It probably happened a little bit like this: It was the early '90s, and a bored record executive was throwing darts at a map of the United States, looking for a new "scene" to exploit, or at least create. As fate would have it, a dart landed on Champaign-Urbana, Ill., which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, "Chambana" is a big college town -- always good for appealing to the youth market and finding young bands -- and also had a precedent for growing successful rock acts (OK, just REO Speedwagon; we said "successful," not "good"). The execs came up with Hum, who never did what they were promised to do, and the Poster Children, who simply never did what they were told. Proffering a funkier version of the jagged punk rock that Steve Albini acolytes were playing a few hours' drive north in Chicago, The Children signed with Sire and proceeded to release their worst album, 1993's knowingly titled Tool of the Man. The majors have tried their best to give the Poster Children the big push, but the shoulda-been-a-hit "He's My Star" never did take, and it's been back to obscurity since then, with an increasing focus on the merging of punk rock music and new technology. The foursome's approach actually isn't that much different than like-minded indie rockers Girls Against Boys, but unlike GVSB, the Poster Children are able to not make it sound like a jokey techno shtick. New World Record, their first post-major record, claims Y2K compliance, lots of multimedia accouterments, and plenty of rumbling rhythm patterns that break into guitar-inflicted chaos at random but perfect moments. Opening Thursday night are two of the better pop-punk bands San Francisco has to offer: the Chantigs, whose tangled hooks evoke the Flying Burrito Brothers meeting HYsker DY meeting Bauhaus; and quartet MK Ultra, who have been at the punk-pop thing for over half a decade now, and, given the re-sults of the new The Dream Is Over, can relate to the Poster Children about what it's like to make fine albums in obscurity.
-- Mark Athitakis
Poster Children play with the Chantigs and MK Ultra Thursday, May 20, at 9:30 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Tickets are $7; call 621-4455.