Quixote – Protests of the Weak

Quixote
Protests of the Weak

Ah, the power trio. The time-tested rock ‘n roll formula of a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer. It has both sucked very badly – Rush, Green Day – and proven itself as one of the most thrilling combinations in music – Nirvana, Husker Du, and Built to Spill, among others. Power trios generally seem to be hit or miss: either the band is a thrilling mix of gelled members, or it is a tired, boring, stripped-down rock outfit who simply couldn’t find a second guitarist to play along in the basement. Quixote, a three-piece from Kalamazoo, Mich., seems to have gotten the formula mostly right. Wearing the influences very visibly on their sleeve, this slick little outfit has managed to craft some damn fine post-punk rock with little more than a distortion pedal and a competent rhythm section.

Perhaps one of the more annoying aspects of the “power trio” is that, especially on record, these bands rarely sound like a trio. Even a band like Built to Spill often overdubs on record so that their stripped down lineup sounds much bigger than it actually is. Not that this is a necessarily bad thing, but there is something to be said for a band that can keep it simple and still maintain its appeal. As you may have guessed by now, Quixote is just such a band. Using precious few overdubs, Quixote crafts a driving style of post-punk rock that focuses primarily on the big, full, chunky guitar sound that guitarist/singer Tony Uminn whips up on a song-by-song basis. Employing everything from whirlwind guitar swirls to wall of sound fuzz, the guitars on this album are always burning around the strong, if unspectacular rhythm section. Vocals are used sparingly, often in brief Fugazi-ish bursts of spitfire shouting.

The first two songs, “The Wolf” and “Slot Machine,” both contain sharp, biting riffs and the quick, vitriol vocals mentioned above. Both songs are strong if unspectacular. The band really hits its stride, however, on “Precision Heat,” a song where full chiming chords give way to machine gun riffing before falling into an eerie quiet. The song also contains the album’s best vocal melody. The marvelously restrained “The Walk” is a melodic stroll through soft arpeggios until the dam breaks and the distortion comes rushing on. The band’s weakest songs are those like “Sedona” where they get a little too angular and dynamic for their own good. Fortunately, the band closes the album with its two best songs. “Six Floors Away” is about as angry as this band can get while still maintaining believability, and it ends being a pretty excellent song. “The Laughing Place” closes the album on a high note, with ringing harmonics and unleashed fuzz running rampant on the excellent the seven-minute track.

Quixote somehow manage to pull off the power-trio thing without being exceptionally good songwriters or musicians. Most of their songs are instrumentals that are not quite complicated enough to be math-rock, but not quite simple enough to be four-chord punk either. Their songs are really rather good, especially when you consider the fact that they don’t really seem to overdub anything. Quixote set themselves apart with simplicity and some fevered guitar work. At the very least, they beat the hell out of Rush. A power trio indeed.