By the end of their reunion tour in 2016 commemorating the reissue of their 1990 album Daisychain Reaction, Poster Children decided to come back to the studio to write and record a new album. The result is something that feels stronger than ever, even for a veteran band who’s already nearing three decades in their careers. Grand Bargain! came out in 2018, at the height of President Trump’s term, and similar to No More Songs in 2004 this album has political themes with a message that is just as strong and as profound as any of the band’s releases to date. Every track in here reflects the social and political life in a nation that’s slowly falling into further chaos and divide. There’s a live-recording feel to this record, which hearkens back to their earlier sound — all no doubt thanks to the help of Steve Albini’s production magic, which captures the raw energy of early PC.
The music video for title track “Grand Bargain!” is enough to tell you that the band is pulling no stops for their criticism. It features the (now former) President throwing tantrums in his office, chugging hamburgers and tweeting incessantly while his pundits cheer him on. Valentin shares his concerns that the head of the state is following a completely corporate agenda, using the mechanisms of government to “enrich oneself at the expense of the greater good”.
Plenty other tracks support this message. “World’s Insane” speaks of crosses burned at the streets, of neighbors speaking in the voice of conspiracy while the narrator mulls over how to move forward. “Devil and the Gun” echoes this by cautioning about the increasingly dangerous landscape of our times while “Final Offense” alludes to what those men in authority might do once they get their way.
But it’s not all dire and political as well, tracks like the sunny “Hippie Hills” and introspection of “Lucky Ones” balances out the frustration, with songs we can all breathe and reflect on. Truly, a multifaceted band that hasn’t lost its luster.
What’s great to see is how Grand Bargain! finds Poster Children with a new sense of vigor. Perhaps it’s the hiatus that’s lent them this surge in energy (although this is unlikely with their equally prolific side-projects). If I were to listen to this record on a playlist with their other albums it would be hard to distinguish which ones came before or after at face value. This is a testament to the longevity of PC and the robust nature of their sound and ideas.