The Posies – Blood/Candy
By Marika Malaea
It’s been five years since the last Posies album (2005’s Every Kind of Light), but no one in their right mind would accuse Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of slacking off.
Helping Alex Chilton (R.I.P.) revive the legendary Memphis powerpop band Big Star would have been enough to cement the Posies’ place in the rock and roll firmament, had the two gifted singer/guitarists chosen to stop there.
Instead, they’ve spent the last half decade collaborating with an impressive array of fellow indie rock bigwigs. Jon Auer played with Fountains of Wayne and Bob Mould, as well as recording an album for Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg. Ken Stringfellow moved to France and started a band called the Disciplines, when he wasn’t sitting in with a little group called REM. Both found time to deliver and tour behind well-regarded solo albums (Jon’s Songs From The Year of Our Demise and Ken’s Soft Commands).
Now the two have reunited for another Posies record, and have apparently brought every new trick they’ve learned to the table. Blood/Candy is their most adventurous album to date, in both the songwriting and the variety of tones and instruments used. The band has referred to it as “psychedelic”, with a “science-fiction” vibe. In an interview, Jon Auer called it “our Radiohead moment”, and he may have been only half-joking.
The first single “The Glitter Prize” is deceptively traditional for the Posies, with a phased-out guitar and breathy downbeat vocal that wouldn’t have seemed too out of place on one of their mid-90s albums.
That note of familiarity isn’t held long. Album opener “Plastic Paperbacks” drops in with a set of melancholy piano chords and quickly veers into a searing rock chorus before fading out on some glitchy analog synth. This ain’t Frosting On The Beater.
Thankfully some things haven’t changed, like the band’s ability to craft a monster vocal hook (check out the first ten seconds of “Cleopatra Street”) and the way that sweetness is used to sugar up the bitter medicine of their dark lyrical takes on love and loss, like this one (from “Licenses To Hide”): “What dynamic could heal the damage/That you did in your life?/And paint the virgins white/or not quite?”
Mostly, though, Blood/Candy is packed with new ideas and directions, like the welcome presence on several tracks of female vocalist Lisa Lobsinger (on loan from Broken Social Scene), or the outre jazz-rock twists and turns of “Accidental Architecture”, or the spooky haunted-organ whirl of “For The Ashes”.
This record is a great step forward for the Posies, even more remarkable for the fact that it comes at a time when most bands would be prepping a victory lap tour of their greatest hits. Maybe the fact that the Posies never really got their mainstream due in the 90s allowed them to continue focusing on the music above all else. Whatever the reason, Blood/Candy is both a treat for longtime fans and an excellent point of entry for new ones. – (7/10)