Music

The Posies Finally Land the One That Got Away with 'Amazing Disgrace'

Photo: Dot Pierson / Courtesy of Lojinx Records

The Posies released the definitive noise-pop album while everyone was still mourning the death of grunge.

Amazing Disgrace
The Posies

Omnivore Recordings

16 November 2018

It's an interesting career trajectory; you have to admit. Your debut album is a charming indie-folk hybrid. Album two is a little bit pop-psychedelic. Number three – the breakthrough – is the Hollies go grunge, which leads us neatly to album four. Amazing Disgrace is the angry divorce record.

Frosting on the Beater saw the Posies in the right place (downwind of Seattle) at the right time (the year after Nevermind changed the music industry forever). Hair metal was out and loud, but tuneful guitars in weird tunings were the order of the day, and all it took was the Posies to hit the fuzz pedal to surf the zeitgeist. The world (not all of it, but a fair old chunk of it) was now aware of the band, so the follow-up, as long as it was broadly similar to Frosting on the Beater should have thrust them up there, equidistant between Mudhoney and Pearl Jam. Sadly, in spite of Amazing Disgrace being full to bursting with a knockout punch of noisy pop rock, it was released to an audience still in shock from Kurt Cobain's death, and it quietly slunk away and licked its wounds. It deserves a better fate than that.

The key word of Amazing Disgrace is turmoil. The band had lost its rhythm section (drummer Mike Musburger famously quitting after a physical altercation with founder member and future Big Star/R.E.M. alumnus Ken Stringfellow) and things were less than rosy in the camp. The mood is angry. Well, let's face it, if you record a tune called "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar", it's safe to assume you aren't a happy bunny. And the opening track is cheerfully entitled "Daily Mutilation". Jinkies. No one seems to be having a good time, but the 14 songs that make up the albums' original release are all, without exception, exceptional. Especially "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar".

The formula, such as it is, is close to the one used on Frosting on the Beater The guitars are loud and dirty. The tunes are well written and memorable. The vocals are pitch perfect and when Stringfellow and Jon Auer harmonize it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. Why Auer's name isn't mentioned in the same breath as Eric Carmen and Robin Zander when the conversation turns to the finest pop-rock vocalists ever, is a mystery. No rock and roll band have a right to be this good, especially when they're supposed to be so pissed off. There are three lovely ballads on the record, just to sweeten the deal – "Precious Moments", "World", and "The Certainty" are loaded with an ache that's almost tangible.

It's that ache which gives Amazing Disgrace its (serrated) edge. Even tunes which sound quite happy most certainly aren't. The lead single "Please Return It", in spite of its poptastic tune, has an undertone of genuine angst, "There's an upside" goes the coda. "There has to be an upside." Well, for the Posies, there wasn't. The single, along with the album didn't get close to the lofty heights of the album previous to it, although it fared better in the UK and Europe and has since become their biggest selling record. However, in 1996, it clogged up the remaindered sections of record stores from sea to shining sea.

The 2018 version of Amazing Disgrace has been given a loving makeover by Omnivore Records and looks and sounds incredible. The original album is reproduced in all its feral glory, and you get 23 additional tunes – demos, B sides, blah blah. Best of the bunch are "Sad to Be Aware" and "Terrorized" which are just as good as anything on the record. The other tunes are great if you're one of those people who want to forensically analyze albums, and a vast number of Posies fans are exactly that sort of people. The liner notes are comprehensive and insightful, too.

On Bizarro World, Amazing Disgrace outsold every other record made in the 1990s. It propelled the Posies to international megastardom, and all the band members bought their own islands and lived happily ever after. Instead, the band continue, bloody but unbowed and have just finished their 30th-anniversary tour. They probably haven't got their own islands, though, which is a shame. We have a lot to learn from Bizarro World.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.