Steve Albini once again handled production for Poster Children with Daisychain Reaction, which inadvertently turned into the group's major-label debut when Sire picked it up for re-release. Albini's ear for getting the strongest and most live-sounding impact out of his recordings doesn't fail the quartet at all; right from the start, with the near-epic metal surge of "Dee," everything sounds powerful, a bit of Led Zeppelin sonics in a post-punk world. It's also further evidence -- as are a number of other songs on the album, such as "Water," "Chain Reaction," the hilariously titled "Freedom Rock," and most especially the secret highlight "Space Gun," which has some amazing guitar work -- that the band was an unappreciated influence on the Smashing Pumpkins early on. Rick Valentin's more midrange singing is much less strained than Billy Corgan's, though it's often far more hidden in the mix as well; whether it was his own confidence in question or simply what the band wanted, he's not yet got the clarity more evident in later recordings. He's definitely far sunnier than Corgan, as is much of the music; songs like "Love" crackle with an energy that's both fierce and positive while avoiding gooey sentiments (hordes of later emo bands could stand to learn some of the lessons on this record, to put it mildly). There's other, more kick-up-your-heels tunes as well -- "Cancer" is a merry skip that flirts with prog pacing without sounding like a Yes cut (quite thankfully), while "Carver's" is a great, thrilling stomp and "Frustration" is good, quick fun. Then there's the snarkily titled "If You See Kay," which brings in everything from crisp early-'80s funk to Pixies-tinged screams and volume switches to make an unheralded highlight from early-'90s rock.--- Ned Raggett, AMG
TRACKS: dee - cancer - if you see kay - love - freedom rock - space gun - water - want it - carver's - chain reaction - frustration - where we live.