The Posies, power-pop's bridge band, return with a new album of sugar and fuzz 

Just Like Candy

Just Like Candy

Before you read any further, stop for a moment. Step outside. Feel that chilly air, and pull on an old flannel and perhaps some thermal leggings to poke out from underneath a pair of cut-off shorts. Dial the TV set in your brain back to the version of MTV that now only exists in your memory (provided you're privileged enough to have been born before 1983). Do this because it's impossible to consider The Posies without bringing up the early '90s.

Lined up along side acts like Matthew Sweet and Teenage Fanclub, The Posies took youth culture's belated embrace of Big Star, armed it with the same Gen X angst that fueled the grunge movement, and forged the last and most popularly known amalgamation of rock's power and pop's sugary craft. The band's breakthrough, 1993's Frosting on the Beater, remains one of the power-pop genre's more hard-rocking, sweet-talking, finely crafted landmarks — and it spawned their best known ditty, your old college fave "Dream All Day." That same year, the band's principal members, Jonathan Auer and Ken Stringfellow, earned such high regard in the power-pop realm that they were tapped by their heroes Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens to reinforce the reunited Big Star — a gig that continued off and on until Chilton's untimely death eight months ago.

The next chapter of The Posies' story follows just as you'd expect from a highly regarded '90s alternative rock band: Their major label kicked them to the curb, leaving them to fend for themselves in the post-grunge, self-referential age of recycled ideas and ironic throwbacks. The band officially broke up in 1998, but maintained a prolific release schedule, pumping out a series of compilations, live recordings, and EPs while Auer and Stringfellow paid the bills backing the likes of R.E.M. and the occasional Big Star tour — still managing to release a few solo records and side projects in the meantime.

In 2005, the band returned officially with Every Kind of Light, drawing a mostly lukewarm reception. Their latest, Blood/Candy, is their first release since, and it's earning props for all the reasons their previous effort did not. More like a labor of love, the record was crafted during down time between other gigs, with the songs written well in advance and completed track by track whenever time permitted. The result is a more deliberate expansion of influences, dynamics and directions. On Every Kind of Light, the band seemed to reach a little too hard trying to prove their amps could still scream like it was 1993. On Blood/Candy, the time and care they took with the recording allowed Auer and Stringfellow to rock without dusting off those old high-octane hooks.

After scrubbing much of the fuzz off their former formula, The Posies deliver a little less power and a lot more pop. Their old sense of epic dynamics still lingers in the air, but now floats back down like psychedelic snowflakes. That said, this is still the kind of hook-laden, chorus-driven, infectiously upbeat slab of ear candy of which Posies fans of yore know the band is still fully capable. Tracks like "So Caroline" and "License to Hide" bash and pop with the same energy the band has always had. On the other hand, tunes like "The Glitter Prize" (featuring fellow Gen X vet Kay Hanley, formerly of Letters to Cleo) and "Holiday Hours" find them digging even deeper to channel the influences of their influences; swapping out that fuzz with a crunchy shimmer serves these tunes well, leaving room for Beatle-esque, Byrds-ian, Hollies-style strings, keys — sonic frosting on the beater, so to speak.



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