Ken Stringfellow and Jonathan Auer, the leaders of the Posies, expressed genuine big-league pop ambitions with minor-league budgets on their early releases, so it's not especially surprising that their first album for a major label, Dear 23, found them laying on all the baroque textures that they couldn't afford on their own dime. Sounding a bit like a modernized version of the Hollies with a studio sound that crossed The White Album with Big Star 3rd, Dear 23 kicks off with two pleasing slices of glossy power pop, "My Big Mouth" and "Golden Blunders" (the latter of which was covered by an actual Beatle, Ringo Starr, doubtless a major thrill for these guys). But by the time track four rolls around ("Any Other Way"), power has taken a cigarette break, and the album drifts into a mid-tempo dreamland where everything is either pretty and contemplative or pretty and a bit morose. (Though in all fairness, the rocking "Help Yourself" does pop up in the later innings to punch things up). Dear 23 is packed with too much good stuff to escape the notice of any true pop obsessive -- Auer and Stringfellow write great songs, their harmonies are nothing short of superb, and the arrangements and production (by the band in collaboration with John Leckie) are imaginative and flawlessly executed. However, for all the craft, there isn't a lot of passion or heart in this music; the long hours in the studio getting the sounds right seem to have squeezed out the soul of the music. Dear 23 offers all the proof you could ask for that the Posies were major talents. However, it also made them sound like they weren't especially fun to be around or compelling to hear from, and that ultimately sinks the album.
Dear 23 Review
by Mark Deming