The greatest pop band of the 1990s (still going strong today incidentally – so, tour here again, already!) finally made it to Australia in mid-1996. Some of us were rather excited. None of us were disappointed.
SPIT AND POLISH POP
The Metro, July 17
THERE is something viscerally exciting about a guitar thrashed at high volume. It's both a visual and aural frisson because the line between success and the comic and painful is very narrow.
Sonic Youth and some of their acolytes have found a way to make distortion at power mesmerising, but melody is not a high priority there. And most bands which would like to think of themselves as melodic struggle to combine that with vocals you can hear and a powerful guitar line.
The Posies tapped into one leg of this equation by being loud from the word go. They attack songs, ripping into them with a sense of abandon which would be worrying enough for a band playing sturdy four-bar rock and roll. But these are songs of delicate, almost Beatlesque, melodies that need to be sung, not growled.
What is impressive about the Seattle quartet at its best is the effortless way it can marry the force of a guitar attack with harmonies and real tunes - notwithstanding the fact that the sound mixer took half the first song to find the on switch for Jon Auer's vocals and nearly 40 minutes to find a balance.
A song as pretty as Any Other Way would go down well enough with two sweet girls on acoustic guitars, but barrelhoused by the Posies it comes across as the Hollies with crunch. Similarly, Please Return It - the eighth song and the first to sound right - would verge on the impossibly sweet without the roughened face put on it.
Now that they have given up a desire to be perfect every time, they often veer towards disaster, and even seem to be seeking it. Looking like the Cure's doom-laden Robert Smith, Jon Auer delights in sending his guitar - and his guitar breaks - up in the air. Will he miss it on its way down? Will he fluff this solo? At the end of the set proper, Auer finished with two strings intact.
With Ken Stringfellow doing the frenetic guitar histrionics alongside, you could be forgiven for seeing this as the last dance of the dinosaurs were it not for two things: the sense of the ridiculous, which had them entering to Henry Mancini's Baby Elephant Walk, selling T-shirts depicting themselves as members of the Archies - not to mention Stringfellow's cry of "disco sucks, punk is gay, heavy metal all the way"; and two, the relentless parade of incredibly hook-filled songs.
One point to ponder. This show had the highest expectoration rate seen in years, one which may only be rivalled by the coming Sex Pistols tour. And not just the casual spit aside, but spectacular efforts of height and distance from Stringfellow.