Nostalgia is all the rage these days. Consider Netflix’s recent hit Stranger Things, which achieved cult status this summer thanks to its nigh-perfect replication of the ‘80s, both in terms of cinematic and fictional tropes (e.g., Spielberg, Carpenter, King) and that decade’s aesthetic (e.g., fashion, music, suburbia). Similarly, Minnesota’s Posh Lost offer up a nigh-perfect replication of their influences.
The quintet’s brooding, darkly atmospheric music is obviously indebted to the post-punk of Joy Division and Pornography-era Cure. Creeping basslines, dogged rhythms, textured guitars, and vocals that move between soaring and gloomy — these all combine in a fetching musical formula that nails all of the right notes. But despite the obvious similarities to Ian Curtis et al., Posh Lost never comes across as mere copycat homage.
Unlike some groups whose take on ‘80s musical gloom feels self-conscious and by-the-numbers — as if they’re trying to check all of the boxes on a marketer’s sheet — Posh Lost attack their music with a verve and eagerness that serves them well. On “Parallels,” bassist Jackson Woolsey — whose voice is a dead ringer for Ian Curtis’, and almost eerily so — intones over ragged guitars and machine gun-like drumming; the song is full of nervous energy that threatens to rip itself apart halfway through the bridge. Meanwhile, on “Fabricate,” Woolsey chants “She’s not eating” as the song descends into an avalanche of percussion and spidery guitar melodies.
Honestly, it’s hard to find any weak spot on this self-assured debut. “Termina” spins a somber tale of death and regret, with Woolsey gravely proclaiming “Father forgive me for my sins/Mother I’ve lost my faith in him” as the music churns and grows increasingly turbulent around him. “Limerance” takes a break from the Joy Division and instead, recalls Wild Nothing’s graceful Nocturne thanks to Jeff Cornell and Emmy Carter’s plaintive vocals as well as some gorgeously glossy guitars. Finally, “Modern Pyramids I-II” ends the album with a truly epic, shoegazer-enhanced sense of gloom.
I’ve listened to Posh Lost numerous times since discovering it, and I’ve been constantly struck both by how often I’ll mentally note “Hey, this sounds an awful lot like Joy Division” and by how often I just don’t care about that. Much like Stranger Things, Posh Lost wholly embody their influences only to ultimately become more than the sum of those influences.
Or put another way, Posh Lost remind us why groups like Joy Division continue to have a powerful hold on our imagination even as they ably prove that their music can, and should, be taken on its own terms.