Poster Children is one of the most prolific indie bands from Champaign, Illinois and has released eleven studio albums through the decades. The band is the brainchild of Rick Valentin and Rose Marschack, who met in the eighties at the University of Illinois and officially formed with the addition of Shannon Drew in 1987.
This week we’ll be reviewing a couple of select albums from the band, in the same way we did for another indie powerhouse, Boyracer. Today we’ll be looking at their first major release Flower Plower, which first came out in 1989 via Limited Potential Records.
Flower Plower comes in fifteen tracks, but the listing can be divided into two, with distinct sonic differences. The band has had a history changing drummers for every album. In this case, Brendan Gamble held the kit for the first four tracks while Drew covered for the rest. As a result, the first half has a grittier post-hardcore sound while the second is more in line with alt-rock and pop-punk. Still, this doesn’t hurt its cohesion so much, as Valentin’s witty and politically-charged songwriting together the band’s relentless energy holds these two parts close together.
Opener “Dangerous Life” is the heaviest and most abrasive track in this record, with hazy garage noise, rugged energy and lung-busting vocals. “Wanna” has the same haziness to it, coupled with a 90’s grunge and slacker vibe. From these two alone, one can already see how easily the band can shift into different sounds and styles.
Fifth track “Hollywood” starts off the second half with a rumbling pop-punk romp “Modern Art” shares its same urgency and playfulness, with a melody that plays like a drunken jig or shanty. The difference in this other half is clear. The mix is much more defined and the abrasiveness of the previous cuts disappear from here on out. In the first track Valentin talks about the perils of chasing the Hollywood limelight and in the second he compares his own art aspirations against its popular practitioners. His songwriting has always been known as smart and scholarly, especially considering his position as a University Professor of the arts. And it’s interesting to see how profound he already was in his earlier material.
Flower Plower is full of diverse songs under the pop punk category, but already Poster Children shows hints that there is more to the band’s musical flexibility. With outliers like “She Walks” and “Non-Reggae-song” providing interesting change-ups to the listing. The first one is a love song with flowery riffs and a refreshing melody while the latter is a british-ska amalgam with a spectacular guitar shuffle. Both provide this record with interesting twists and turns.
This album was released over three decades ago, yet it holds up really well and stands the test of time. With a foundation this strong, it’s no wonder Poster Children and all of its members are all still productive to this day. This is something I can easily recommend to indie rock creators and fans. We can’t wait to get a deep dive on the next albums!