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Heartbreak Hotel 

Quasi

Wednesday, Mar 1 2000
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If your Mom and Pop were rock stars (Ma's in Sleater-Kinney; Dad was in Heatmiser with Elliott Smith) who took nightly breaks to tuck you into bed with a couple of soothing harmonies, they'd sound something like this. Except they're divorced, but still perform together. And they cover some of the more depressing themes on the bedtime circuit.

Steeped in the suicide-inducing cloudbelt of the Pacific Northwest, Quasi are a pared-down counterpart to some of their better-known regional contemporaries, with a sound that draws on the spare musings of Elliott Smith and the textured indie rock of Built to Spill. Sam Coomes' plaintive croon, hovering over dirge-ish keyboard turns and Janet Weiss' subdued drumming, offers dispirited takes on the modern condition -- broken hearts, the cardboard emptiness of the world around us -- as Weiss harmonizes serenely in the background. Every now and then, the duo throws in an upbeat-sounding, Beatles-esque number and tries to catch you off guard, until you hear the wistful lyrics.

Coomes may be despondent, but he's not oblivious to the jaded soul's survival gear for the 21st century: irony and black humor. On "A Fable with No Moral" from last year's Field Studies, he muses on selling his soul to pay the rent. Satan won't return his call, so he hits the streets with a sign to shop it below market rate. "A Land Rover drove right by with Satan at the Wheel./ He saw what I was doing and said 'That's not yours to sell/ You'll get your check tomorrow and I'll see your ass in hell.'" And then there are the break-up songs. Mom... Dad... will you sing that one again?

Quasi performs Monday with the Replikants and Braille Stars at 8 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-4455.

About The Author

Todd Dayton

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