Quasi: Mole City (Domino)
Mole City marks the tenth album proper from Quasi as they hit their 20 year anniversary. A sprawling affair but also a rich feast of ideas it whets the appetite for their UK live dates in December.
What’s that I hear? Thumping low organ sounds and almost Beach Boys vocals? Yep this is a classic Quasi album alright. In the noble tradition of late 90’s efforts Featuring Birds and Field Studies this hits hard musically and lyrically in the right place such as on See You On Mars and Chumps Of Chance. That’s not to say that the record doesn’t ebb and flow a bit. There’s, count ’em all, 24 tracks on Mole City some of which are fully formed songs, where others are stitched together samples of boiling kettles, cats meowing, and what sounds like sci-fi tv shows on the title track. But there’s nothing novel about this flight of fancy, the Featuring Birds album did indeed do exactly what it said on the cover.
Quasi are at their very best though when the songs just spew out with a driving momentum, with guitars, drums and vocals all aligned and pushing in the same direction as on Nostalgia Kills. There’s more than a touch of the Stephen Malkmus sound here, but it’s a bit chicken and egg to make this comparison with Malkmus himself being a long time admirer of both Quasi and the drumming skills of Janet Weiss. The track could pretty seamlessly fit on an SM Jicks album and as there’s a definite and pleasant crossover in guitar sound and lyrical themes and tendencies.
Now speaking of Janet Weiss, she is arguably the best Rock and Roll drummer of the last 20 years. The John Bonham of Indie Rock, playing on albums with Sleater Kinney and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks as well as Quasi. And the drums are threatening to burst out of my headphones here on tracks such as Blasted. The crowning glory of Mole City though is a track called Headshrinker, built on a two chord piano stomp, it doesn’t go anywhere but it doesn’t really need to. Like a truncated Marquee Moon it gets into it’s own groove and stays there with piano, drums, spoken lyrics and sweet refrain all fitting together perfectly.
Sam Coomes’ best lyrics have always come when he’s pissed of and raging eloquently against the system. “I wont sing along with that soul sucking song. No way, no how’ he sings on Bedbug Town. And you can’t beat a line like “Twice as bad as half as good” on two minute fast riff smash and grab Double Deuce. There’s always some dynamic tension with Quasi too, as the former husband and wife duo play songs of longing and reminiscence. Janet takes lead vocals on slower blues lullaby R.I.P. It’s all part of the dense and varied patchwork of a Quasi LP that I’d far sooner be with than without.
Mole City will be on the headphones on the commute for a while yet. And I am a Happy Prole once more.