It’s been five years since Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow last got together for a Posies record, 2005’s remarkable comeback Every Kind of Light. But as this consummate power pop band has demonstrated time and again over the course of the last 20 years, a Posies record is always worth the wait. While paying homage to a few musical heroes, getting some stellar assistance on a few tracks, and adventurously breaking some new musical ground, Blood/Candy ultimately sounds like the definitive statement from a band that has had more than its share of high points over the years.
Indeed this record seems to take the best bits of all Posies eras and combine them in a stew that tastes remarkably fresh and alive and full of possibilities. Whether you’re a fan of the impressively ornate popcraft of 1990’s Dear 23, the crunch of 1993’s grunge-era Frosting on the Beater, or the more stripped down sound of 1998’s Success, there is something here for you. There are plenty for fans of The Hollies and Big Star here as well. Auer and Stringfellow previously covered the former and took part in reunion shows with the latter, prior to Alex Chilton’s death earlier this year.
Ever present on Blood/Candy are Auer and Stringfellow’s vocal harmonies that sound as natural as they ever have. They’ve never been in finer voice.
The band, which also includes drummer Darius Minwalla and bassist Matt Harris, also takes plenty of chances on Blood/Candy. The Stringfellow-led “Licenses to Hide,” with guest vocals from Lisa Lobsinger of Broken Social Scene, is an ambitious song suite that brings to mind Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” without the opera references. While somewhat less elaborate, Auer’s “The Glitter Prize,” which features harmony vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, is an equally perfect pop song. Strummed acoustic guitars, pumping bass, a killer chorus and bridge, and the perfect mix of shimmering clarity and crunch all combine to make it an album highlight.
But they’re just getting started. Auer also offers the effortlessly melodic “So Caroline,” the forgetfully nostalgic “Cleopatra Street,” the Crowded House-like “Holiday Hours,” and the weird but wonderful Zombies/ Hollies/ Beach Boys mashup of song styles, “Accidental Architecture.” Stringfellow gets impressive showcases on the dark but driving “Take Care,” the vocal effects-laden “For the Ashes,” and the simply stunning “She’s Coming Down.” He even gets to share the mic with ex-Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell on opening track “Plastic Paperbacks.”
Before it’s all over, Auer and Stringfellow also come together on “Notion 99,” for what sounds like the perfect old school Posies song.
But be sure to stick around for the coda to set closer “Enewetak” for a lovely homage to Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys. If it seems like the record’s only too obvious spot-the-influence moment, it’s also the sound of Auer and Stringfellow proclaiming to the world that now they can do anything. And on Blood/Candy, they do. It’s a remarkable step forward for an enduring musical partnership and one of the best records of the year.
The Posies: www.theposies.net