All the News That Didn't Fit

On the Record

The Olympia Connection, Or Lack Thereof


The Numbness Is Just a Bonus

Hiphop City


Soul by the Pound


Incest is Best

The Rise and Fall of the N-Word


If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Tell the Truth Anyway

You Don't Own Me

Summer Lovin'

Stagger Lee

Music to Lose Your Job By

Boy, You Sure Can Take the Fun Out of Music


Stuart Braithwaite From Mogwai

Going to New York City?


A Whole N'other Level

Who Says Morrissey Fans Don't Get Laid?


Not Modest Enough

ISN'T IT ALWAYS THIS WAY? YOU SPEND money on a new outfit, get a haircut, go out looking your best, and -- nothing. You might as well have a sign over your head that says, "Pay no attention to me. Nothing to see here." However, the next morning, when you realize you're our of milk and walk to the corner store in your pajama bottoms -- you're destined to meet the love of your life. The same thing goes for albums (those made by thinkin' folk, anyway): Put countless hours of sweat and tears into getting the thing just right, and it's the silly throwaway song you stuck in 'cause it was funny that ends up being everyone's favorite.

I get the sense that Quasi's Sam Coomes is familiar with this particular irony when I tell him that "A Fable with No Moral" is my favorite song on his and his bandmate Janet Weiss' forthcoming album, Field Studies. It begins with dreamy, reaching and tumbling "aaahhhh" harmonies and rambling acoustic guitar, punctuated by that kind of big, rolling drum fill that Weiss has made an art form. Then the mournful keyboards kick in, and Coomes begins a downtrodden story of a modern-day Sisyphus who sold his soul to Satan but didn't get paid, who then goes out on the street to sell it to someone else, but Satan drives by in his Land Rover and yells, "That's not yours to sell/You'll get your check tomorrow and I'll see your ass in hell."

Coomes groans a little at my admission, like I'm probably not the first person to offer up that revelation. "That's one of those ones that, because it's kind of a joke in a certain way -- and that's not to belittle it -- but it's one that people either think is the best on the album or the weakest." I ask if he's being diplomatic, and he demurs, "Nah, because outside of the little, kind of jokey nature of the words, musically it's pretty developed. There's a lot going on in the song. Yeah, I could understand someone being interested in that one."

Quasi has always had a knack for making the most buoyant, happy-sounding songs out of the darkest of gloom-driven lyrics. I spent the summer of '98 happily singing the line, "Never want to see you again" end-over-end, because only Quasi can make a song about a busted romance so stick-in-your-head hummable and over-again infectious. So this summer it's gonna be "Same bed, same sheets, different world" and "I go from place to place and I always see your face, but you're not there anymore when the knock comes at my door," when everyone else is still yammerin' on about their Vida Loca. The album won't be out for another month, but you can hear the new songs when Quasi plays the Crocodile on Saturday, August 7.

In this new edition of Excellent, we take a band and subject them to a set of questions that we might ask anyone, no matter whether they write beautiful songs about breaking up or ugly songs about getting together. This time we asked them of Sam and Janet, and as we hoped, their answers told us more about the band than any traditional "music" questions would....

What would be the title of your autobiography?

Janet: Mama Ringo. There's a story to that, but I'm not gonna tell it.

Sam: The Autobiography of an Unremarkable Fringe-Dweller.

What's more important, the lyrics or the music?

J: The music. Lyrics are just adornment for the music, but good lyrics always help the music sound better.

S: Music. There are many records that are like that, that are great, that I listen to all the time, but aren't primarily lyrically oriented. Little Richard is a genius, but "Tutti-Frutti oh roottie" is not going to win any poetry awards. But the greatest lyrics -- if the music's no good, why bother? Just put them in a book or something."

What is the stupidest lyric every written?

S: There's bound to be many. Sometimes great songs have like one line that drives me crazy. Like the song "Nowhere Man," which has great words, except there's one line that goes, "knows not where he's going to." What is that? Knows not where he's going to? He knows NOT where he's going to. That line just drives me insane. He should have said, "don't know where he's goin' to" instead. It sounds like someone in high school who's trying to be literary, and that's John Lennon. So it goes to show that everybody has their little gaffes.

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done while drunk?

J: Hmmm. I feel pretty good that I can't think of anything. Maybe you should ask someone else, they'll tell you all the dumb things I've done.

S: I haven't actually been full-on drunk since I was a teenager, so it might be better if you asked about drugs. I wouldn't recommend taking LSD as a cure for insomnia and a migraine.

What song will you have played at your funeral?

J: "Clouds." What if I said "Funeral for a Friend," by Elton John? That's better.

S: "When the Levy Breaks." Makes everybody happy, big drum beat, but it's kind of sad.... "All last night I sat on the levy and moaned."

What's the worst album you've ever loved?

J: I guess it would have to be any one of the Oasis records.

S: I grew up listening to a lot of prog rock -- most people don't like prog rock at all -- but I think there are some good ones. I did listen to a few that now I realize are terrible. The ones that I actually loved I still like. But say, like, Genesis is pretty slim pickin's as far as the good records go. I listen to some of their bad ones, but I can tell that some of their other ones were better. Very few people would probably agree with me that Genesis had anything worthwhile.

What's the most naive ideal you held in your 20s?

J: Love Conquers All, I guess. Which I still think it does, but I guess that's pretty naive.

S: My memory is only a few years long, and the 20s are pretty dim for me. I had many, many mistaken ideas that were proven wrong and needed modification. It's difficult to single out any one. The big topics of the 20s especially would be your evolving concepts of love, and yeah, I had many topsy-turvys and flip-flops. I'm still workin' on it, but I'm getting closer.

Would you rather eat a pound of raw bacon or punch your mother in the face?

J: I'd rather eat a pound of bacon. Anyone who would choose the other should be banished. You're evil; go live somewhere else.

S: Obviously eat the bacon. I would rather eat the bacon than punch anyone in the face. Not that I haven't felt like punching someone in the face. But when I'm not angry and in the heat of the moment, the rational choice of course would be that I'd eat the bacon.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

J: I wanted to be a veterinarian. I had a horse all through my teens, and so I always thought that if I could manage to go to school for all those years I'd be a great vet. But then the drums corrupted me.

S: The only thing I was interested in besides playing music was archeology. By the time I got to be a teenager and into rock and roll, archeology was long forgotten.