am— Join our fanclub
And you thought Seattle was all scuzz and screeching? Think again. Here to prove otherwise are those Righteous Brothers of gr**ge, The Posies. Can you bear another Big Star reference? Craig McLean can.
When idolatary met reality. The Posies kept it together. Imagine it: your favourite band — like. ever — regroups and wants you to join them. Tour with them. Remake rock history with them. So it was when half of Seattle‘s Posies
met half of Memphis's Big Star. The resulting union. as heard at Glasgow‘s
Queen Margaret Union on 1 September. ,
and on the live album Columbia. dripped with thrills. Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens couldn‘t have picked a better contemporary twinning than the one they did with The Posies‘ Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow.
‘They're a real kind of melody and harmony orientated-band with a pretty raw edge to it.’ said Stephens at the time. ‘And that‘s what i think Big Star was.’ He‘d come across The Posies performing a dewy-eyed version of (ill- starred Big Star member) the late Chris Bell‘s ‘I Am The Cosmos‘ in a New York club. and was blown away. Ken Stringfellow. meanwhile. had lived and breathed Big Star for as long as he could remember. Now. here he was. hanging with his hero. ‘ln rehearsal Alex was hearing some of these harmonies live for the ﬁrst time.‘ says Stringfellow now. ‘and I think he was a little impressed.’
As well he should. The Posies‘ third alburu. Frosting ()n The Beater. is the
Big Star spirit — those harmonies soaring and dipping throughout the most spontaneous and heartfelt of pop songs — hauled over the cool coals of i the contemporary Seattle-sound. Mostly its unabashed vigour flows from the intuitive bonds linking Auer ; and Stringfellow. Long time muso mates and ever longer time school chums. each song they write has 5 enough room for two vocals. umpteen sharp turns and one balls-out chorus. ; These guys know each other and their tastes.
‘Heck. I‘ll even go as far as to admit I we were in the school choir together!’ .7 Stringfellow reveals (exclusively). ‘l started out as a bass and then moved i backwards. moved up to baritone then j up to tenor by the end. i don‘t know 5 what that tells you. it‘s kind of like the 3 Alex Chilton thing — starting out with y The Box Tops then going into Big Star, and singing higher each time.‘ ; Like Teenage Fanclub, The Posies 9 know their light and their heavy. their 3 breezy pop and their gutsy rock. Both g bands are well met as touring buddies. l obviously through mutual Chilton ‘- admiration, and through mutual Don Fleming admiration. the Gumball i mainman who produced Frosting . . . z and the Fanclub’s statuesque Bandwagonesque. Because of his work 5 there and elsewhere. The Posies were keen to secure Fleming‘s services, even 5 ifit meant getting in line. ‘He came to Seattle to talk to Screaming Trees 5 before he did their record (last year‘s
Sweet Oblivion). We thought. if the Screaming Trees are into him he can't be all bad!‘ Stringfellow jokes.
Still. it can‘t be easy being a band j from Seattle. especially if they started l before most of their ascendant peers — l their $50 home-made cassette album. i Failure. was released in 1988 — and l were one of the ﬁrst of the emergent l crop to be harvested by a major label.
' Being a scene‘s best-kept secret is only
fun if a few people start discovering that secret.
Touring to promote their Geffen
§ debut. l990‘s Dear 23. things weren‘t so good. ‘At our lowest point we‘djust ﬁred our bass player. we didn‘t know ; what to do about recording more stuff and how long it was gonna take to get another record out.‘ Ken Stringfellow f recalls. ‘And behind us there wasn‘t a whole bunch of success. We‘d done 1 okay, but we didn‘t know where to go i from there. And at that point everybody E we knew in Seattle was getting huge. And it was a little bit depressing — oh 1 man. they’re out having fun and 3 playing with Shonen Knife and stuff. i and we‘re trying to ﬁnd a bass player!‘ i Methinks playing with Big Star is i better than playing with Shonen Knife. l Methinks playing with Five Star is better than playing with Shonen Knife. l No matter. Five years on. Ken. Jon and
co. have arrived. The Posies: er. can‘t i think ofa pun. Everything’s coming up Posies? That‘ll have to do. I The Posies support Teenage Fancluh at ; Barrowland. Glasgow on Fri 26.
World leader pretence
It’s just after 4am in a Tokyo hotel room and Robyn Hitchcock, ex-Sott Boy and English cult-hero-in-waitlng, is on the verge of going to bed, exhausted. llls gig that evening’s gone well, two encores, which is apparently exceptional in Japan. He’s been presented with a live tish to eat, which waved its gills at him, and bought live coloured llghtsabres like they wave around on building sites in the dark. it’s been a long and tiring day, and the only thing keeping him up is a pesky journalist on the phone lrom Scotland, asking what kind of show he would put on it he had unlimited resources.
‘In Edinburgh? I’d gather together all
the world leaders and put them in a giant cylinder that goes up and down inside a pyramid and I would gradually till the pyramid with honey. They wouldn’t be able to reach it, but they’d
; be surrounded by the honey. it would
; look good, and they’d all be wondering : what they could sell it tor. So all their
2 tongues would be sticking to the
. outside. There’d be tunnels at three
1 points, and I’d put giant ants inside
. i the honey. The giant ants would eat
the honey very last, but the leaders’ tongues would still be stuck to the glass. Then I’d press a button and they’d all disappear inside Madonna’s navel, which would be screwed to the top of the pyramid. Then I’d come on afterwards and play a lew songs on the acoustic with the band. Everybody would go home and find they had tree electricity and gas, and . . .’
I had lots ot other questions about records and things, which seemed perlectly reasonable before the interview started, but somehow, when we actually got there, they didn’t seem quite so appropriate any more. (Gavin Inglis)
Robyn Hitchcock And The Egyptians play The Venue, Edinburgh on Monday 29.
mi:- Big commotion
Since his ‘discovery‘ in the Schlitz Jazz Competition of 1986. Andy Sheppard’s career has looked like a model of planning. His initial acoustic quintet albums were followed by an acoustic big band. and now his electric quintet In Co-Motion has spawned a larger- scale version of itself, Big Co-Motion. According to Andy. though. it wasn‘t quite as orderly as it looks.
‘The decision to expand the band was really due to a commission from South West Jazz. and also the fact that someone was talking to me about a possible television ﬁlm about Bristol that they wanted music for. I had to think about new material at that point, because i had been playing a lot earlier in the year and hadn‘t had time to write. and I ﬁnd it easier to write for a bigger group.
‘The hardest thing in the world is to write for solo saxophone, and get that right. With a big group. though. it becomes a more conceptual thing. and it‘s also more fun to write for a lot of instruments — you can mess around a lot more. You try to imagine yourselfas the trombonist. and what he might play, and out of that comes a trumpet line or whatever. and it all starts to spiral off in that way.‘
The saxophonist has been well pleased with the Big Co-Motion gigs so far. although he was less happy with the editing on BBC‘s recently-screened concert ﬁlm from Brecon. which ‘was a fantastic gig they managed to make sound a lot less than fantastic. They edited the music very badly. i think. and lost the whole logic of it in the process.‘
Andy‘s gigs for Assembly Direct will be the ﬁrst chance to catch the expanded band north of the border. and. as on his ﬁrst disc for Blue Note. the just-released Rhythm Method. the gigs will feature both large and small variants ofthe group. focusing on the bigger end in the second set. where they will play his new extended piece which will feature on the next Blue Note release next year. Delivery Suite. a title doubtless not unrelated to Andy becoming a dad recently. (Kenny Mathieson)
Andy Sheppard is Big Co-Motion play at the Queen Ir Hall. Edinburgh on Fri 19. the Mitchell Theatre. Glasgow on Sat 20 and the Music Hall. Aberdeen on Sun 2].
The List 19 November—2 December I993 31