The Posies

Amazing Disgrace

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The Posies learned to rock on 1993's Frosting on the Beater, where their splendid hooks and creamy harmonies were matched with towering walls of guitar that made them sound like power pop supermen. The lessons they learned were clearly audible on their next album, 1996's Amazing Disgrace, but the tone was dramatically different. Where Frosting on the Beater was overflowing with the fuzzy joy of big loud rock, Amazing Disgrace feels edgy, filled with anxiety and bad feelings, and while beefed-up electric guitars still dominate the mix, the tone is sharper and more brittle, adding an undercurrent of punky venom that roughed up the surfaces of their peerless pop songwriting. The Posies were struggling with severe interband tensions and troubles with their record label while they wrote and recorded Amazing Disgrace, and it's not hard to hear the rancor informing the songs and the performances. "Hate Song" and "Everybody Is a Fucking Liar" wear their disgust on their sleeves, and even the relatively warm numbers like "World," "Precious Moments," and "The Certainty" seem deeply downbeat beneath their well-crafted exteriors. Amazing Disgrace is the Posies' Bad Karma album, but that is a big part of what makes it so memorable. If the emotions aren't especially positive, they lit a fire under this band and there's a strength and drama in the ensemble playing the Posies rarely touched. This lineup of the band -- founders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow joined by bassist Joe Skyward and drummer Brian Young -- crackles with energy and ferocity, and producer Nick Launay captured it all with admirable grit and clarity. The fact the Posies actually managed to record and release another album after this (1998's Success) is far more remarkable than the fact they soon broke up, but Amazing Disgrace is a stellar example of how rage can fuel an artist into creating something remarkable, and if it's not always easy to listen to, it's genuinely rewarding.

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