Poster Children

Grand Bargain!

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AllMusic Review by

The reunion tour has become a common enough phenomenon that most bands have figured out the formula to getting back on the stage and giving the old fans what they want. The reunion album is a much trickier matter -- for the live show, celebrating the glories of your back catalog is usually enough, but as for writing and recording new stuff, you need some concrete reason to add to the legacy. Poster Children reunited in 2016 for a tour to commemorate the reissue of their 1990 breakthrough album Daisychain Reaction, and on the heels of those shows they wrote and recorded a new album. It doesn't take long to figure out what prompted them to create Grand Bargain!: Living in America under Donald Trump. While the 45th President's name is never invoked on Grand Bargain!, every track reflects the social and political chaos of life in an increasingly divided nation. Rage, confusion, and the struggle to make sense of a world out of control fuel this band on these 11 songs, from the litany of betrayals in the opening title track and the fear of what lurks in your neighbor's mind in "World's Insane" to the dangerous landscape of "Devil and the Gun" and the indictment against an unequal nation in "Final Offense." Poster Children are not exactly subtle in their messages (or how they express them) on Grand Bargain!, but they express themselves with an unpretentious intelligence and a laser-like focus. The result is a set of tunes that expresses itself with a ferocity that's not rancor for its own sake but the sound of a furious wake-up call to the nation they call home. And for a band that's only been sporadically active since the dawn of the 2000s, Poster Children are in superb form on Grand Bargain! The performances are tight and seething with energy, with the thrust and parry of Jim Valentin and Rick Valentin's guitars giving the songs the blunt force they need, and bassist Rose Marshack and drummer Matt Friscia lending plenty of power and texture to the performances. (Steve Albini's unobtrusive, crystal-clear recording only adds to the album's strengths.) Grand Bargain! is passionate and purposeful, and that informs both the music and the lyrics. The result is an album that's the best thing Poster Children have released since Daisychain Reaction, and stands with the very best music of their career. This is what a reunion album is supposed to be like.

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