Quintaine Americana – Needles
I believe I once saw these guys opening for the Melvins with a buddy of mine. My friend said that he had really wanted to see Quintaine Americana because he heard they were heavy. It was a show that gave us a mixed reaction (okay, not heavy enough I guess) but the power was certainly there. It was also there when I picked up this disc and saw the dog corpse on the cover. Ah man, that’s not what I really needed to see. I tried to envision the live show when I put this disc on the counter to buy and not the band’s strange interest in deceased family pets.
Quintaine Americana is a Boston area band that gives off a progressive hard rock sound that was a familiar sound in the nineties if you went looking for it. “Needles” is their debut album that arrived the same year as Tool’s “Aenima”, whose sound is an obvious influence. Knowing what the band sounded like before I spun the disc I was a little worried the record would get sludgy and monotonous by the third track, but it turns out the album gets better as the tracks progress.
“Aunt Ruth” has a real meaty, deep bass line that permeates throughout the song that I really like having there to keep the mood. Granted, bassist Marc Schleicher doesn’t have much else to do during the song as he keeps playing it for nearly five minutes … so maybe like Ringo Starr he gets a bit bored playing the same thing. Rob Dixon’s vocals remind me of Steve Albini’s in Big Black such that they have a menacingly flat tone that you feel can erupt at any moment. It never really gets there in this song, as the guitar spends most of the time in the forefront.
Dixon’s vocals definitely prove to be the weakest element as the album thunders along , though perhaps I’m the only one who listens to heavy rock and bothers with vocal criticism. His voice does work on a few tracks, however. “Retarded Whore” gets the eye-rubbing song title award for the record, though I have to say it builds up the anxiety pretty well with the slow guitar chugging building into a noisy chorus. The song stands out a little bit from the rest, though that is because the rest all have that chugging bass, squealing guitar, and those grating vocals. One my more favorite songs is the quick and simple “JT, Fire at the Trailer Park”. Something about its urgency and steady riff throughout probably wins me over, but maybe it’s also because I never had time to get sick of it given its two minutes of length. Honestly, if you can take a page out of Wire’s mantra of getting out before getting boring, then take it.
“The Rifleman” begins with a guitar riff that one might hear when wandering the desert; it has a hopeless yet sharp effect as it repeats early on. The heavy chorus introduces itself quickly and through the collision of guitar and bass Dixon’s despairing vocals blend in very well. It’s one of the stronger tracks on the record, succeeding in not getting too routine in its length. Unfortunately, some songs are not engaging whatsoever. “I’m Sorry” sounds like another stark tune given the sparse guitar strums early on as well as the monologue that seems to refer to a father-son rift. A fine lyric: “The only thing I hate more than myself is people who actually like me.” Yeesh. After “The Rifleman” it is not only a downer in spirit but a downer in expectations. I guess the band chose this moment to mix things up, but it didn’t work out well. The rest of the record sounds a lot like the early part, so despite this dud of a song at least the band finished up well.
A few songs of Quintaine Americana’s heavy output can be heard on MySpace if you’re interested.
This isn’t a record that I would likely return to often since other groups have done this better and, frankly, Dixon’s vocals aren’t all that impressive here. Quintaine Americana did go on to make a couple more records within a decade’s worth of time before calling it quits. Given that Boston tends to produce a lot of garage rock bands that pack the bars, Quintaine Americana filled a niche that was sorely needed in the area. Since their last record came out eight years after this one, it would be worth the time to spin it just to see how these guys ended up.