Quasi: Field Studies
Field Studies (Up)
Reviewed by Kim Mellen, Fri., Sept. 10, 1999
Field Studies (Up)"We've seen it all before. In fact, I've seen it many times and I'll see it many more," snipes Sam Coomes about the "new newest thing" on Field Studies' opening track, but the singer/Roxichordist could just as easily be talking about the album itself, Quasi's fourth. Sure, Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss (also of Sleater-Kinney) have rounded out their sound with subtle touches of Theremin, a little electronic knob-twisting, some church organ here, a trumpet there, but trailblazers they're not. There's nothing new in the lyrics, either; Coomes is as whipped as ever by The Man, The Devil (who drives a Land Rover in "A Fable With No Moral"), love, and language. And as for "The Star You Left Behind" and "Let's Just Go," hasn't every pop band in the world worked off the old Beatles formulae? Juxtapose Coomes' weltschmertz with keyed-up candy-delia, and it's as if Ben Folds Five or the Apples in Stereo had enlisted Elliott Smith as their newest band member. Oh, hello ... Field Studies does have Smith, on bass. His influence is apparent, too, in the deft acoustic guitar work and plinking piano of "Me & My Head." Overall, being derivative isn't such a bad thing at all on Field Studies. The divorced duo simply has an ear for perfection and the prowess to channel it with jumpy, bitter panache. In the abridged words of the Artist: Ain't the first time, ain't the greatest, but I wouldn't change a stroke.