Record Review

Phases and Stages


The Sword of God (Touch & Go)

Imagine arsenic in a candy shell, or Walrus-era Beatles with a bleak world-view. Add in pumping keyboards, half-step melody lines sung with over-reaching harmonies, and you start to get some idea what the new Quasi album is all about. If you're thinking this sounds a lot like the last couple of Quasi albums, you'd be right. The Northwest duo took their name from the wonderfully surreal animated film Quasi at the Quackedero, and their dreamy-sounding pop conjures a similar spell, at least, until you listen more closely. Their trademark bitterness has given way to a multidirectional anger, which in turn spills over into more-aggressive-than-usual musical interludes. After five albums, Quasi is still Sam Coomes (Elliott Smith's bassist, who writes most of the material), Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney's drummer), and not much of anyone else. Though the pair has upped their studio gloss with each successive release since their 1995 d-i-v-o-r-c-e, The Sword of God is a strictly off-the-cuff lo-fi quickie affair with the overdriven distortion to prove it. Early on, melodies like "It's Raining" and "A Case of No Way Out" win you over, yet the pop glaze can't hide the unhappiness of the title track, "Fuck Hollywood," "Seal the Deal," hell, most everything. Even at their best, Quasi can be like the same magic trick performed over and over. At first, it's marvelous and mysterious, yet with each successive time less so, until eventually you figure out how the whole thing is done and lose interest altogether. (Quasi play Emo's Saturday, Oct. 13.)


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