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The Posies – 1996

by Chris O’Connor, eye WEEKLY: Toronto’s Arts Newspaper, 1996

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, ‘kay? There was this town, see, and ’til a few years ago the only things keeping it in the subcultural atlas were Bruce Lee’s gravesite and a much greater number of citizens kidnapped by Sasquatches than the national average.

So these rock journalists, right… they’re peering into a filterful of used mocha grinds at Starbucks and, eureka, “Grunge!” Within a month every auto mechanic west of Tacoma has a development deal. Sheesh, folks were even known to get excited about Tad…

But get this: the best band in the city, these guys writing beautifully de-fuzzed pop things like “Dream All Day” and “Solar Sister,” right? Nobody wanted to know! Like, why expend the aesthetic effort to embrace a patch of girlie-men called the Posies when there was all that lumberjack shit to get grimy with?

“In other words,” drawls Jon Auer from some Parisian hotel room, “we didn’t have a junkie in the lineup. There was no angle for them to work.”

Imagine the thin wire of tension in the voice here. Imagine three years since the last record (Frosting On The Beater), all spent firing managers and finding new members to play in a band that “practically didn’t exist.” Imagine a breath mint lolling around in the frontman’s mouth, clacked against the receiver at strategic intervals to communicate (in International Rock Star Semaphore): “God, this is sooo dreary…”

“The Seattle Media Carnival never hovered around us as much as it did other bands,” Jon says, “so we never had to cope with as much bullshit and hype as, say, Mudhoney did. Everybody expected such huge things from them, but since nobody really expected anything from us, we can sorta surprise people.”

And you will be, popkids — by the pummeling new rhythm section, by the newborn weltschmertzing of “Hate Song” and “Everybody Is A Fucking Liar,” by the Posies’ ever-less-latent rock-outingness, by their sudden discovery of rude words…

“Yeah. Fascinating, isn’t it?”

Ah. Am I correct in assuming this is all, um, latent frustration?

“Yeah. That’s probably accurate.”

A long silence ensues. A mint clacks.

Can you, um, elaborate on that, Jon?

“Well, everything you said would apply. I couldn’t put it down to one source, except life just getting tougher in general. It’s not as bad for me now, I don’t think… [clack, clack: …but it certainly sucked for a while. ‘Hate Song’ and ‘Daily Mutilation’ just turned out really aggressive and forthright in their fuckin’ total utter despondency. I mean, they’re really scraping the bottom of the emotional barrel. I will say this record’s more extreme than anything we’ve done before. I know that sounds trite, but it’s really true. I wanna stress that it’s about contrast, though, cos there is beautiful stuff on there as well as the aggressive things. When you start the record off with ‘Daily Mutilation’ and then go into ‘Hate Song’ it gives people pretty strong impressions of us being pissed, but it’s a little more diverse than that. But if you wanna write that this is The Posies’ Aggressive Record, feel free…”

Gee, thanks, Jon…

[Ahem.: Amazing Disgrace (DGC/ MCA) is The Posies’ Aggressive Record, which shows them Rocking Harder than one would credit a band named after flowers. We salute this happy turn of events. Especially on “Ontario,” which could function either as a third-degree flamethrower burn on Neil Young (“Big birds flying overhead/ Who gives a shit?”) or a reference to last year’s cross-country tour with treble charger. “It’s neither, actually — just a pop song. I should probably talk to Ken [Stringfellow, co-writing Posie] about this, but he said something to the effect of it being somewhere to go and get away from everything. That lyric ‘It sounds good on the radio’ pretty much sums it up, y’know. Ken didn’t even know about the Neil Young thing ’til I pointed it out.”

So what about treble charger?

“Ah, if you only knew about that tour! And one member in particular…”

Er…

“Hey, Ken! [Turning away] Why did you write ‘Ontario’?”

Pause. Clack… clack. “Just for the hell of it? OK, the word is ‘It’s a pop song.’ It’s just a pop song, man, but I love it that we can talk about it for 10 minutes. That’s so good, man…”

Clack… clack…

“It’s working…”