RTFM is the fifth album for Poster Children, adding a dozen tunes to their continued evolution from indie shoegazers to alt rock / pop punk pioneers of the 90’s. This is by far the most consistent set of songs they have to date. Having looked at Poster Children’s discography from birds eye view, it’s become clear that they’ve paced themselves very well. There’s not a strong sense of cynicism or dramatic change in the direction of their music — which is something a lot of popular bands have suffered through in the past. Despite them being criminally underrated in the rock scene, Poster Children seems to have their longevity game all figured out, weathering a multi decades old career that still stands strong to this day.
RTFM (which means Read the Fucking Manual) offers a glimpse to this phenomenon. Indeed we see multiple sardonic takes in this record that criticizes the music industry. In “Music of America”, Valentin talks about the stale music industry of the era, particularly on the radio: “Blasting fifty thousand watts of AM/FM trash / Recycled every hour and converted into cash”. “0 for 1” is just as cynical, where the narrator muses on how he loses on every endeavor: “When I strike, I strike out / When I swing, I walk”. Yet all of these dour sentiments are laid out only in the lyrics. The music that accompanies them — for all intents and purposes are still fueled by fun and energetic rock n’ roll, regardless if it veers heavy into pop or grunge.
You’d be hard pressed to find a dip in quality in this record. “Speed of Light” is a rollicking grunge jam that feels like a brighter Smashing Pumpkins. Featuring a poignant view of life that transcends the past and the present. “21st Century” is groovy British punk that oozes with rebellious energy. Valentin offers a snapshot of the social and political issues at the time, musing on wealth inequality, homegrown terrorism and the onset of new diseases, proving that some things don’t change after all.
It’s not a Poster Children record without their experiments or tangents to different subgenres. “Afterglow” has a smooth reggae-dub feel to it similar to 311’s best material. Closing track “Happens Everyday” is a sobering song that loosens up the volume and ends in a poignant view on daily life.
Poster Children finds RTFM in a secure and solid foundation that will prove strong enough to stand the test of time. High energy and great hooks all around makes this record a great first recommendation for newcomers.