Interiors by QuicksandRelease date: November 10, 2017
It is 22 years since Quicksand released an album, 1995’s Manic Compression, which is a sobering thought. Manic Compression was their classy, sophisticated sophomore album on a major label and it was expected to be the one that saw them hit the big time, but it never quite happened and internal and external pressures saw the band split that year, with a short-lived reunion around 1997.
Lead singer and guitarist Walter Shreifels (ex Gorilla Biscuits and Youth of Today) went on to form Rival Schools, with a bunch of other hardcore luminaries, and their debut Rival Schools – United by Fate was tipped to make them the next Nirvana. Despite that album’s brilliance, again, Rival Schools fell short and split up, only to re-form a couple of times, even managing to record a couple more albums along the way.
So we can see the pattern is set of these great bands splitting and reforming intermittently, Shreifels and co never quite giving up on the dream, their feelings of unfinished business and their steely ambitions helping to produce the occasional outstanding album. But 22 years is a long time in any business – what can these guys bring to the table that’s fresh? What are they trying to prove? Well as it turns out Quicksand have plenty on Interiors to impress and even teach the modern rock fan.
If you look them up on Wikipedia, Quicksand are described as ‘post-hardcore’, a term that is woefully reductive. What Shreifels, along with bassist Sergio Vega, drummer Alan Cage and guitarist Tom Capone play is rock music, pure and simple, with all the potential and scope that broad term should imply. On Interiors the band quietly go about pushing the envelope of their sound and also reminding you of their vast influence on their peers.
Interiors was financed off the bands own back, the band turning to producer Will Yip, who has recently worked with Code Orange, and worked previously with Shreifels on Title Fight records. So the band have gone for a modern sound, but working with a man who knows and understands them. The result is an album that instantly sounds like Quicksand, whilst not sounding dated, and is full of subtle sonic invention. At first, I admit, I found the production too subtle, for a comeback album, it doesn’t exactly hare out of the speakers and spit in your eye. In fact there is a mood of melancholy and pensiveness about the album, unsurprising really I guess, being the product of older and wiser men, battle scarred and hard bitten. The opening track ‘Illuminant’ ends with the lines – “How the light gets in, I hope you work it on out”
And on the melancholy, spacey, shoegaze epic ‘Cosmonauts’ Shreifels croons –
“Compromising to follow, to its natural end, still close enough to feel the rain, but how long can I stay before we disintegrate, in the light where you are”
These are not the words of callow youth – full of resignation, it’s almost like they are foreseeing their own death. This being Quicksand though, there is still room for optimism and defiance, and there’s plenty contained within the grooves of later numbers such as ‘Feels Like A Weight Has Been Lifted’ and ‘Fire This Time’ . ‘Feels Like…’ is as close as the band to get to reviving the old, dry Fugazi-esque hardcore beat, but with a vaguely psychedelic guitar tone, similar to Soundgarden as it leads into crashing riffs. ‘Fire This Time’ has a whopping great bass riff, squealing guitar counterpoints and an urgency that grabs you by the collar as Shriefels yells “There’s a fire, there’s no other way to say it!”
I have long been admirer of Shreifels vocals, they have a warmth and easy way with a melody that puts a lot of vocalists from similar bands to shame, whilst still being able to shout with the best of them (see their fantastic, underrated debut Slip for the full effect). However on Interiors it is the guitar playing that is the real star of the show. There isn’t an ounce of flab on any of these songs but yet on every track Capone and Shreifels display incredible skill, colouring the songs with an unbelievable palette of sonic shades. Particularly notable is the gauzy, effects heavy playing on tracks such as the title track, with a mournful wah wah intro that calls to mind Swervedriver at their peak and the equally beautiful tones on ‘Hyperion’ which when not grinding on a dirty riff is elevated by pretty, echoing guitar lines that Ride and Slowdive would kill for. What this makes evident is that Quicksand may well have had a very large influence on the sound of The Deftones, as well as more traditional post grunge rockers like Foo Fighters.
It’s not all pretty and refined though, check out the vicious, clattering, Fall-like splurge of ‘Sick Mind’. As this album unfurls itself across multiple spins it’s emotional depth becomes ever more evident. This isn’t a jagged Richter Scale of major earthquake spikes, more a series of underground explosions that vibrate upwards into your subconscious, but once felt, are felt deeply.
Quicksand deserve your attention, deserve another chance. Not out of sentimentality, loyalty, hipster revisionism or any other misguided motivation, but because they have made a really excellent new album which can hold its head up alongside their back catalogue or any other rock record made this year.