Poletown (album)

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Studio album by Donnie Iris and the Cruisers
Released 1997
Genre Rock
Length 59:47
Label Seathru
Producer Mark Avsec
Donnie Iris and the Cruisers chronology
Footsoldier in the Moonlight
Live! At Nick's Fat City

Poletown is the eighth studio album by American rock singer Donnie Iris, released in 1997.[1] It was Iris' third post-major label release, and was released independently on Seathru Records.


Though the album followed on from 1993's Footsoldier in the Moonlight, Poletown marked the end of a long hiatus for the original band. The members re-congregated at Jeree's Recording Studio to record the album, which fans soon considered to be the finest Donnie Iris and the Cruisers album. The album marked a dramatic departure from the band's previous work, with the songs being lyrically and musically dark and brooding. Ten of the album's tracks were musically written by all members of the band, with Mark Avsec writing all lyrics. He also solely wrote the other three tracks on the album. Poletown was the last time that the band recorded with engineer Jerry Reed, who died in 1999.[2]

During 1997, Iris was also the recipient of this year's Lifetime Achievement Award.[3] Poletown was largely ignored by radio upon its release, even from the band's long-time supporter WDVE.[4]

The song's title track tells the story of immigrants who build a small town, which later becomes devastated when the major employer leaves. The lyrics refer to General Motors workers in Michigan, though a photo of West Aliquippa was included within the album's booklet.[5]

In a 1998 interview with Feeway Cummings of bangSheet, Avsec revealed how the album materialized: "The "Poletown" record was done right after I finished law school, and right before I started studying for the bar. It was sort of, well not really a last blast, but I knew I was going to get real busy. I had all these tunes, so we did the album. And, from my standpoint, I do still like to write, though it's not so much the co-writing it once was. It could be, like the Poletown record was musically. We just got the original guys together, and we pretty much went in there just jamming on all the tracks. That's why everyone is listed as a writer. Then, I pretty much wrote the lyrics and made songs out of them." Avsec also agreed that the album sounded more "mature" and that "lyrically it's better" and "more thoughtful".[6]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Poletown" Mark Avsec, Dominic Ierace, Marty Lee Hoenes, Albritton McClain, Kevin Valentine 4:56
2. "How You Gonna Mend It?" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 4:07
3. "Valerie" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 5:52
4. "I Am Your Eyes" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 4:29
5. "The Stalker" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 5:16
6. "Don't Want to Be a Hero" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 4:28
7. "I Lie Down" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 4:39
8. "Bitter Lemons" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 4:59
9. "Hey Rembrandt" Avsec 4:50
10. "Scream" Avsec 0:59
11. "Within Me + Without You" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 5:58
12. "Come, Come, Come" Avsec, Ierace, Hoenes, McClain, Valentine 5:09
13. "Cross the Rubicon" Avsec 4:00

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
The Times/Beaver Newspapers, Pennsylvania mixed[7]
The Cleveland Free Times favorable[8]
bangSheet favorable[9][10]

Virginia Ross Lutz of The Times/Beaver Newspapers, Pennsylvania, wrote "This is one musical journey you might not want to miss, especially if you happen to be a Donnie Iris fan. The album carries us across 13 tracks and several decades with a little bit of groove, a little bit of pop and some classic and alternative rock. There are even a few touches of doo-wop and some punk threads thrown in. In addition to Avsec's doom-and-gloom look at "Poletown," the album sets a dark mood with "The Stalker" and "Bitter Lemons." Iris has a little fun with fallen love and hopeful recovery in "Within Me and Without You." Note a definite highlight here, because there aren't many. Overall the work might come across as negative. But weaved with clever phrases, it effectively digs into and at times brings humor to life's little ironies. It offers an abundance of sin, lust, adultery, guilt, anger discouragement and cynicism. Whew! You can either listen and have some fun with it or really listen and get into some heavy thinking. But I hope Iris provides us with something else soon because "Poletown" is not a place where I'd really like to stay."[11]

In the Cleveland Free Times, of September 2, 1998, writer Anastasia Pantsios noted "Iris' last disc was "Poletown", on which he made a small stab at going the Springsteen route (or probably, more accurately, the Joe Grushecky route) and writing an album that approached social commentary about the disruption of the lives of working-class people. The title track dealt with a neighborhood in Detroit that was destroyed to make room for General Motors. Although such songs sound passionate and sincere, it's not what Iris' fans go to him for. They want to drink a couple of Friday night beers and forget that anything matters more than girls and rock and roll."[12]

In Volume 1, Issue 8 of bangSheet, dated October 5, 1998, writer Feeway Cummings stated "An album called Poletown came out. Donnie Iris, the Cruisers, and an absolutely stunning batch of songs. The songwriting was mature and serious. The playing, loose, tight, loud, soft, and pure energy. And, of course, the voice. The voice is still the voice. Donnie adding the emotion and pure honesty of that voice. The album staggered me. These guys still have got it. They never lost it. They never lost me."[13] In addition to this a summary of the album was given: "The world which Louie, Agnes, Merilee and King Cool himself have grown into. Youthful days of love, passion, bars, cars, and late nights have given way to kids, divorce, wrinkles, affairs, class reunions, jobs and loves lost, and introspection. Change with redemption. Age with wisdom. Music that is classic, mature and timeless. A classic."[14] Kurt V. Hernon of bangSheet also noted "The album was a superb return to form and was the logical progression of the Cruiser sound. It is a mature and brooding piece. The music, and Donnie, were as strong as ever. And the original Cruisers were back onboard. The themes are more serious, the music at times haunting."[15]



  • Design: Marty Lee Hoenes
  • Engineer: Jerry Reed
  • Mixing: Kevin Valentine
  • Producer: Mark Avsec