Seventh studio LP from Seattle scene power-pop stalwarts.
Jon Lusk 2010-10-12
This grungey power-pop four-piece from the Seattle area are best known for their 1993 high water mark Frosting on the Beater, one of the most memorable alt-rock albums of the 1990s. Founded in 1986 by songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, whose trademark vocal harmonies have long seen them compared to The Hollies and Big Star (with whom they once collaborated), The Posies have endured several line-up changes and continued intermittently since, though break-ups and solo career diversions have meant that Blood/Candy is only their seventh studio album to date.
Auer and Stringfellow are the only original members, and the sole songwriters these days, and their vocal harmonies are still thrillingly distinctive in places. According to the press release, Blood/Candy is an attempt to make a "classic back-to-our-roots album". But those expecting the timeless hooks and saturated, reverb-heavy sound (courtesy of producer Don Fleming) that made Frosting on the Beater such a treat are bound to be disappointed. Part of this is perhaps down to the band’s decision to produce themselves, resulting in a much cleaner, less distorted sound. The other problem is the lack of much in the way of pop hooks.
The opening cut, Plastic Paperbacks, underlines the band’s Anglophile leanings by featuring guest vocals by Hugh Cornwell, formerly of The Stranglers. Both this and Licenses to Hide evoke the sugary rush of Squeeze, although without the same lyrical chops. In fact, by the time you get to the Beatles-go-baroque stop-start tweeness of Accidental Architecture, the clarity of sound means that some rather embarrassing lyrics are laid bare, for better or worse: "Who’ll be the one to release you? / The fortunate one to increase you? / Share the surprises and ring in the rises and drink to the probable you?"
That’s a shame, since it’s followed by the anthemic She’s Coming Down Again!, which comes closest to recapturing former glories and actually has a lyric worth listening to – an engaging tale about a drug casualty that sounds like it comes from the heart. And though the snappy closer Enewetak has a very pretty Beach Boys-flavoured coda, it’s not enough to drag the overall score of the album much above average.