Review Summary: Skillful instrumentation, combined with the yin/yang of controlled abrasion, lets the band realize itself and its budding ability"There are a lot of bands out there today who just try and sound like other bands. But I think on this record, for what it's worth, we've found something unique."
Quicksand is one of those groups that were formed from the ashes of the booming New York hardcore scene of the the late 80's. A self titled EP on Revelation records came just 6 weeks after the band formed. Constant touring with bands like Helmet, Fugazi and Rage against the machine followed. Polydor records signed them and in 1993 Quicksand released Slip(which is one of the best records of the 90's). Even though the video for "Dine alone", made into regular rotation on the heavy metal segments of MTV, the record never achieved the sales Polydor was looking for. It's a shame really. The world truly missed out on a great band. Who was to blame for this? Could it be the massive grunge craze at the time? Probably. But one thing's for sure, Quicksand was not going to lie down that easy. Each of the members suffered through humble beginnings, which wasn't uncommon in the New York hardcore scene. Every single one of them proved their worth in their own individual bands- Walter Schreifels with Youth of Today and the Gorilla Biscuits, guitarist Tom Capone with Bold, drummer Alan Cage with Beyond, and bassist Sergio Vega with Absolution. So Walter Schreifel and the boys already knew about adversity. So then, in 1995 Quicksand released Manic Compression on Island Records. A more complex record musically and lyrically in contrast to the easily likeable rhythms of Slip.
While comparisons to Helmet and Fugazi come easy because of each band's hardcore roots, those comparisons do little justice in describing Quicksand's sound. Quicksand's sound is one of the most original sounds of the 90's and there's a reason why I put that quote up there. While their peers were sticking to the brutal hardcore punk of the late 80's, Quicksand chose to make things more interesting and took a more angular approach to their music. Every band member makes an equal contribution throughout the album. Whether it be Sergio Vega's raging and booming basslines to Walter Schreifels and Tom Capone's lethal guitar solos or Alan Cage with his impressive and difficult rhythms. Every instrument is integrated perfectly and every band member has a chance to shine. What makes Qucksand different from its peers is not by the band's hooks but by its precision. Manic Compression isn't as murky as Quicksand's major-label debut and is more tighter and well thought out of a record, all of which makes the band's lack of hooks and harmony excusable. Then again, the point isn't melody or harmony â€" Quicksand is about sheer sound, in all of its distorted glory.
One thing that Quicksand uses well is guitar feedback, which is used in alot of their solos. Guitar feedback is a delicate thing. It's overused and often not used well. Instead of enhancing a song, bad feedback will make you want to cover your ears and wince in disgust. There are too many bands out there simply using feedback to waste away the seconds-- stretching a two and a half minute song into three. Sonic Youth is a good example of a band that knows how to use feedback to one's betterment. On their second album, Manic Compression, Quicksand manages to properly utilize feedback, mixing it up with grinding chords and dynamic guitar nuances to create twelve tracks with an aggressive sound that transcends traditional hardcore and three-chord punk.
The songs are more focused this time around and lyrically the band is more depressing. Songs like Divorce, Backward and the blistering Blister (no pun intended) burst out of the gate like an epileptic drunark ready to lay redemption on the face of whoever he sees. Then Quicksand will just go back to the slow and brooding on songs like Delusional and the six minute plus drone of It would be cooler if you did. Like their name, Quicksand's songs unknowingly swallow you when you least expect it, using a fierce combination of texture-rich guitars and furious vocals. Quicksand's lyrics manage to have some depth to them and Schreifels doesn't need to rely on screaming or screeching to make up for a poor voice. Schreifels sounds a bit like a mixture between Perry Farrell and Chris Cornell, as he sometimes switches back and forth from a nasally Farrell-esque voice against the faster tempos and louder noise to a deeper narration on the slightly slower paced songs. What makes his voice so ideal for the band's sound is how it seamlessly fits into the wall of sound Quicksand is able to create with their music.
The lyrics are very depressing but also feature some cheap but necessary shots at American culture and narcassistic people. On "Delusional" he addresses translucent people who are so full of bull*** that they think the world revolves around them as they name drop everyone imaginable. Schreifels' pithy responses are "we don't care who you know" and "I'm not impressed/illusional lies you tell." His angry and passionate vocals provide the perfect compliment to the jagged churnings of the guitars. "Thorn In My Side" begins with full throttled guitar trashing and a thumping bass line that's repeated over and over. Once again, the lyrics allude to another intolerable person, someone who is nothing more to you but a hindrance. Schreifels tells the thorn in his side, "you need to sit down and stay down." The vocals and music play off each other in tag team fashion. Schreifels sings a line and is then answered by Cage's charged beating of the snares. Landmine spring starts off with a primitive and calming guitar riff until the band comes together and trudges along. Once again Schreifels' vocal delivery is astounding as he sings the verses in an evocative way. But then he yells and repeats the line "A landmine spring, blown apart" as the song explodes and then cools down again. Definately a stand out.
Schreifels' anguish is evident again in "Brown Gargantuan." "Who told you life was easy?" he asks before rationalizing, "Life is a selfish thing/ Life is a selfless thing." Vega's bass leads Capone into the guitar solo--a combination of feedback and dissonance that form a noisy spew that's not difficult to listen to. Then finally Schreifels yells in the most cathartic of ways, which adds to the incendiary nature of the song. "East 3rd St" begins with a catchy guitar riff. Throughout the song the guitars chug along at high speed, like a super train barreling down through a mountain pass. Schreifels voice is contorted, muffled and echoed at times, as he addresses someone who keeps cramping his style without knowing the entire story. "Rain, it's rain again, rain down on/ my parade, I'm wrong you're right/it's not what you would do/walk one mile in these shoes," he challenges before reminding to "remember what you've taken and who/you took from..." Supergenius starts out with a Rage against the machine esque guitar riff and is relatively fast paced. "Turn your face down, it's your turn to meet the man" Schreifels sings. The song is nothing to special but it just overral a good song which is catchy, simple and to the point. The fact is, Quicksand doesn't make a habit of rock `n' roll dawdling: When the band's got something to say, it says it and shuts up.
But like most records, there are a few songs that are just plain mediocre. Skinny (it's overflowing) is so repetitive and just dull and the only thing that keeps it somewhat interesting is Sergio Vega's dark bassline. Simpleton also isn't to great, nothing to write home about. The song overral has nothing to it that makes it memorable and has nothing to it musically to make it somewhat interesting. These are only small encumbrances in an otherwise fantastic and influential record.
Skillful instrumentation, combined with the yin/yang of controlled abrasion, lets the band realize itself and its budding ability. So, while a single spin of this disc may not take long in real time, you may not be too quick to remove it from your player. Manic Compression is a record that is a must have and is a band that everyone shoudl listen to.