Quasi are now and forever will be a band you root for. There's nothing definitively "of the moment" about them, they don't subscribe to the latest trends, and their drizzled postcode suggests that a jet-set life is the furthest thing from their minds. While their friends (Elliott Smith, Built to Spill and Modest Mouse) are busy staking their claims as world-beating indie rock stars, Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss remain humble, content to carve out an outsider niche and remain a cult entity. True, drummer/ex-wife Weiss moonlights as a member of riot grrrl favorites Sleater-Kinney, but you quickly get the impression that such notoriety hardly fluffs a hair on the pair's respective heads.
They've progressed mightily since their days as an insecure post-grunge duo. The boisterous racket that was once Quasi's stock-in-trade has been supplanted by a fastidious resonance that draws liberally from such disparate influences as Bauhaus, Scott Walker and Blind Boy Fuller. As a result, much of Hot Shit! plays out like the soundtrack to an obscure '30s mystery thriller, all bleary melodrama and intoxicating atmospherics. While Quasi's means of delivery has changed for the better, the dizzying array of moods the pair wrench from minimalist equipment has not -- "Sunshine Sounds", in particular, is an exquisite paean to the lifelong battles of love.
As ever, Coomes's rickety Roxichord is the epicenter of wounded-heart anthems like "White Devil's Dream" and "Drunken Tears", his everyman tales of loss and salvation peppered with a world-weary mysticism that wouldn't be out of place on (Neil Young's) Tonight's the Night. The duo's focused and tranquil demeanor gives Hot Shit! a reliant focus, and even hints that the days of Sam standing on his keyboard, screaming like a crazed gibbon, may well be past.
Though the Roxi gets its fair share of workouts, Coomes has seen fit to give the 'boards a bit of a respite this time out, leaning heavily upon his axe to summon the grizzled Delta blues spirit he toyed with on his Blues Goblins project. The dizzying and heartsick "Seven Years Gone" is as simple and poignant as anything in Robert Johnson's canon, Weiss's restrained backbeats adding to its elusive charm, "Master & Dog" is whimsical jaundice pop adorned with subtle Middle Eastern accoutrements, while the title track's swooning goth-country conveys a sunny displeasure. The lovely "No One" is bathed in transparent transcendence, with Coomes coming to the bleak realization that "No one can help you".
Aside from being a strikingly orchestrated affair that ranks among Quasi's best work, Hot Shit! is the fully-realized version of Quasi that Coomes has envisioned since the beginning. While some might argue that Quasi's relevance is waning in the wake of the current rock-pig zeitgeist, Hot Shit!'s strident, couldn't-give-a-fuck demeanor marks Coomes and Weiss as true musicians in a world overrun by performers, songwriters in a world filled with producers, and actual people in a business dominated by egos.