The Posies: Blood/Candy


RIYL: Big Star, Matthew Sweet, the Foo Fighters

The Posies deliver their first album since 2005 here, and it’s a mixed bag. There’s a handful of songs that rival the Seattle-rooted band’s best work on Frosting on the Beater, their 1993 alternative-era classic. Big melodic hooks, vintage gear, soaring vocals with depth, rich harmonies; these are great to hear in 2010. But there are other songs where it sounds like band leaders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow couldn’t agree on which direction to go, and fused competing ideas together in odd ways that don’t quite gel. Either that or some of their mutual ideas were just weird. There’s an admirable effort at musical sophistication, but their best tunes tend to be the ones that keep it simple because these guys write really great hooks.

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The first three songs all feature guest vocalists, but in subtle fashion. “Plastic Paperbacks” uses some low-end vocals from punk legend Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers. It’s more of an embellishment than a major factor in the mid-tempo track, based around a melodic piano part and some atmospheric guitar. It feels like a bit of a misfire. But “The Glitter Prize,” featuring Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo, is a tune with the classic Posies sound. It’s upbeat with layered guitars, a groovy bass line and infectious vocals. It’s too bad that Hanley is buried so deep in the mix, because this power pop gem is the best song on the album. Lisa Lobsinger from Broken Social Scene is a guest on the Beatlesque “Licenses to Hide,” but the tune sounds like Lennon and McCartney had an argument while writing the song and neither would budge (the Lennon-esque parts are better).

“So Caroline” gets back to the melodic rocking that the Posies do so well. “Take Care of Yourself” is another good one in a similar vein, but goes in a bluesier direction. “Cleopatra Street” mixes in some heavier guitar sounds and has some interesting psychedelia, but feels disjointed. “For the Ashes” brings in some Sgt. Pepper psychedelic vocal effects, but doesn’t really soar. “Accidental Architecture” is all over the place. It probably felt very creative in the studio, but it won’t likely last long in the band’s live repertoire.

“She’s Coming Down Again” has the band’s upbeat sound, but with some darker lyrics about a girl’s apparent drug problem. “Notion 99” is a dynamic tune with big drums and various sonic counterpoints, but seems like it would benefit from some thicker guitars. “Holiday Hours” never really gets going, but “Enewtak” closes the album with some majestic rock momentum. It’s too bad the album couldn’t have been a little more consistent, but you can’t really fault the band for seeking to experiment instead of just re-hashing a tried and true formula. It’s a fine line, but the bottom line is that it’s still great to hear Auer and Stringfellow working together again. (Rykodisc 2010)

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