Apr 29, 2008 - Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, CA
- 1 Welcome to Daytrotter
- 2 Seven Years Gone
- 3 Black Dogs and Bubbles
- 4 Bye Bye Blackbird
- 5 Never Coming Back Again
A Northwestern Quirkiness That Little Jack Horners
Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
When Quasi frontman Sam Coomes left the San Francisco studio, on this slightly chilly February afternoon, he left behind a small, moleskine-like notebook full of new lyrics and thoughts. He came back shortly thereafter and retrieved it, while his bandmates - Janet Weiss and Joanna Bolme - were occupied with taking care of parking issues. The departure wasn't hasty enough to have caused the forgetfulness outright.
A lot of the blame could have just as naturally been chalked up to the wandering and drifting of Coomes' head that seems to happen on a daily basis - an instrument that probably logs a half-marathon every 24 hours. This observed way that he has shouldn't be misinterpreted as dysfunctional lackadaisicalness, but instead - and this is going to sound strange - this obvious lack of clear-guided focus (or it could just be a form of social awkwardness) is a mature, child-like breeziness that's more or less a reflection of a quizzicality that's likely fetishizing on why, why, why for just about anything, for everything. It's a preoccupation and it's easy to stay adrift in the figures and wondering about what's happening with all things and people around you when you do such a thing - when folklore and fables and real life co-mingle and get blended together into a twisted sort of dramatization, that's as valuable as a real life. For some reason, even as a man who never gets himself into these kinds of thinking corners, you start to convince yourself of what kind of a guy he is just from a brief encounter such as this one and the left behind documents that are his songs. The notebook probably could have been a scribbly mess, with doodles walking along all borders and bits of phrases, words that stuck out of a random conversation or text. It would be possible to picture Coomes having a nightstand or a desk with various, bendable Gumby and Pokey action figures and boxes of sci-fi books beneath a bed. Or he could be a faux basketball player or disc golfer, a guy who when he sees a fire things about smores without fail.
One imagines him forgetting to or choosing not to shave for weeks at a time, living in the same holey flannel shirt and running his nervous fingers through his hair continuously, trying to ring out the thoughts that get knotted up in the belfry like spaghetti noodles and garter snakes. He could be the guy who mows the lawn, and with one swatch left - a small piece of turf that covers half of the width of the house - just turns the machine off and goes inside to watch two minutes of a baseball game, two minutes of a Futurama-rama on Comedy Central and finally 10 minutes of a cooking program, then forgets that any of it happened or is happening and dives into a half-assed attempt at a crossword puzzle. He's aloof in the most delightful way and the new songs that the band recorded here are torches to a thought process that is all over the place, that fixates on problems that people have with each other and all of the adverse outside forces. There's Little Jack Horner logic in many of the pieces, with Coomes and Weiss plucking out knowledge with their thumbs - finding love in what makes you sad, stirring up hornet's nests and both of the shakers winding up getting stung. Coomes has his own way of sculpting a quirky pop song that makes one ask themselves if they've ever seen Michael Stipe and Jeff Mangum in the same room at the same time, pulling Athens, Georgia's mainstream and cult-stream songwriting gods into the dreary Northwestern drizzle dregs.
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