Review Summary: Alive and well
Sometimes it’s easy to forget Quicksand’s enormous sphere of influence. It’s also easy to forget this band was writing and recording phenomenal music when I was in middle school, and I was born in the 70’s. The music they were creating ended up being the music that would help shape alternative rock, post hardcore and would lay a foundation for the groove laden hard rock bands that would follow. Quicksand are a band’s band. Most folks have probably never heard of them, but they will definitely know a ton of the bands that drew from the well. For me, the defining feature is, and always will be groove. The rhythm section of Alan Cage and Sergio Vega inserts a distinction that cannot be ignored. In my little world, Quicksand is iconic, and as important a name as any artist that has ever picked up an instrument. And luckily, they are still extremely relevant.
Inner turmoil eventually tore the band apart in the 90’s, but they came together in 2012, and then made a full comeback with the album “Interiors” in 2017. It was well-received, and seemed to bridge a gap between the Quicksand of old, and front man Walter Schreifel’s side-project, Rival Schools. This was mainly the result of the lack of input from original guitarist Tom Capone, and Walter taking over all guitar duties. As a result we have the Quicksand of today, and “Distant Populations” as their second full-length release in this new era. This new Quicksand is a bit more composed and refined, a result of over 30 years of experience. The resurgence of bands like Hum, Failure and Quicksand reuniting and releasing some of the best modern rock records of today speaks volumes to the talent and creativity that was just below the surface in the 90’s. It also leaves a lasting inspirational nugget that reminds us that it’s never too late, and no one is too old to grab a guitar and throw down.
Quicksand indeed do throw down. It is absolutely apparent as “Inversion” begins. Big open chords are flung forward as the band locks into the rhythm. At the ripe age of 52 Walter still sounds awesome, and screams this point home a couple minutes in, and it’s so cool to hear it. “Lightning Field” sounds much like a Rival Schools track, but with a stomping boost of rock energy. The record starts out with these two under-three-minute bangers that act as a warm up to “Colossus”, which perfectly reflects it's namesake. The band converge in a mid-tempo groove that forces the head to nod. This track is dripping with swagger and confidence, but it’s still measured and deliberate.
If any doubt is left that this band isn’t firing on all cylinders, Quicksand smash it to bits on “Brushed”. The track is masterful, and Walter’s melodic vocal choices are so expertly woven through the track. It’s a gorgeous song even with it’s humble arrangement. But fear not, we haven’t heard the heaviest moments yet. “Katakana” absolutely crushes. “Missile Command” displays a fuzzy drone feel that finds Walter, again, crafting wonderfully haunting melodies. “Phase 90” has a groovy drum track that almost sounds boom-bap-ish, juxtaposed with a massive dose of reverb and atmosphere. “EMDR” is a rocker with a 5/4 verse that absolutely slays. It’s another example of the absolute command these three gentlemen have over their compositions, and the song writing skills they employ.
Quicksand possesses this ability to somehow sneak in greatness without needing to announce it from the rooftops. It’s this humble ethos that has always affected me. Even through the Rival Schools era, Walter Schreifels was able to unveil thoughtful, expertly crafted rock music that is devoid of all the B.S., trickery and wankery that makes much of todays music so unbearable. This is as close to a perfect rock record as one can get, and yet, Quicksand lives below the surface. The music world grinds away, pumping out the jams, everyone feverishly splashing, kicking, and flopping about like mad to be seen or heard. Instead Quicksand seem to be floating along calmly, and with "Distant Populations" they quietly remind us of their undeniable genius.