Thursday, August 25, 2005
The Quags - Devil's Music
Accolades are always great to receive and The Quags's album Out In The Community received glowing reviews from coast to coast. Exalted rock potentates of the past figured prominently in the reviews. Names like The Small Faces, Big Star, The Kinks, The Jam, The Rolling Stones, and some lesser deities like Sloan, Tommy Keene, and The Posies dripped from rock critics' pens filling blotter pages with reference and reverence points galore. So even though I didn't have a copy of Out In The Community I had read enough about it that when I came across The Quags new album Devil's Music I was compelled by literature to get it. I know it wasn't on purpose, but I was set up.
My expectations were set sky high. I was expecting some powerhouse power pop bonanza that would draw on classical rock and roll elements while still sounding like something living and breathing today. Where others have heard echoes of rock stars past I merely heard shades of early Afghan Whigs mixed with The Posies. So previous reports were only very slightly right to my ears. "Bittersweet Plum" is the most obvious Posies flavored cut bearing a Frosting On The Beater big guitar buzz that threatens to become a full blown memorable moment. I did like the title track quite a bit and "Don't Lose Your Hair" possesses a certain swagger and throwback jersey charm to it. But I never could get over my over inflated hopes that had been sown in me by the very group I pretend to be a part of: rock critics.
It leads to perplexing questions for me. If I'm led astray by the writing of critics I trust where does the fault lie? If I say Devil's Music is ultimately disappointing; can my own writing be entirely suspect on the issue? The possible truth is perhaps a combination of all the scenarios. There are multiple mind melds occurring: music and listener, writer and reader, and it all creates an interesting friction of ideas and tones. What if I had never read a word about The Quags? Would the music be more satisfying to me? It's entirely possible, but maybe not by much. If I had maybe just caught a fleeting glimpse of a song during some emotionally rewarding event before I got Devil's Music I might have enjoyed the album more. Maybe if I had read about the band being terrible instead of their singer Dennis Mitchell resembling a youthful Elvis Costello I would be writing here about how truly incredible The Quags are.
But I'm not doing that. I will bet that the band is probably great live. The power pop genre translates well to immediate experience. But Devil's Music doesn't growl with power laced with sweet harmonies. The mix of the album is actually quite dim. The song "Not Just Another Dream Song" also has one of the worst lyrics I ever heard with "in between your legs I'm feeling so enamored" that is either dumb on purpose or dumb as in stupid. Every rock band around has seen This Is Spinal Tap so one can never be entirely sure of a band's intent these days. But I wouldn't pan a record for one dumb lyric line so don't take what I'm scribing that way. There are glimmers on the edges of what those who sang the praises of The Quags wrote about. At least with me an age old cliche` says it: all that glitters is not gold.
Posted by Wally Bangs