' Posies Reviews
The Posies

Not-So-Grungy Seattlites

Strongest album: Amazing Disgrace
Weakest album: The Frosting on the Beater

The Posies are a psychedelic pop band. It's the psychedelic part of that description that can prove troublesome. At their best, the Posies offer catchy power-pop in a Big Star/Move tradition and their own unique, loping melodicism (I don't quite know how else to describe their melodies - they're kind of melancholy and not altogether as direct as they seem). However, the Posies also offer alongside their relatively straightforward pop/rock tunes too many numbers that suffer from the aimlessness and/or cliched "experimentation" that the worst psychedelia has. In short, they have yet to deliver the beginning-to-end pleasurable great pop album they may have in them, though all of their albums offer at least some rewards for listening.

Here's a link to the Dear 23 page, and here's also another website. ___________________________________________________________________________________________
Dear 23 (1990)***1/2

The Posies released a homemade independent album Failure in 1988 that consisted of guitarists Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow without a rythm section. Here they make their major-label debut and recruit a bassist and a drummer. The Posies are essentially the duo of Auer and Stringfellow, and they change their rythm section on almost every album. This album is classicist power-pop heavy on crisp, jangly acoustic-electric guitar interplay, and contains a number of fine tunes. "Golden Blunders" cautionarily warns of marriage, and may be the strongest song, though "Apology"; the opener "My Big Mouth" that has a wonderful moment of drums punctuating "shutup!"; and the miserable ballad "Everyone Moves Away" are all excellent. Several of the other tunes are fine, also, if they do leave me a bit lukewarm. The only real obvious gaffes are "Mrs. Green" in which the Posies' failed jaunty departure from their standard rythmic pattern uncomfortably suggests a limitation; and the closer, the ridiculously overlong epic "Flood Of Sunshine", the type of pretension that gives psychedelia a bad name. The other thing that annoys me (slightly) is the fake British accent these two affect; however, considering that I sing unconsciously in a fake British accent, I shouldn't complain too much. Because they didn't wear flannel and sang sensitive, melodic songs that were angsty sans agression, the Posies got overlooked in the Great Grunge Rush of Seattle. Whatever, the Posies provided a welcome antidote to the predominate sound of the Northwest. All of this would change, however....

Frosting On The Beater (1993)***

It's a full year since Nirvana and Pearl Jam achieved superstardom, and the Posies respond by ditching their light guitar pop for a more agressive approach. They crank up the amps and find their distortion pedals, but thankfully they leave their melodic sense intact. The album achieves a bizarre, gluey quality due to the resulting contrast between the agressive playing and the sweet melodies, and not in a good way. The effect is so disjointed that I feel physically disoriented listening to this album. The music feels like a cut'n'paste construction, a paper-maiche that threatens to collapse its weight into its hollowness. The other problem is that the songwriting isn't as strong as the previous album. Only "Solar Sister" (one of their greatest songs) and "Flavor Of The Month" a cynical swipe at Seattle-hype, are up to their usual level. The rest, possibly excepting "Love Letter Boxes" and "Earlier Than Expected" are sub-par. They indulge in some tuneless quasi-psychedelic numbers that are noisy and aimless ("Burn and Shine", "When Mute Tongues Can Speak") and nearly all the songs are too long (this was a problem on Dear 23, as well). Easily their weakest album, despite some decent material.

P.S. The title is a particularly unnappetizing reference to masturbation. Ugh!

Amazing Disgrace (1996)****

Finally, the Posies have produced an album that (almost) lives up to their promise. It still suffers from inconsistency, but there's a much lower dud-to-hit ratio, and the high points are probably my favorites on any Posies album. Ironically enough, it seems that the Posies have caught on to grunge - several years too late. They rock harder and noiser, and the lyrics are a shockingly pissed off considering their previous vague melancholy - "Hate Song", "Everybody Is A Fucking Liar", "Daily Mutilation"!?! To tell you the truth, I find it hard to take all this passive-agression at all seriously - if Nirvana are the Beatles (they aren't, of course, but bear with me), then this would be the Monkee's response to In Utero. That said, I don't mind a bit - a great deal of great rock'n'roll is unabashed fakery (take a bow, Mr.Jagger). The best song is "Ontario" which has the refrain "Black birds/Waiting for somebody to die/Who gives a shit", but the line that explains that they want to go "'cause it sounds good on the radio" is closer to what these boys are all about. "Grant Hart" amazingly recreates the pop-punk sugar rush of Husker Du in a great tribute to that band's drummer. I can imagine "Precious Moments" being remade as a huge soft-rock hit, and I don't mean that as an insult. And, lo and behold, for once their experimental side works on "Song #1". There's some crap, too, like "Hate Song" and "Broken Record", but there are enough moments like "World" to weight the album in its favor. By this rate, the Posies (not exactly the most prolific band of the '90s) might produce their masterpiece before the end of the millenium.

Success (1998)

The Posies' final album, the title of which puns of the title of their first, Failure. Ken Stringfellow has a new solo album out now, I believe.

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Reader Comments

Jeff Mangels, mangeljw@jmu.edu

I wholeheartedly disagree with your cursory evaluation of The Posies. I think much of what you about them is rediculous. Especially the Monkees/beatles comparison. And hey, where are you getting psychedelia as a description of the Posies? Give their music another listen...and then another...you'll end up a fan.

-Ben Harper


The Posies are a Fantastic Band. Were a Fantastic band. Whatever. I can't believe that you dislike some of my favorite songs. "When Mute Tongues Can Speak" is just beautiful. Frosting on the Beater is a great album. Compare them to any other band that is POPULAR and these guys are Geniuses. Okay, they are not geniouses, but they do write some damn music, Fine guitar playing, Sweet Voices, and a great Rythm section both drum and Bass solid as a rock. So here I am trying to sound like I know about music, well maybe I do, and maybe I don't, but THE POSIES fuckin rocked and I will miss them dearly. Hope they find other things to do and don't change their style a bit.


Jen Bryant, jbryant@banking.com

I must also completely disagree with your evaluation of the Posies' music. Although the band is no longer together, making this a moot point, it still surprises me to find someone who so completely missed the beauty and power of their music. Frosting on the Beater - disjointed? What the... ? It flows perfectly, in my opinion. Aimlessness? Never! Cliched? Maybe - but what's not? Of course, this is only my opinion, and you have as much right to yours. Thanks for letting me express mine!

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