Record Review - 1 October 03 2001

If the ongoing relationship between Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes is any indication, divorce isn't what it used to be. Their marriage dissipated as their respective careers took off — Weiss with Sleater-Kinney, Coomes with Elliot Smith's band. But they soon realized that if they couldn't achieve conjugal bliss, they could certainly forge a musical one. Over four albums on the Up label, Weiss-Coomes' Quasi crafted fashionably fragile, down-tempo indie fare rife with self-conscious lyrics conveying quaint, naked, distant emotions.

The surprise of Quasi's first release for Touch and Go is its sonic warmth: The Sword of God immediately sounds more rich and lush. It helps that since the last Quasi album, both Weiss and Coomes have developed a better instrumental command. Weiss' full-bodied drum work and Coomes agile guitar lines and Roxichord melodies feel more effortless as they've grown more sophisticated.

That proficiency has carried over into the songwriting. Coomes has discovered his inner pop genius, with Weiss flawlessly providing the texture to his catchy hooks. Staying true to previous Quasi outings, Coomes layers his odd but well-used voice over these jaunty melodies. His vocals are occasionally tinny as they strain into the upper register, but it's an affecting tone for some of the darkest, starkest visual wordplay this side of Sylvia Plath. "It's Raining" and "Better Luck Next Time," though infected with a perfect hooky sensibility, are as afflicted with existential angst as a well-read Frenchman. The Sword of God may come off a bit too fey at times, but downer pop rarely feels this refreshing.


Quasi plays the Echo Lounge Tues., Oct. 9.??