The Cigarette Girl From the Future (2001) / You Are Right to Be Afraid (2003)
“It was supposed to be moving sidewalks, jetpacks, and hovercrafts.” – Beauty Pill
Here we are, everyone! The future! Welcome, please take your time browsing–who can blame you? There’s so much to look at! Boredom, existential angst, greed, hollow romance, oh the fruits of the future! Our in-house band, Beauty Pill, is dedicated to sonically capturing your futuristic experience. Opening track “Rideshare” begins with twenty seconds of wacky, cowbell-driven fun, and switches non-sequitor into the “real” band: downbeat gloom, meandering vocals, effects floating over a lazy island of reverb. Then the outro is just a repeat of the intro, reminding you just how insincere and sarcastic they are! What, can’t handle a little dishonesty? Welcome to the future, bitch!
Keep browsing, keep listening! “The Idiot Heart” juxtaposes lovely harp and cello with the lyrics “The bad news is there is no hope/The good news is there never was,” sung through a girl’s pretty voice. Hear: the goofy back-and-forth highs in the chorus of “The Cigarette Girl from the Future” with the trumpets and spacey sounds, mismatched with lighthearted misanthropy! Hey, what do you mean it’s “misleading?” This isn’t the past! No longer are bands clogging the airwaves with faux-sincerity. You want sincere? “You, Yes You,” now there’s a love song, just a man and his twinkly guitar lamenting how “divine intervention in a sundress” reminds him of all the good things of the earth…what do you mean it’s depressing? The future is a disappointment; Beauty Pill are just here to show you why, through music that is far from disappointing!
Hey, cheer up! “You Are Right To Be Afraid” is fun! A lively punk song that can hang with the best of Beauty Pill’s brethren on Dischord, with tight drums and the kind of catchy chorus you’ve come to love and expect from DC. Don’t be fooled, this Dischord band of the future is wildly misanthropic and unable to decide on a concrete genre, easily the most distinct on the label. “Bone White Victoria” is all backwards loops, reverberated drums, and David Byrne-esque layering, the cold steel feeling of the future. You got a problem? Go back to the past and suck on granny’s tit, you delusional chode.
The Unsustainable Lifestyle (2004)
(Fig.1) A divine synthesis and expansion of the debut EPs. You can hear flashes of contemporaries Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo and Modest Mouse, but it’s hardly that simple. Chad Clark is a producer as much as he is a musician. His ear for an album’s sound shines most on The Unsustainable Lifestyle. Lush. Nighttime driving with headlights on the pines. Lamenting, slipping, sneering at people on the bus. A record diverse yet connected, a novel in stories, a fluid movement.
(Fig. 2) The plodding electronics of “Won’t You Be Mine,” a jazzy, elegant piano melody over samples of strings, Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood and Blacula. Hideously biting lyrics on class division, self-betrayal, and greed, tied together in the infectious refrain “So what I really wanna know is, are you my nigger?”
(Fig. 3) Among my favorites in terms of album artwork. The cover illustrates perfectly the band’s philosophy, that no matter how much we dress ourselves neatly in modernity, our pathetic humanness still thrives underneath. This drawing of a wedding is as pitiable as it is gut-wrenching.
(Fig. 4) Chad Clark’s cool and serene voice saying a lot without being sonically overwrought with sentimentality: “And the new dance craze is the same as the old one, the unsustainable lifestyle/There’s only so much oxygen left in the room.”
(Fig. 5) Rachel Burke, much like The Magnetic Fields’ darling Claudia Gonson, masking cynicism in a clear, delicate voice: “There’s no Black Ops/Yeah, nobody’s reading your mail/No matte-finish helicopters to swoop down and snatch you out of the Habitrail.”
(Fig. 6) Haunting, heartbreaking track “Prison Song (A Love Song Called Will You Come Visit Me In Prison).” Burke, a Wurlitzer and a gently reverbed acoustic guitar break your heart in three minutes. Hearing it and remembering your own romantic wrongdoings, your failure to behave with deserved honesty, your sad attempts and long distance: “Or will you write me a tear-soaked letter, the last two words: ‘I tried’/Or will you keep me believing in our future, cause it’s kinder just to lie.”
(Fig. 7) The fact that this is an album that can transition “Prison Song” into the percussion-heavy “The Western Prayer,” equipped with (more) cowbell and upbeat, brainy Faraquet-style riffing, the only lyrics: “Dear god, please let me soil the nest forever and never have to clean it up/I don’t like cleaning up.” The sound of America hearing this and ignoring it. Even bitterer, the tripped-out “Nancy Medley, Girl Genius, 15” lampooning the rave generation’s use of drugs not for shared experience but to simply tolerate one another: “Now I fit in with all your weak and useless friends.”
(Fig. 8) Bright, warm guitar tone, somewhere between Pinback and Don Cab. Loose, jazzy drums. Hearing them all layered perfectly in “I’m Just Gonna Close My Eyes For a Second.” The flawlessly subtle harmonies in “Driving Down the Costs” and “Goodnight For Real.”
(Fig. 9) Ending a cerebral, downtrodden album with a twinkle of brutal optimism: “Terrible things, they are gonna happen/Quite often, there is nothing that you can do to stop them…this record’s over so why not go outside and stop them?” The song itself, minimalistic with its wired bassline, its rumbling drums. Like any good, pure art, Beauty Pill have crafted something that never loses its humanity no matter how nihilistic it gets, even granting its audience a slice of hope. Understanding that even if this positivity wasn’t shared, Beauty Pill’s hope lays in their ability to make an endlessly interesting, scattered record. This review is over, so why not go and take a listen?