Great Fucking Albums, Dammit! The Posies "Dear 23"

In our first installment of Great Fucking Albums, Dammit!, we've chosen to cover what we consider to be the single-most criminally overlooked album of the '90s, if not of all time.

That album is Dear 23 by the band known as The Posies.

Song-for-song, Dear 23 is as articulate and intelligent a rock album as has ever been made, and yes, I realize that includes The Beatles.  It also includes The Hollies, who should be held in much higher regard, maybe even higher than The Who.  There I said it, "The Hollies were better than The Who".  I either just lost half of you, or all of you.

Unlike The Posies, The Hollies scored a few big hits for which they're widely remembered these days.  The most popular is "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress", which shows the band, at that moment, trying very hard to be CCR.  Little known fact: After the band had left EMI to sign to Polydor, EMI released "Long Cool Woman..." as a single to compete head-to-head against the band's new single for Polydor.  The song ended up going all the way to #2 on the US charts.  So, essentially, spite on the part of their former label is what got them their biggest US hit.

Very much like the Posies, The Hollies' best work is almost completely unknown.  Due to the fact that they were considered to be a "singles band", after such hits as "Stop! Stop! Stop!", "On A Carousel", and "Carrie Anne", the general public completely overlooked their more ambitious efforts.  For example, "King Midas In Reverse" (which, ironically, The Posies covered on the Hollies tribute album "Sing Hollies In Reverse") is one of their best-known songs now, but was a huge commercial failure at the time of its original release.


(This was The Posies before Nirvana...ah, the innocence.)

Had The Posies been smart enough to release some cheesier material, they too could have had a couple pop hits whilst simmering in their otherwise untapped creative juices.  What made "Dear 23" so great at the time was that it had this classic feel to it.  The first time I played it, I honestly felt like I was discovering some classic album from the late '60s.  There was that sense of familiarity.

If for nothing else, "Dear 23" should be forever known as the first rock album of the '90s to completely shed that awful '80s production that managed to claw its way into the early '90s.  It took a little band from Washington state to deliver the final death blow.  Wait, aren't The Posies also from Washington state?  And weren't they also signed to DGC Records?

Yes and yes.  The Posies could have been as big as Nirvana.  To my ears, it was a virtual coin toss as to which band was better.  Maybe there was nothing on "Dear 23" as viceral and lacerating as "Smells Like Teen Spirit", but remove that song from the equation and The Posies are every bit the band that Nirvana is.  Unfortunately, you can't remove "Teen Spirit" from the equation.  It is the song that literally changed the world and sent a thousand hair metal bands packing.  In the span of three minutes, it wrote the musical language of a generation.


(And this was The Posies after Nirvana.  Notice anything different?)

In hindsight, the difference between "Dear 23" and "Nevermind" is painfully obvious twenty years later.  The Posies were playing by the rules, operating within the context of all great bands before them.  If Nirvana hadn't ripped up the rulebook in a fit of self-hating fury, "Dear 23" might not have seemed the product of a more antiquated time when bands sang in harmony and used words like "nomenclature".

That single song opened the floodgates of angst and self-loathing so that nothing else could be heard.  You were either grunge or nothing.  The Posies tried their damndest to keep up, going so far as to buy a distortion pedal and say "fuck" just like everybody else.  The resulting commercial thud would end their career at DGC Records.

Ah, the difference one song can make, huh?

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

No comments:

Post a Comment

Instagram