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Harmonic Divergence

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”We were doing Brit pop a few years back,” says Jon Auer, waxing ironic on how time may have caught up with his band. But don’t think it wasn’t a little lonely along the way, being a Posey. Raising the Union Jack in grunge-swamped Seattle, the Posies’ brilliant Brit Invasion-influenced harmonies didn’t exactly make them hometown prophets. At the height of Nirvana hysteria, their fondness for classic ’60s melodic-pop virtues — more Everly Brothers than Everclear — virtually defined the true meaning of ”alternative” in the hyper-alternative Northwest.

”Locally, they were ghettoized,” recalls Charles Cross, editor of The Rocket, Seattle rock’s biweekly bible, and an avowed Posies fan. ”Five years ago, even bringing up the idea that we were gonna do a story on the Posies, people looked at me like I didn’t have any testosterone. It was not considered macho enough for the Seattle music scene. Now you have Sub Pop releasing albums that sound exactly like the Posies did eight years ago and Posies shows that’re almost indistinguishable from Mudhoney shows.”

A funny thing happened on the way to getting their props: Grunge got old, and noisy contemporaries like Soundgarden branched out in a fashion begetting adjectives like Beatlesque. Crossing paths, meanwhile, were the always-fab Posies, shedding any perceivable cuteness in the interest of noise. Not that anyone will mistake them for, like, Bush. Their fourth album, Amazing Disgrace, realigns the balance between power and pop but still yields a half-dozen Hollies-meet-the-Who gems, with harmonies you couldn’t bury despite a bulldozing sound that tries.

”It’s always been the case,” says Posies cofounder and guitarist Ken Stringfellow, ”that most bands get more mellow and slick as time goes on, and less wild and frenetic, whereas I think we — not that we were ever mellow — have gotten more ragged.” Adds Auer: ”Maybe we happened to bring that to the forefront on this particular record just by virtue of the songs that came out — more frustrated, pissed-off songs…”

And why are the now aggressively glum Auer and Stringfellow mad as hell, etc.? Maybe there’s a clue in ”Grant Hart,” their revved-up tribute to underappreciated ’80s alterna-rock forebears Husker Du: ”Nervous children making millions: You owe it all to them/Power trios with big-ass deals: You opened for it then,” the Posies sing in homage to America’s last great dually fronted rock & roll band. Maybe this decade will actually get its Du.

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