by Nick Ubels (Online Editor)
Formed in Bellingham, Washington as a home recording project by Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow in 1987, The Posies went on to become one of the most underrated acts of the early 90’s power pop revival that included the likes of Teenage Fanclub, Jellyfish and Matthew Sweet, scoring moderate college radio hits with both the jangle-pop gem “Golden Blunders” and the harder-rocking “Dream All Day,” taking some cues from Seattle’s well-documented grunge scene on later recordings.
Yet since the turn of the century, the band has functioned on a slightly less than full-time basis, taking centre stage only when other commitments such as solo projects and touring stints in R.E.M. and, up until the death of Alex Chilton last March, the re-formed Big Star have not required their full attention.
Case in point: Blood/Candy is The Posies first album in five years and only the second to feature their current rhythm section: Matt Harris on bass and Vancouver’s Darius “Take One” Minwalla on drums. Both have performed steadily with the band since 2001.
While 2005’s Every Kind of Light featured song writing contributions from all four of the band’s members, Blood/Candy returns the focus to the original partnership of Auer/Stringfellow. That said, the spirit of collaboration has not completely vanished: the first three tracks feature guest vocals from Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers), Kay Hanley (Letters to Cleo) and Lisa Lobsinger (Reverie Sound Review, Broken Social Scene) respectively.
Their seventh record finds The Posies at their most adventurous to date, taking a number of bold steps outside of their usual musical palate, albeit to somewhat varying degrees of success.
Although the beautifully understated, slightly psychedelic “Accidental Architecture” is one of the band’s most rewarding genre experiments, “Licenses to Hide” seems to be trying to cover too much ground with its myriad changes from McCartney-esque piano ballad to theatrical baroque-pop to bouncy sing-along that prove more style than substance, never settling into a truly satisfying place musically. That said, the missteps are few and far between on The Posies’ most recent LP.
“So Caroline,” the title a winking nod to The Beach Boys’ “Caroline No,” is a playful, hook-filled track that finds The Posies exploring more familiar, but never tired territory. Elsewhere, the driving “Take Care of Yourself” is a blazing example of the band’s strengths as songwriters and performers, showcasing its central duo’s signature interlocking vocal harmonies.
“I’m ready for daylight,” sings Auer on one of the album’s highlights; “The Glitter Prize” is an angst-ridden minor-key production that is disquietingly ethereal but propulsive nonetheless, typifying Blood/Candy’s fine balance between shadow and sunshine suggested by its evocative title.
On the production side, The Posies dial back the fuzz to levels much closer to Dear 23 than Frosting on the Beater or Amazing Disgrace, and it suits the material quite well, allowing for some excellent embellishments, such as the Brian Wilson style vocals-only outro to “She’s Coming Down Again!”
Though Blood/Candy doesn’t quite achieve the same consistency as some of The Posies earlier work, it is a worthy addition to their growing catalogue, featuring an ample selection of perfectly crafted pop songs and minor classics that are sure to be fan favourites for years to come.