By Jody Callahan, The Chicago Sun Times, 19 June 1996
Think loud, fast, nasty, bitter. Think anarchic. Think grunge.
Now think clean, pure, restrained. Think candy-sweet melodies and swirling harmonies. Think the Posies.
Think Big Star.
Perhaps more than any other group that worships the seminal Memphis alternative band, Seattle’s Posies are truly the children of Big Star.
In their music, especially considering they routinely cover “Feel” and “I Am the Cosmos.” In their attitude and approach to that music. In their careers, neither of which has been overwhelmed by commercial success.
And, of course, even in the band, as Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer occasionally augment the two remaining members of Big Star, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens.
“I’m a big fan of the Posies,” Stephens said. “I think we share the same kind of musical influences, but I think we also share the same kind of attitude, lyrically and vocally.”
And the Posies – who have just released their fourth record, “Amazing Disgrace,” and perform Friday at Metro – completely dig that.
The Posies may be a direct descendant of Big Star, but they’re also very much their own band.
In fact, when talking with Stringfellow, you sense that although he’s flattered by the comparisons, at some point he wants to scream, “Hey! Back off! We’re the POSIES!”
“I don’t think very many bands sound like us,” he said. “Individuality is all there is. That’s what we believe in and stand for. I feel like that’s our job as artists, to go into our own world and provide the listener with something different, even if the listener doesn’t want it.”
So, just what do the Posies sound like, especially if you’ve never heard their radio song “Dream All Day” or anything from Big Star?
No simple answer will do.
“I’ve never been very good at describing sounds, but it’s a nice juxtaposition of things,” Stephens said. “While it’s gruff and angry at times, it’s very sweet and melodic at others. And it can be both at the same time. It’s certainly pop, but it’s very aggressive alternative. I think the attitude they deliver these songs with isn’t pop. What the Posies do is very soulful and very personal.”
“It’s hard, of course,” Stringfellow said. “I think we are interested in writing songs, and there’s something traditional about us in that we sing these melodies and write songs on guitars, even though we mess with it a lot. But at the same time, there’s a lot of iconoclastic behavior that we engage in musically, by detuning the guitars, that people don’t notice. I’d say we’re a lot more avant-garde than people would notice.”
And the sound is definitely not what you would expect when you hear that the band’s from Seattle.
“Oh, sure. It’s different than a Seattle band. It’s different than a pop band. We can’t win either way,” Stringfellow said.
In fact, maybe the best image to describe the band is to picture a posy: a delicate and beautiful flower, much like the band’s music can be.
Stringfellow, however, just thinks the band’s name is funny.
“It’s kind of a sick joke,” he said. “We wanted people to be offended in a way. This name is so wimpy and uncool that it makes them uncomfortable. And you know what? It worked. I just love to hear a jock go, `Dude, man, the Posies are so cool.’ “