The Sword of God is Quasi's first record since 1999, no doubt because in the interim both members of the Portland duo were busy with more famous projects: Sam Coomes plays bass for Elliott Smith, and Janet Weiss, of course, drums for Sleater-Kinney. Thanks to all that touring, they sounded tighter and more assured than ever upon their reunion, but otherwise their fifth album (and first for Touch and Go) sounds pretty much like the first four: indelible, sunny pop melodies weaving through a hard-rocking keyboard-dominated landscape strewn with cranky, sardonic lyrics. Coomes and Weiss understand the power of juxtaposing big sing-along hooks and concise lyrical barbs, a tense yin and yang thing that's been attributed more than once to their status as ex-husband and ex-wife. There are a couple shots at obvious targets--"Fuck Hollywood," "Genetic Science"--and on the third song, "It's Raining," Coomes admonishes a chronic whiner: "So go ahead and cry / But that won't keep you dry." "Seal the Deal" is a pep talk on commitment, and "A Case of No Way Out," a meditation on taking the good with the bad. Coomes is usually right on, but after a while the cycle of simplistic condemning and preaching gets tiresome. Multitracking allowed the duo to kick up quite a din in the studio--Coomes plays piano, organ, harpsichord, and guitar among other things, and Weiss harmonizes gracefully with his erratic lines. The constant battles between pop and noise, noise and rock, and rock and pop come to a head on "Rock & Roll Can Never Die," the album's instrumental closer: a classic rock riff barrels forward like a tank, impervious to the chaos that builds steadily behind it. Wednesday, September 26, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Clark.