American Gong, the Kill Rock Stars debut of indie mainstay Quasi, is soaked in the same solution of Pacific Northwest mellow and bratty braininess that saturates the work that drummer Janet Weiss and bassist Joanna Bolme did with Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks. Their stomping rhythmic interplay is, if anything, even more front and center here, where it anchors Sam Coomes’ spiraling guitar heroics before letting the whole thing gel into fuzzed-out Malkmus-ian jams on “Bye Bye Blackbird” or blown-out, lazy afternoon noodling on “Little White Horse.” The standout track, “Repulsion,” is a caffeine pill taken on an empty stomach; its stutter-step snare drum and queasy vocals swirl around crunchy riffs, providing probably the most fun you can have with an electric guitar outside of Dweezil Zappa’s Ben Stiller Show intro. But the high doesn’t last forever, and while “The Jig Is Up” successfully dials down energy without sacrificing intensity, “Death Is Not The End” plods along po-faced, a funeral dirge set to the beat of a discordant piano, and “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler” supplies—for anyone who was asking—a taste of what Doug Martsch might sound like singing French over Grandaddy synth pads. Quasi’s chunky Rocksichord days may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean the sense of fun that makes its songs such sugar-sweet treats has to be.
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