The members of this New York quartet grew up on the stridently philosophical side of the tracks of the mid-’80s punk scene in Gotham, having cut their teeth in zealous combos like Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Absolution. By the time Quicksand formed in 1989, they’d outgrown the one-dimensional sonic attack of that era, but not the militant — and occasionally sanctimonious — outlook.
A self-titled EP (released on a label that also became ground zero for New York’s intriguing Krishna-core movement) vaunted both the band’s best and worst instincts: guitarist Tom Capone’s muscular, cliché-free riffing, serving up a blue-collar rejoinder to the art-Sabbath crunch concurrently conjured by Helmet’s Page Hamilton, is catalytic enough to provoke involuntary locomotion, but frontman Walter Schreifels’ strained proselytizing capsizes songs like the brotherhood paean “Omission.” The spacious instrumental closer, “Hypno Jam With Dan” (featuring Dan Doolin on trumpet), is thoroughly impressive, however.
There’s not a whole lot of breathing room to be found on Slip, an album that sees the quartet swerve from the path it had scoped out — roughly parallel to the trail blazed by Fugazi — for more commercial pursuits. Slip is hardly a sell-out, more like a U2-ization, right down to the vocal swoops Schreifels flaunts in shirt-rending tunes like “Head to Wall” and “Unfulfilled.” Even Capone seems prone to a few Edge-styled harmonic tangents, which saps some of the raw power — a shortage that’s particularly evident on a re-recording of “Omission.”
Manic Compression is quite a bit more direct — the martial overtones of “Delusional” are downright ominous. Producers Wharton Tiers (who also worked on the band’s debut) and Don Fury condense the sonics considerably on tracks like the writhing “Divorce” and the brittle “Thorn in My Side” (both of which indicate Schreifels should ease up on the Jane’s Addiction listening). Quicksand split up in late 1995, but Schreifels — who went on to form the four-piece World’s Fastest Car to little note — reached the charts anyway, as co-producer of “Can’t Wait One Minute More,” a 1995 hit for longtime cohorts CIV.