The PosiesDear 23
Word has it that Seattle, Wash., is rock's latest hotbed of musical activity, fostering the careers of Soundgarden and recently-signed groups like Alice in Chains and Mother Love Bone.
And although the "Seattle sound" has been characterized as the caustic mix of grunge that those three bands spit out, the Posies pursue a decidedly different direction on their major label debut, Dear 23.
Clinging more to the strum of acoustic guitar than to the distorted scrapings of electric six-strings, the Posies combine the earmarks of '60s pop with lyrical images not found until 20 years later.
Combining the voices of guitarists/singers Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow is to recall the vocal symmetry of the Hollies, whose songs Bus Stop, Carrie Anne and He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother rivaled the Beach Boys for radio time in the '60s and '70s. Although Rolling Stone has quoted Stringfellow as not having heard the Hollies' music until 1988, the Posies have recorded a cover of the Hollies' King Midas in Reverse for use as a B-side on an upcoming single.
Much of the credit for the group's infectious sound should go to producer/engineer John Leckie, imported to Seattle from England, where he had worked with XTC and the Fall. If not for the contemporary crispness of Leckie's mix, inviting gems like Golden Blunders and Apology would be indistinguishable from soundalike oldies by the Monkees and the Byrds.
Simplicity is the favored approach for Auer and Stringfellow, who have written the entirety of Dear 23, but their lyrics descend into deeper water. "Aesop used to make me weep, but now I'm part of Mary's fable," writes the duo in Suddenly Mary, a precise pop epic that confronts the realizations and awakenings that soon follow marriage.
Backseat consummation and sudden commitment surfaces throughout the whole of Dear 23, and in Golden Blunders, the Posies sing about rock 'n' roll's ultimate predicament: "Four weeks seemed like a long time then / But nine months is longer now. Even if you never speak again / You've already made the wedding vow."
Maybe a refusal to follow trends is the connecting tie between the Posies and Seattle's heavier, raunchier bands. Dear 23 is appealing and easily digested, but filled with enough content to make the meal nutritious.
In Help Yourself, the band sings, ". . . We built upon this ground something we thought was sound / But in reality was silence." In the case of the Posies, the silence is golden.