From a basement-brewed first album titled Failure in 1988, to the ironically titled swan song Success in 1998, The Posies quietly head off to Splitsville after rocking for 10 years and putting out four criminally overlooked albums. Wrong place at the wrong time: Seattle during the dawn of grunge. Around the same time that Kurt Cobain was smothering the world with “Teen Spirit,” The Posies were promoting Dear 23, a brilliant album that I place way up there with my all-time favorites They end it with Success, something they never achieved commercially.
After near-perfect records Dear 23, Frosting on the Beater and Amazing Disgrace, fans expect nothing less than “Success.” Fans will attest that The Posies never disappoint upon releasing a new record. They’ve only gotten better â€“ more creative, more daring. The only disappointment is this sacrilege nonsense of breaking up.
The Posies love to immerse their music in contrasts. Loud to soft; rapid to slow; aimless to orchestrated; heavy distortion to light acoustics. They can lull your screaming toddler to sleep with sweet ballads and cause a minor tremor in your sternum all in the same song. Their lyrics are smart and sad; often bittersweet battles with relationships. From “You’re The Beautiful One,” The Posies write:
There’s no tailor making a four-hundred dollar disguise
Just an unhappy wind blowin’ smoke in your eyes
There’s no trust big enough for this room
And you know the certainty will be your doom
You’re the beautiful one
The shifting tempos keeps you too off-balance to keep the razor blade steady.
Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer â€“ the braintrust of The Posies â€“ seem joined at the throat with ultra-harmonies. Their voices seem meant to be beside the other, rivaling the best of `em. They’re Simon and Garfunkle with balls.
“Somehow Everything,” the first track off of Success, is very good. It’s happy, heavy guitar pop with a Partridge family chorus that is very contagious. The somber, doomsday lyrics (found all over Success) seems to signal the end.
And you’re hardly getting wise to the problems you surmise
As the lightning leaves your eyes you should’ve known
â€“ it wouldn’t last you.
Success waits until the end to really take off. The final three tracks â€“ “Farewell Typewriter,” “Every Bitter Drop” and “Fall Song” are outstanding Posies songs. Very depressing. Very good. Stringfellow and Auer’s angelic vocals are gorgeous. Bring your rain gear. By “Fall Song’s” fading close you may find yourself wading in a two-foot deep puddle of our own tears.
Who knows, maybe The Posies, or more importantly Stringfellow and Auer, will realize that they can’t survive out there without each other. The state of the band is still not totally clear. Stringfellow and Auer are freelance studio whores. Between the two of them they have six or seven side projects/bands they’re a part of. Is it possible they just forgot they were also in a band called The Posies like someone forgets turning the iron off? In a semi-recent interview this is how Stringfellow clarified the condition of The Posies: “We are more like frozen embryos, except that we’re quite old to be embryos.”
The Posies are/were as good as it gets. It’s a damn shame very few knew this.