Posture & The Grizzly
I Am Satan
by Chad Jewett
There’s deceptive difficulty to writing the kinds of songs that Posture & The Grizzly seem so effortless in producing. Indeed, I Am Satan, the band’s newest release and certainly their finest, underlines so much of what is missing from the lion’s share of contemporary pop-punk and emo: namely, a sense of melody, of clarity, of urgency; all things that define I Am Satan. The album — released by the always excellent Broken World Media and featuring contributions from members of The World Is A Beautiful Place and Makeshift Shelters — is resolutely major key and unabashedly functional: songs last exactly long enough for two verses, three choruses, and a bridge, even if they are embellished with a lush golden-era-Saddle-Creek tastefulness. Songs like “Raspberry Heart” and “Elliot” are seemingly not satisfied until they’ve offered a few different hooks for our consideration (“Elliot” in particular is unceasing in its tunefulness). Melody here is prized above all. Jordan Chmielowski’s voice — a clear, bell-like tenor — is central and definitive, a sign both of Posture’s healthy instinct for what makes their own work special and more evidence of the sturdy grasp that producer Chris Teti has on what makes a given genre work.
I Am Satan is especially noteworthy for the balance it strikes between homage and originality. You might hear Dude Ranch in the early bass grumble of “Balloons As Hands”, but the song’s blossom into a quavering minor key is less familiar, and its start-stop Diary-esque chorus is equally surprising. The same goes for “I Am Not A Real Doctor”, whose placid beginnings – an acoustic guitar laced with the kind of spectral guitar that contributor Derrick Shanholzter-Dvorak has made a definitive part of The World Is A Beautiful Place – is suddenly electrified by Chmielowski’s bright, pointed melody. In fact, it is his voice that makes I Am Satan feel so immediately winning: it is a collection of performances where one can’t help but marvel at the bright, elastic melodies Chmielowski is able to stretch across these songs, as on album-closer “I Am A Real Doctor”, where the singer pushes the already punchy melody of opener “I Am Not A Real Doctor” even higher. If circa-2004 Tom DeLonge is an obvious touchstone – vowels are sharp and exaggerated, melodies arc upward more often than not, stretched way out – Chmielowski consistently does something here that DeLonge only pulled off occasionally: he finds real pathos in pop-punk’s sugared sneering. It’s those moments of actual (as opposed to play-acted) melancholy that lurked at the edges of songs like “Anthem” that Chmielowski has absorbed most.
Add to that the real poetry of this stuff: “And I swear you loved miracles but there’s no Gods / No disbeliefs / Only evil caused by me / No garden on my plate”. So much of the language on the album is at once direct and impressionistic, another clever subversion of how this stuff normally works: you get the sense of what these songs are about, the perhaps-expected angst that powers them, and then a quick, thoughtful phrase like “Your life needed color” will bubble up, more often than not delivered like an aside. The album works especially well when it’s at its most fleet – maybe because that’s when the more unique, idiosyncratic poetry seems most striking. “I Am Not A Real Doctor” and “Elliot” underline this, and they emphasize the ways in which Posture & The Grizzly subvert our expectations for what beautiful music sounds like, and at what velocity it tends to arrive.
This might partly explain why the album’s interludes, pretty as they are, feel a bit like extravagant pauses when we’re already energized by the smart things that the band does to make its most spry, quick numbers feel so wonderfully rich. Indeed, you don’t necessarily need the crystalline respite of “Star Children” when you have a pop song as finely etched as “Mandy” – the kind of song that an entire generation of Drive Thru Records bands with circa-2003 growing pains tried and failed to write. Add that to the list of things that make I Am Satan so special: that like only a handful of albums from this mini-era of bands paying real thoughtful attention to last millennium’s record collections, Posture & The Grizzly have both the ears and the imagination to write loud, quick guitar music that far surpasses the sum of its parts – bedroom pop at 200 beats per minute.