Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Posies: New Album, New Chance to Create Another Scruffy Favourite

The Posies will release their new album Blood/Candy September 28th on Rykodisc. I'm probably a little too excited about it, but The Huffington Post has reported that "Blood/Candy is the first Posies album for which Auer and Stringfellow actually wrote material in advance of the recording sessions since Amazing Disgrace in 1996". Writer Tony Sachs adds: "When they started planning Blood/Candy, Jon and Ken talked about making a "classic" Posies-sounding record, and sure enough, plenty of the songs that have that vibe -- uptempo guitar-based rockers with infectious hooks, hummable melodies and dark, melancholy undertones. It's the kind of stuff that makes power-pop fans' eyes roll into the back of their heads while they softly gurgle with ecstasy."

Well, Amazing Disgrace is a really good record. But the previous album, Frosting on the Beater, is one of my favourite albums of all time. Somehow it never got the love it deserves, maybe because it came out during the heyday of grunge. Those into Soundgarden or Nirvana or Mudhoney might not have found it heavy enough, perhaps it didn't display enough Stooges, Sabbath, Pixies and Zeppelin influences. At the same time, a record store employee friend of mine referred to Frosting on the Beater as their "grunge album", perhaps because they called Seattle home and the disc included more noisy songs than the record that came before it (Dear 23). To me, the beautiful Hollies-like harmonies were still there, but it was more Cheap Trick than Pearl Jam, and certainly more Big Star than Tad. When Auer and Stringfellow sing together, for me, there's a magnetic pull that can't be denied. Frosting on the Beater just happens to contain some kind of magic that most artists can never quite conjure; 12 perfectly-baked tunes, spot on production by Don Fleming, and no half-arsed hyper-pretentious experiments. Even if more than one of the songs seems to contain lyrics about suicide, for me it's a joyous experience all the way through.

You don't have to take my word for it though. Magnet magazine included the album in their list of top 15 American power pop albums. Since The Posies toured playing Frosting on the Beater in recent years, I'm hoping to hear that they've influenced themselves - clearly Stringfellow and Auer know people's passion for the album if they're willing to play it in its entirety 15 years after the fact. Here are three songs from Frosting preceded by a live version of the same album's Solar Sister:

Since the band made 2005's Every Kind of Light, it's been clear that Auer and Stringfellow can still make great music that doesn't sound like most of the music we hear today. I mean, their solo records showed that they could both spool out melodic beauty, and being half of the reconstituted Big Star as well as working with R.E.M. and the Minus 5, hanging out with John Wesley Harding and Fountains of Wayne...the guys haven't had enough time away from good music to forget how it's done. Here's one from Every Kind of Light.

Stringfellow in particular has done some stretching out with his other current concern, The Disciplines. Hivesy garage rock ain't what I expected, anyway.

On this one, Jon Auer's voice reminds me of Squeeze during the verses, then a little of Billy Squier in the chorus. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.

Here's Stringfellow's with a live version of Find Yourself Alone, definitely one of my favourite of his solo tunes.

Download free mp3s from The Posies, Stringfellow and Auer at the band's site here. A Depeche Mode cover? Quite enjoyable. A Hollies remake? Royal. The Kinks? Even better.

Buy Posies from Amazon in the U.S. here, in Canada here.

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