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Posies - At Least At Last

  by Geraint Jones

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Posies - At Least At Last


Although The Posies were together for more than 12 years, their less than prolific output during this period, just 5 studio albums, doesn’t make them obvious candidates for the retrospective box set t

Although The Posies were together for more than 12 years, their less than prolific output during this period, just 5 studio albums, doesn’t make them obvious candidates for the retrospective box set treatment. However, such is the demand from the band's loyal and seemingly insatiable fanbase for further material, that a best of collection (Dream All Day: The Best Of the Posies) and two live albums, one electric (Alive Before The Iceberg) and one acoustic (In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Plugging In), have been released since 1998 when the band semi-officially disbanded. I say semi-officially because the core of the band, songwriters Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have recently undertaken their second tour this year, performing Posies material acoustically. The band formed in 1986 in Bellingham, Washington, near Seattle, somewhat incongruously during the infancy of the grunge movement, their songwriting skills and superb harmonies more influenced by the likes of The Beatles and Big Star than the heavier and aggressive sound adopted by most of their local contemporaries. Having said that the band weren’t averse to cranking up the volume and energy levels when it suited them and were certainly not always as gentle as their name suggested. They released their debut album, ‘Failure’ in 1988, originally as a cassette only release on their own 23 Records imprint, but subsequently on local independent Pop Llama. Recorded entirely by Auer and Stringfellow, the album only hinted at the band’s potential. Having augmented the band to a 4-piece, they signed to Geffen and released the John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead) produced psych-pop classic, ‘Dear 23’ in 1990. This was followed in 1993 by what most Posies fans regard as the band’s zenith, ‘Frosting On The Beater’, a defining album, both for the band and the array of Posies influenced bands to have emerged since, to which the words power and pop can be applied together and without fear of contradiction. Bolstered by an impressively crisp and dynamic production by Don Fleming (Dinosaur Jr., Hole) the album is essential. Three years later, following Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow’s involvement in the brief reformation of Big Star, alongside original members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens, The Posies released their final album for Geffen, ‘Amazing Disgrace’. The album was sadly disregarded by some of the bands pop-purist fans who disliked the punk-fuelled energy of much of the new material. The lyrics were certainly more vitriolic and the music noticeably more aggressive than previously, but it was certainly no sell-out and as much a development as a departure. Two years later, in 1998, the band released their swan song, the ironically entitled ‘Success’, again on Pop Llama. A relatively understated affair that combined new material with re-workings of some older songs, it just left you wanting more and was something of an unsatisfactory ending to the band’s career. Both Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow have been busy since The Posies called it a day, Auer with the tentative beginnings of a solo career, and Stringfellow, more conspicuously, as an additional member of REM as well as his with his own new band Saltine and contributions to the likes of The Orange Humble Band and The Minus Five. However, the ties that bind Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, both as friends and musical partners are clearly too entwined for each to extricate from the other, which brings us to the project at hand, At Least At Least, subtitled Demos, Live Recordings and Whatnot 1987 to 1998. This 4CD set, lovingly compiled by Posies fan Kelly Minnis is not really the place to start if you’re new to the band nor should it be seen as a definitive and comprehensive overview of the band’s career. If like me though, you’ve already succumbed to the band’s appeal then I’m afraid it’s indispensable. Beginning with a track from Jon and Ken’s first public performance as the Posies, in their home town of Bellingham back in August 1987 and ending with the final track from the band’s last performance at the Bottom of the Hill Club in San Francisco in September 1998, a fact acknowledged as metaphorically appropriate in the excellent sleeve notes by the band. Encompassing an array of demos, live recordings and studio outtakes, often warts ‘n’ all, the wealth of material here is too much for Posies fans to resist. Whilst there are tracks that very occasionally border on the unlistenable or the self indulgent and which will probably only be of interest to the most obsessive followers of the band (that’s me sorted then!), by far the majority of what’s on offer here should be of appeal to the most discerning of all music fans. From accomplished demo versions of classic Posies songs like ‘Any Other Way’, ‘Suddenly Mary’, an early version of ‘Definite Door’, here entitled ‘Sullen Waistcoat’ and ‘Solar Sister’ to some rousing covers such as Led Zeppelin’s ‘Beck’s Bolero’, Cheap Trick’s ‘Surrender’ and Big Star’s ‘What’s Going Ahn’, the latter two rescued from aborted tribute projects, this collection provides a unique insight into the development and influences of a sadly under-appreciated band who really should have achieved greater success. With the issue of this box set and the obvious pleasure both Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow still seem to get from performing Posies material, I hope that they’ll reconsider and reform the band. Surely the world at large couldn’t make the same mistake twice and ignore them again. Could they? 'At Least at Last' features the following tracks : Disc One: 1987-1991 1. Believe In Something Other : live at FOE, Bellingham 8.28.87 2. I Don't Want To Talk To You : demo 3. Help Yourself : demo 4. Thinking Outloud : demo 5. Apology : Ken's demo 6. I May Hate You Sometimes : live at the Moore Theatre, Seattle 12.8.88 7. Keep Me Guessing : studio outtake 8. Diary Of An Insecure Girl : demo 9. Now They Want Your Head : demo 10. What Am I Supposed To Do : studio outtake 11. Any Other Way : demo 12. Suddenly Mary : demo 13. Apology : Jon's demo 14. Beck's Bolero : studio outtake 15. 21 : studio outtake 16. This One's Taken : studio outtake 17. Magnifying Mirror : studio outtake 18. Ramblin' Rose : live at the OK Hotel, Seattle 8.25.91 19. Spite And Malice : intro vocals a capella Disc Two: 1992-1993 1. Flood Of Sunshine : live at RCKCNDY, Seattle 5.16.92 2. Dream All Day : demo 3. ¿Will You Ever Ease Your Mind? : demo 4. Ever Since I Was Alone : demo 5. Going Going Gone : demo 6. Forrest Recovery : demo 7. Sullen Waistcoat : demo 8. Depression Child : demo 9. Solar Sister : demo 10. Finally See It Right : demo 11. Earlier Than Expected : demo 12. Ladies and Gentlemen : demo 13. When Mute Tongues Can Speak : demo 14. Lights Out : demo 15. How She Lied By Living : demo 16. Fête Le Muzz : studio outtake 17. Velvet Monkey Theme : studio outtake Disc Three: 1993-1994 1. Trace My Falls : demo 2. Burn & Shine : French Radio, 1993 3. Dreaming : 2 Meter Sessies (Dutch radio/TV) 11.1.93 4. Wiggly World : studio outtake 5. Come Along And Dance : demo 6. Revelation To Follow : demo 7. Daily Mutilation : demo 8. You're The Beautiful One : demo 9. World : demo 10. Pay You Back In Time : demo 11. Throwaway : demo 12. Sad To Be Aware : demo 13. Everybody Is A Fucking Liar : demo 14. Somehow Everything : demo 15. Fight It (If You Want) : demo 16. Oh Michael : demo Disc Four 1994-1998 1. Hate Song : demo 2. Broken Record : demo 3. Terrorized : non-US album track 4. The Star-Spangled Banner : live at the Kingdome, Seattle 1995 5. Surrender : studio outtake 6. What's Going Ahn : studio outtake 7. Grant Hart : live on Swedish radio, 1996 8. Ontario : live at Podi-Jum Rock Festival, Beselare, Belgium 4.5.97 9. Oceanic Exploration : recorded for Bill Nye, The Science Guy (US TV) 10. Start A Life : live at the LVC, Leiden, Netherlands 8.12.98 11. Flavor Of The Month : live at the Crocodile Cafe, Seattle 2.13.98 12. Solar Sister : live at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco 9.18.98 13. Golden Blunders : Muzak version 14. Suddenly Mary : Muzak version

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Posies - At Least At Last

Posies - At Least At Last

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