Beauty Pill - Blue Period Music Album Reviews

Beauty Pill - Blue Period Music Album Reviews
A remastered double-LP compilation of the D.C. art-punks’ early 2000s material showcases their atmospheric, Wurtlitzer-haloed approach to indie rock.

Last summer, Chad Clark got a third heart. The electric one he’d received in 2008, after a viral infection, had been recalled, and this time doctors were able to secure an organ transplant. Severely immunocompromised, Clark hasn’t performed live much in recent years, but on those rare occasions, his lineup-shifting project, Beauty Pill, has shared stages with avant-garde icons from Laurie Anderson to Arto Lindsay. Open and humble on social media and in interviews, Clark has aged gracefully and miraculously into a role as an art-punk elder. “I’m not a rock star,” he recently told Washington City Paper. “But I don’t really feel like the world has mistreated me the way I felt when I was younger.” 

At the turn of the millennium, Clark’s path might have seemed very different. The former frontman for Smart Went Crazy, a bleak and brainy, Washington, D.C.-based post-hardcore band, he was also a studio whiz who’d worked on local indie-rock heroes the Dismemberment Plan’s breakthrough album, Emergency & I. Beauty Pill bowed in October 2001 with a promising debut EP, The Cigarette Girl From the Future, that embraced psych-pop lushness. Then, a couple of years before Clark’s heart problems started, came the tumultuous era documented on Beauty Pill’s new archival release, Blue Period.

The double-LP compilation acts as a deluxe reissue of Beauty Pill’s ambitious but mostly overlooked debut album, 2004’s The Unsustainable Lifestyle, followed in the track listing by the rougher-hewn 2003 EP, You Are Right to Be Afraid. Both are newly remastered, giving the old recordings fresh heft, and making their first appearance on vinyl. Rounding out the set is a side’s worth of previously unreleased material. While not quite a trove of lost classics, Blue Period swells with intelligence and musical inquisitiveness. It’s a snapshot of a fertile moment, and a signpost for the restless avant-rock perfectionist that Clark has survived to become.

In the early 2000s, plenty of bands were blurring post-hardcore, emo, and indie rock toward unknown vistas, and The Unsustainable Lifestyle would sit comfortably in a Case Logic with contemporaneous releases from Jets to Brazil, the Promise Ring, Rainer Maria, Pretty Girls Make Graves, or even Death Cab for Cutie. The band takes an atmospheric, Wurtlitzer-haloed approach to indie rock, with vocal duties shared between Clark and two former members, Rachel Burke and Jean Cook. Clark’s nuanced and meticulous production stands out: Notice how the throbbing drums pan from left to right on ethereal opener “Goodnight for Real,” or the blissful tremolo guitar of Burke-led “Such Large Portions!”

On Smart Went Crazy’s swan song, 1997’s Con Art, Clark sang about a reckless driver who, we soon learn, has his dead wife’s body in the trunk. As lovely as the textured productions can be, such unwieldy lyrical conceits also limit The Unsustainable Lifestyle. “The Mule on the Plane” is a noise-rock drug-courier narrative that sounds like a surf-ier Sonic Youth after watching the 2000 film Traffic; “Quote Devout Unquote” muses on dog spit, Santa Claus, and courtroom jargon before reaching its skyscraping art-rock climax. As with Con Art’s “Good Day,” the biggest conceptual swing from The Unsustainable Lifestyle is an exploration of race and hip-hop led by Clark, who is Black. “Won’t You Be Mine” flips a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood sample to ask “Are you my nigga?,” making a pointed critique of mainstream rap’s materialism that went unexamined by white critics 20 years ago. Today, Clark shares a mutual appreciation with Bartees Strange, a successor who’s repeatedly cited Clark as an inspiration for genre-roving Black artists in the D.C. scene.

The rest of Blue Period is a similarly of-its-time assortment of sonic kicks and lyrical clunkers. From the You Are Right to Be Afraid EP, the winding guitar and lilting falsetto of “Copyists” show Clark moving appealingly toward Stephen Malkmus territory, while the title track brings a Hüsker Dü-like rock frenzy that’s bracing regardless of your investment in the D.C. hardcore aesthetic. Of the previously unreleased material, a deconstructed take on Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah workout “I Don’t Live Today” is pleasant enough, but “Fugue State Companion” is a circa-2004 indie rock song based on an extended metaphor about The Empire Strikes Back.

Happily, Clark is still active and, scary hospital visits aside, apparently thriving. Beauty Pill’s most recent full-length, 2015’s kaleidoscopic Describes Things As They Are, was the band’s first since The Unsustainable Lifestyle. Two equally distinguished EPs, 2020’s Please Advise and 2021’s Instant Night, also make fine entry points to Clark’s catalog. Beauty Pill’s fate in the mid-2000s was all too nearly a tragedy, but they’re still here to be discovered. “There’s only so much oxygen/Left in the room,” Clark insists on “Goodnight for Real,” but the song’s focus on bands and scene politics seems small and parochial today: There’s air to go around. Here’s to second chances—and third hearts.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Beauty Pill - Blue Period Music Album Reviews Beauty Pill - Blue Period Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 08, 2023 Rating: 5


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