Tapping into the familiar 70s psychedelic rock genre, Quasi’s album “American Gong” isn’t groundbreaking new stuff, but there is some trippy magic swirling about this debut on the Kill Rock Stars label. The Portland side-project created from former Heatmiser and Sleater-Kinney members (not to mention former married couple), Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss, respectively; make a jammable disc packed with experimental, often repetitive and sometimes a little jovial tunes.
The album has moments of awesome mixed with some stinging minutes of duplication. You know the kind where if it were a live show, there would be a girl in front twirling, eyes-closed in a magical, musical stupor. The kind when they plunge head first into jam-band stereotypes, and fail to lend an editing ear going on their jamgent (jamming tangent) of swirling guitars, uber-repetitive lyrics and steady beats. These moments are peppered throughout the album, and while they might work at a live show, usually fail on disc.
Luckily, these jams do not absorb the whole of “American Gong,” and songs such as “Rockability Party” and “Bye Bye Blackbird” rock to a wholly different pace. These songs evoke more of a 60s rock feel and don’t get lost in the psychedelic spins. The standout is the starter, “Repulsion,” with its echoing chorus, power vocal yelps, classic-rock feel, but modernized with its uneven pace and bite. For all their experimentation, Quasi proves that magical moments can still happen after seven albums, 16 plus years and a divorce.
Words: Lori Bartlett