Field Studies

BY Denise BensonPublished Oct 1, 1999

Often referred to as a modern-day Captain and Tennille, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss (also of Sleater-Kinney) are Quasi. The comparison to the '70s pop pair is not a musical one, but rather stems from the fact that Coomes and Weiss are a divorced duo who continue to make music together. Difference is — well, there are a lot of 'em — this ex-couple clearly has a friendship that underscores their commitment to creating perfect, poignant pop — and they rock. Here, on their fourth album, Quasi continue in their clever and honest exploration of life's frustrations, struggles and disappointments, but allow a few smiles and sly nods to shine through. "All the Same" kicks it off in familiar fashion, Coomes's up front guitar chords, wah wah, Roxichord keyboard and searingly honest vocals in full effect. Coupled with Weiss's solid drumming, live string players, and the sing-along bass lines of guest (and Coomes' former bandmate in Heatmiser) Elliott Smith, the song is an excellent example of Quasi's simultaneous power and vulnerability. The Beatles are an obvious influence throughout Field Studies, with the wistful, hurt lyrics and thick vocal harmonies of "Under a Cloud" accompanied by an almost playful rock sound that brings the best of Sgt. Pepper's to mind. On the flip, "A Fable With No Mind," a slow, searing song about making a deal with the devil — or attempting to — is led by Lennon-like piano, guitar and horn accentuation and more harmonies than you could shake a stick at. Field Studies is an enchanting, and highly listenable, invitation to ponder.

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