Upbeat Music For Cynical People

Not since the L.A. punk band X has an ex-husband and wife team

created

such good music together.

Although Quasi consist of Sleater-Kinney

drummer Janet Weiss and ex-Heat Miser member Sam Coomes

(Heat Miser

was a melodic indie-rock band that also featured Elliott Smith),

neither

plays music that is very reminiscent of either of those bands.

Instead,

they go for a unique blend of pop music that sounds like every

great pop

tune that has come before them, but that has no obviously

identifiable

reference points or influences.

As with their debut album, R&B Transmogrification, the

main

instruments seem to be various distorted, vintage organs. But

unlike

their debut album, Coomes and Weiss have dumped much of the

indie-rock

noise doo-doo that occasionally stunk it up. Thank God. Not that it

ruined R&B Transmogrification, it's just that all that noise left

less room for the ultrabeautiful melodies that made the album so

memorable.

Those pretty melodies are back in full force on Quasi's third album

(their second long-player). Although things get off to a noisy start

during the first 30 seconds of "Our Happiness Is Guaranteed" (the

first

track), the remainder of the song is pure pop satisfaction -- the type

you can't get out of your head, even after you chase it with three

hours-worth of listening to minimalist composer Steve Reich's

music.

With an equally hummable chorus, "The Poisoned Well" highlights

the

contradictions between the sweet melodies and the bitter lyrics

that

lurk just beneath the surface. Coomes begins by singing, "You

only hurt

the one you love/ that may be true/ but better said you only hurt/

the one

who loves you."

With a title like "You Fucked Yourself" and a running length of two

and

a half minutes, you'd expect a raging punk song rather than the

bouncy, glittery kind of music that your parents might have heard

on an

amusement-park ride when they were young. And the instrumental

"Only

Success Can Fail Me Now" sports an upbeat melody and

downbeat

title. On "I Give Up," Coomes sings over an "All You Need is Love"-

era

Beatles melody: "So now I need to find a way to occupy my time/

until the

day I die/ I give up/ I give up/ it's gone so long/ it's gone so wrong."

Jeez, these people have the highest chipper melody-to-downer

lyric

ratio since the Smiths, though -- dare I say it -- they are more

consistently listenable than those icons of misfit '80s youth.