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When the Going Gets Dark

The Sam Coomes/Janet Weiss duo is more experimental and chaotic than ever before on When the Going Gets Dark. And while this serves the record well on some tracks, for others, the mix is much too muddy, causing songs to veer off into the ditch.

Coomes has altered his voice on the LP. Where he once sang in a near-falsetto that combined pop wit with a tendency to shriek and break out of key (in the best way possible), he now goes for a lower register that almost sounds as if he is singing hoarse. It works. Quasi, while still being one of the most interesting rock bands in the last decade, had become somewhat formulamatic as of late. And they hadn’t been able to reach the high bar that they set with what are still their best two releases, Featuring Birds and Field Studies. The change that Coomes brings and Weiss’ drumming (which has only gotten more insane as the years have passed), allows the band to meld pop with chaos like they are mad scientists (which, when thinking about it, Coomes really might be).

The only drawback on the LP is the mix. Getting away from the “studio sound” is a fine thing. More bands should do it. But too many tracks on the album come off like they were recorded inside of a barn that was built inside of a barn. The drums aren’t crisp. The vocals tend to hover. Where’s Larry Crane when you need him?


Glenn Kotche

Better known as “Wilco’s drummer” to most, Glenn Kotche is one of the most talented musicians working in the rock world today. On Mobile, Kotche plays a wide variety of percussion-based instruments, while using a drum kit as his main weapon of choice. In doing so, he creates a small symphony. Mobile is expertly recorded, and it has a lushness to it that allows each track to enter, greet the listener, and then slowly give way to the next.

The opening track on the record is perhaps the best. “Clapping Music Variations” sounds like a warm summer night, as Kotche slowly builds layers of intelligent rhythm. And in much the same way as he plays when in Wilco, Kotche allows the song to work for itself.

Though he could win a drum-off (ugh!) without even trying, Kotche understands what makes songs work – when to play and when to not. Mobile is a gorgeous testament to his talent.