Changes are afoot on Quasi's seventh album, American Gong. First off is the addition of Joanna Bolme on bass and vocals, but more important is the change in their sound. Up until this, the group was mostly built around keyboards and drums, with the vocals of Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss intertwining over the top. As American Gong opens with the songs "Repulsion" and "Little White Horse," the sound of the band is a swirling mess of overloaded guitars, keys, bass, drums, and voices rushing by on a wave of fiery noise that’s both invigorating and impressively fresh for a band that's been around for so long. Coomes' guitar playing is wild and loose enough to compensate for the reduced presence of his trademark distorted organ, Bolme's bass playing is melodic and ferocious, and Weiss won’t be giving up her title as best drummer on the planet anytime soon. It’s a thrilling way to start off the album and proves hard to follow. While there are moments that capture the wild intensity of the album’s start, like the chorus of "Bye Bye Blackbird," the rest of the record is more in line with their recent albums. Thoughtful ballads, Crazy Horse-inspired jams, and midtempo dirges dominate the rest of the record, as piano and keys take back over from guitars. There are some fine examples of these types of songs (most notably "Everything and Nothing at All") and a couple dogs like the indulgent "Rockabilly Party," but mostly they just serve to sap the energy the band displays so wonderfully to begin with. The result is a frustrating listening experience that makes you wish that the change in their sound didn’t prove to be so fleeting. That being said, if you’ve stood beside the band for this long, there’s nothing here to make you sorry that you did.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra