.
From the very first ear splitting intro to the crescendo of crunching guitars on the final track of the album, there is no question of Coomes and Weis dialing things back on Mole City. You Can Stay But You Gotta Go kicks the record off properly and in doing so sets the tone for the rest of the record. The song is dominated by its filthy guitar riff, one drenched in thunderous feedback, as Coomes sings with his world-weary vocals: “Everybody comes, everybody goes/ what’s it all about, no one really knows.”
Despite the harsh sounding riffs and Weis’ crashing drums, Quasi have always managed to maintain an element of harmony among the chaos and it continues to be a common theme. Take the bluesy See You On Mars, with its discordant guitars and Coomes’ slacker vocals combining for an utterly enjoyable romp, or the infectious Nostalgia Kills, which features gritty, swarming guitars that disguise the subversive pop melody at its heart.
In fact, one of the striking things about Mole City is just how much fun Coomes and Weis appear to be having, with songs such as Blasted and Fat Fanny Land coming off almost as impromptu jams. Elsewhere, Double Deuce is a furious coming together of Coomes’ thrilling guitar riffs and Weis’ textured drum beats, while The Goat is a jaunty, piano-led journey through all the quirks of Quasi.
As good as Mole City is though, it is blighted by the same problem that befalls almost every double album, and that’s the length. There is a lot of quality over the 24 tracks, but there is also a number of throwaway fillers. Songs such a Gnut, Chrome Duck and Loopy are no more than intervals, yet they add very little to the overall record and could easily be cut. Then there’s the rather dreary Chumps Of Chance, which almost single-handedly manages to suck the life out of the record.
However, while further quality control wouldn’t have gone amiss, there has always been an element of indulgence to Quasi’s music and there is no reason why Mole City should be any different. Additionally, whenever the record does feel like it’s starting to lose its way, the duo come up with a track such as the breathtakingly beautiful R.I.P. or the captivating Dust Of The Sun to suck you back in.
With so much experience under their belts, it’s hardly surprising that Coomes and Weis continue to push themselves creatively and Mole City is ultimately a reflection of that. While the length is an issue, when Quasi do get it right, the results are up there with some of the best work they have produced over the last two decades. If nothing else, Mole City is an interesting and compelling record that celebrates a truly unique band.