Amazing Disgrace

The Posies

Geffen Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Denise Henderson


Everybody by now knows I love pop bands. And I really love Big Star. So a pop band from Seattle that managed to escape the local grunge prerequisites, write killer pop songs and play in a Big Star reunion has got to be pretty damn good in my book.

Bandleaders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have been bouncing around the Pacific Northwest music scene since the mid-eighties. I first learned of them when a good friend gave me a cassette of their early album Dear 23, which included "Golden Blunders" , a song that to me summarizes everybody's worst nightmare with the lyrics "You're gonna have to watch what you say for a long time/You're gonna suffer the guilts forever." GULP. All this wrapped into a pop-spun harmonious confection of a song.

The strength of this band has always been its ability to write great ballads and catchy pop tunes. With Amazing Disgrace, it's only about half successful.

Part of the problem may be the turnover in certain band personnel, which with Amazing Disgrace, includes bassist Joe Skyward and Brian Young. Maybe the upcoming 1998 release my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Success (a pun off their debut Failure in 1988, no doubt!) will demonstrate a return to form. While Amazing Disgrace blends the softer side of the Posies with the more rugged wall of guitar sound found on their Frosting On The Beater disc, it's uneven at best. Like many bands these days, an album full of great singles might be a bit better than a half album of good stuff and the rest of it half-hearted.

Being co-writers on all songs, Auer and Stringfellow still excel on numbers like "Precious Moments" or "Please Return It". Their vocals belie the truly depressing overtone of such songs as "Song#1" or "Self Mutilation" and prevent the whole disc from falling into a pit of narcissism and self pity. Overall, I'd say the boys weren't in an especially happy mood as themes of disastrous romance, bitterness and scathing commentary such as "Everybody is a Fucking Liar" predominate.

The throwaway song "Broken Record" just made me wonder why they didn't pick a stronger song selection as I loved nearly everything on Dear 23 and its follow-up, Frosting On The Beater. My favorite song off Amazing Disgrace is actually "Ontario", which has some great hooks and a balanced sense of irony within the pop structure of the song.

I think the Posies are another one of those bands poised on the edge of greatness. To me that doesn't mean you become hugely famous, but that you stay true to your musical vision and put out great records, despite how few people listen to them With a great duo at the Posies helm, their strength is in memorable songwriting and lyrics. The more solid rock sound that they've been developing since the early 90's is helped by the use of ex-XTC producer Nick Launey who does exploit some of the Posies best musical qualities. But this album seems to find its cowriters teetering on that brink between clever and bitter. It's almost as if they're smirking a little too hard now. What always makes a great band connect with its listeners is letting us in on the joke but still making us think we're cool for getting it in the first place. And while I enjoy the cleverness of their songwriting and its inherent sarcasm at times, I found this album a little too knowing and at times it feels seriously forced.

I still like this band a lot and am sorry I missed the guys hooking up with my all-time hero, Alex Chilton, as I'm sure it was a great mix of pop singers/players. Amazing Disgrace is just disgraceful to the talent that Posies possess but didn't seem to muster on this one.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Denise Henderson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.