Wednesday, May 13, 2009

postpunk on the prairie: Poster Children

I'm not willing to leave just yet, thinking of Tar keeps me grounded.

Leave where? The Prairie State, of course. Land of Lincoln. Perhaps in 100 years it'll be also known as Land of Obama.


Home of the forever snakebit Chicago Cubs, the perennial bastard stepchildren White Sox, rising Bulls and Original Six member Blackhawks.

Not to mention the Monsters of the Midway, the Bears.

But let's go about 150 miles south down Interstate 57, to the thriving metropolis of Champaign/Urbana. Home to the most disgusting summertime smells this side of rural Iowa thanks to the multitude of hog farms surrounding town, and also home to the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana plays host to their very own Poster Children.

A poppier Tar? Perhaps. A more-fun Hüsker Dü? Maybe. But definitely some great guitar songs, and just a great postpunk/DIY band the likes of which are sorely missed these days.

PC started in 1987 or thereabouts when University of Illinois students Rick Valentin and Rose Marshack started up a Joy Division covers band they called Cries and Whispers, after the early New Order track. When they decided to write and perform their own material, they found a drummer and the name Poster Children.

They self-released a cassette amongst the Champaign glitterati in 1988 entitled Toreador Squat (your humble blogger has never heard this, but knows someone who claims to have a copy buried somewhere - if anybody has it I would kill for a copy!) and then recorded a lot of tracks that summer with Chicago-based postpunk producer extraordinaire Iain Burgess. Not having a home for these tracks, they sat on them for a bit, gigged a lot, recorded some additional tracks with Steve Albini in 1989, and then finally released an 8-song assemblage of these two discrete sessions later in 1989 as the LP Flower Plower.

Meanwhile the band was on drummer #2, drummer #1 having left to pursue academic interests. Then after releasing Flower Plower, drummer #2 left to pursue his own music, who was replaced by drummer #3.

In 1990 drummer #3 left, and as the PC website states, "the available drummers in Champaign had been tapped out, so Chicagoan Bob Rising was welcomed into the band". Bob (and future Hum bassist Jeff Dimpsey on addtional guitars) then joined Rick and Rose in recording what would become the band's 2nd true LP, again with Albini running the boards.

In the meantime the band had hooked up with Minneapolis indie label Twin/Tone. Twin/Tone financed the recording and, eventually, released the record which was entitled Daisychain Reaction. The release was delayed by a year or so due to Twin/Tone's financial difficulties, and then after the collapse of indie distributor powerhouse Rough Trade late in 1991 (a collapse which led to a massive reorganization amongst the American indie label scene), the label itself also ran into a spot of trouble.

Meantime Nirvana broke, grunge broke, and the majors were going berserk looking for the "next Nirvana". After hosting plenty of suitors, the band signed with Sire/Warner Brothers and re-issued Daisychain Reaction in 1992.

Plenty of further recordings were made (both for Warners, and then back to the indie scene), and eventually the band settled on drummer #7 who plays with the band to this day.

Like the Minutemen before them, PC are massive DIY proponents. They book their own tours and manage themselves (essentially), take no tour support, and are a self-supporting machine that finances their own existence. They program their own websites and multimedia extravaganzas on their various late 90s/early 2000s CD releases. They run themselves.

Featured here is Daisychain Reaction, and tagged on are two additional tracks from the DCR sessions that were released by Sub Pop as a limited edition 7" in 1990. I hope you enjoy!

And finally, like Tar's Toast record, I reviewed this as well for my college newspaper. And of course I still have a copy of that review, from the newspaper's December 13, 1991 edition. So without further ado....

Twin/Tone Records

Hailing from the cultural mecca of Champaign/Urbana, Illinois (home of the University of Illinois), Poster Children have hooked up with producer/"musician" extraordinaire Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman) to create one of the best grunge/power pop albums of the year in Daisychain Reaction. Taking their cue from the thriving Chicago musical scene, the Poster Kids manage to blend gut-wrenching guitars and a keen sense of melody and rhythm into a sound unequaled by any other band I've heard lately. Singer Rick (they don't use last names) can sing with a scream that would wilt the Pixies' Black Francis like a parched flower ("If You See Kay" - try saying that out loud), and yet he can also sing peacefully and gently ("Where We Live"). Their press kit says Steve Albini used such studio trickery as live lemurs (?) on one track, but I'll be damned if I can find them. [2009 interruption - the mentioned lemurs feature in "Space Gun".] Great idea, though - what good are lemurs for otherwise? Lyrics such as "I am the Paranoid King" (from "Frustration" are typical of the Poster Children, as many of their song sing of fear or tension. Poster Children do for upbeat grunge what New Order did for club music - they make it worth it and fashionable to listen to it again.

Not the greatest writing, but hey, I was much greener behind the ears back then.

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(1992 re-issue on Sire)

01 Dee
02 Cancer
03 If You See Kay
04 Love
05 Freedom Rock
06 Space Gun
07 Water
08 Want It
09 Carver's
10 Chain Reaction
11 Frustration
12 Where We Live

(1990 Sub Pop Singles Club SP88, limited edition of 4500 copies)

01 Thinner, Stronger
02 Pointed Stick

- - - -

Both these records are out of print, so before downloading (link below) I suggest you pay a visit to the band's website and click the link to drop some cash in the hat, since you did not obtain these records in a record shop. It'd be a nice gesture at least.

Get the above 2 records (single RAR file)


  1. One of the bands that should get more recognition. My band, Choke, opened up for them back in the early 90's in Albuquerque, NM. They not only put on one of the best shows you could hope for...they are just super nice people...

    You can check out Choke here.

  2. I have just posted a .wav files rip of "Toreador Squat" on my blog.

    Your blog is terrific!


  3. @joshd: you are the Junior Citizen of the year! Thank you!

  4. PC are a great band. I saw them open for Buffalo Tom at the 9:30 Club in DC and had no idea who they were. They were the first and only opening band I've ever seen steal a show. I went out and bought everything I could find from them the next day.