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Frosting On The Beater – 1993

By James Rotondi, Guitar Player, August 1993

“I consider us a pop-rock band even though this new record is much darker,” starts the Posies’ Jon Auer. “I love everything from cheesy bubblegum music all the way to Leonard Cohen.”

With fellow singer/songwriter/guitarist Ken Stringfellow, Auer pens seamless, thoughtful songs that reflect the bright songwriting tradition passed down from the Everly Brothers to the Beatles to XTC. On their second DGC LP, Frosting On The Beater, the Seattle band–which includes drummer Mike Musberger and bassist Dave Fox–finally captures their stupefying guitar-and-drums attack as well as their rich harmonies.

For 1990’s Dear 23, the Posies “flat-out insisted” on producer John Leckie, since they revered his work with XTC. While a fine example of artfully constructed pop, Dear 23 didn’t capture the band’s live sound, which had often been compared to Husker Du or Cheap Trick. Enter Gumball’s Don Fleming, the producer behind Teenage Fanclub, whose one-or-two-take ethic met Auer’s tone-tweaking expertise with snarling results.

“Man, there’s nothing like funky little amps,” Auer raves, alluding to his Pignose 3060 combo, a Zeus transistor amp with a 3[inches] speaker, and his favorite mid-’80s Fender Champ. Auer gets his thick, Neil Youngish tones through a ’73 Gibson SG Custom, while Stringfellow fingers a Thinline Fender Telecaster.

Auer and Stringfellow recently realized a lifelong dream, joining Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens in a “reunion” performance with the seminal underground ’70s group Big Star. Auer makes clear, though, that he hasn’t always been a popster: “I took violin from age four to eight, and was a total metalhead when I was 13 or 14, reading my dad’s Guitar Players, sitting in my room for eight hours a day running scales–I knew every Rush song, so I decided I had a lot to unlearn. I went through every phase imaginable, but it just came back to songs and melodies.”