City Paper is not for tourists
This year, someone at the National Football League thought it would be a good idea to trot the remaining members of the Who out for a trip down medley lane during halftime at the Super Bowl, and so it was that 106 million people watched Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey look like ancient douchebags. Of course, most people hate being told they’re past their prime. This issue seems to be on the minds of the musicians who record as Quasi. “If it’s not too loud, then you’re not too old/Trust in your bluff and you might never have to fold,” croons singer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Coomes on “Little White Horse,” from the group’s eighth album, American Gong. Sounds a lot like a call for some poor old rocker to put down his Who collection. And it’s an odd statement from a band whose principal members—Coomes and drummer Janet Weiss, who also kept the beat for Sleater-Kinney—have played together for 17 years. Its bass player, Joanna Bolme, is relatively new to the fold (she joined in 2006). But she’s also been around, most recently as a backing musician for Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus. And it’s not like the trio has turned in a fridge-nuking rock musical—well, with the possible exception of “Everything and Nothing at All,” but even that song, at least, gets loud. American Gong is an unabashed rocker that blazes along amid squelches of feedback, fuzzed-out bass lines, and booming drums. “Little White Horse” relies on a power-pop bass line and a few nifty delay tricks; “Bye Bye Blackbird” is a washed-out anthem that recalls the band’s grungy Pacific Northwest roots; and “Death Is Not the End” is a quick and dark number centered on Coomes’ soaring vocals, which put Frank Black’s to total shame. If, 30 years from now, Quasi starts playing medlies, feel free to consider American Gong the band’s Who Are You moment. But right now, even as Quasi plows through middle age, there’s no bluff to be heard.