Quasi, ‘Hot Shit’ (Touch and Go) ; Mates of State, ‘Team Boo’ (Polyvinyl)
Young America, you’ve found room in your hearts and ducats in your wallets for a zillion indistinguishable emo, neo-garage, and nu-metal bands, and they’ve repaid you handsomely. So how about pouring out a little love for two hardworking indie duos in which a romantically entangled man and woman play sweet-and-sour pop songs on an organ and a drum kit?
With their sixth album, Portland, Oregon’s Quasi–Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss and ex-husband Sam Coomes–continue to chart the inevitable disappointments and quiet frustrations of post-couplehood in grimly funny two-liners Randy Newman would appreciate: “Little things that just don’t matter / Still could get me as mad as a hatter,” Coomes yelps over a nasty minor-key groove. Yet Hot Shit isn’t the day-in-the-life bummer it could be, since Coomes shares his pal and occasional bandmate Elliott Smith’s knack for sinuous George Harrison melodies, and Weiss’ fat John Bonham drumming makes the rockin’ thing go ’round. Quasi sound feistier than they have in years, too, applying bluesy guitar swagger and confident vocal interplay to miffed-by-today’s-headlines political commentary. But even when Coomes wonders how much of the War on Terror is “lies and how much just unwise,” theduo’s lush harmonies forecast a better 2004.
If Coomes and Weiss were a generation younger and still head-over-heels, they’d be Mates of State, two starry-eyed Connecticut kids whose hyperactive third album, Team Boo, is a real-life make-out club of ballpark organ-grinding and deftly braided vocal lines. “You can wait all night / I’ll never stop complaining,” they sing in “Whiner’s Bio,” but it’s just a feint–pretty much all the Mates do on Boo is big-up their own sweet love. And sweet it is: Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner are music’s most exuberant singers not named Lizzie McGuire, and their public displays of affection are so unabashed they transcend ickiness. If the idea of an indie-rock Captain & Tennille appeals, there’s a berth for you on their love boat.