Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Poster Children - Grand Bargain (2018, Lotuspool) - A brief review

Welcome back!  Though it is a shame that it took a grotesque and traitorous Republican administration to jostle The Poster Children's collective muse to write and record again.  Or maybe I'm speaking too soon, considering the 'antics' of the Mar-a-Lago Mussolini haven't informed the entirety of Grand Bargain!...but at least a solid half of it.  For the uninitiated, The Poster Children's tenure has spanned four decades, the most of active of which transpired in the twentieth century, with albums of dynamic, skittish guitar spree like 1991's Daisychain Reaction, and their '92 follow-up, Tool of the Man serving as the most crucial examples.  A little further into the Clinton-era, the band embraced a wonkier, electro-pop modus operandi, and though this particular gambit yielded mixed results the Poster Children resolutely made music on their own terms, even when 'the man' was cutting their paychecks.

Grand Bargain! is the first full length P/C fans have been on the receiving end of since 2004's No More Songs About Sleep and Fire.  Needless to say a lot has happened on this blue dot, not the least of which Kids headmasters Rick Valentin and Rose Marshack having become parents.  Truth be told, this was probably the impetus for the hiatus, not so much a lack of inspiration from current events.  And indeed, Bargain! doesn't quite pick up where the quartet parked their tour van.  In fact, the record commences with a blistering, dissonant salvo of a rant by way of the title track, wherein Valentin begins to indignantly claw at the surface of our current dystopia.  Shortly after this blast of righteous indignation "Hippie Hills" cuts the tension considerably, conceding to the more melodic motifs of their heyday, and to that end, even to the tendencies of one of their key contemporaries (presently and formerly), Superchunk.  But these aren't the nineties folks, and a world-weary tone imbues rather self-explanatory missives "World's Insane," "Brand New Country" and "Devil and the Gun," the latter informed by now routine mass shootings and the hollow "thoughts and prayers" gestures that invariably accompany them.  If you're leery of this album being one extended piss-take, the Kids occasionally  reveal a light at the end of the tunnel, dim as it may be at this stage in the game.

Grand Bargain! distinguishes itself from earlier Poster Kids records by eschewing the more obvious pop angles of their '90s left-of-the-dial contributions "If You See Kay" and "Junior Citizen."  So much so that the album concludes on a startlingly lucid acoustic note, "Safe Tonight" that I guarantee no one saw approaching in the rear view mirror.  Perhaps such developments aren't that drastically surprising given the quartet's near-decade and a half layover.  Nonetheless, they're still plenty high strung, and a plethora of trademark P/C tinctures continue to populate the canvas - the wiry and teasing guitar arpeggios, Rose's prominent bass, and naturally, Valentin's patented sung/spoke vocals.  Yet  something more nuanced and subtle is exuded on Bargain! that I'm still not accustom to.  No, these adult young'ins aren't as jumpy and dynamic as established customers might recall them, but the v. 2018.0 incarnation of the quartet just may have tracked their most natural and reflective album to date.  And despite the ever accumulating shitstorm of Trumpian induced horrors, at least the Poster Children themselves appear to be ensconced in a good place.

Grand Bargain! is available direct from Lotuspool Records, The P Kids webstore, Amazon and iTunes.  Lotuspool were also recently responsible for a spiffy vinyl reissue of the aforementioned, Daisychain Reaction, and if that weren't enough, Rick and Rose do a splendid podcast, Radio Zero, that I can't recommend highly enough.

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