Beauty Pill: "Most songs are about the mouth of the 21st century."
November 26, 2019 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Recently, Time put out their Ten Best Albums of the Decade list which included albums by Beyonce and other big stars... and Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are, a 2015 album and "love letter to sound" by Beauty Pill, an "uncategorizeable" DC-area semi-electronic avante garde? funk? art pop? indie band that's been around for almost twenty years, led by Chad Clark, who was in the influential band Smart Went Crazy and a highly-regarded engineer for Fugazi and other DC bands. Just a taste: the earworm Afrikaner Barista [video has flashy lights]. Afropunk's 2015 review says "Here’s the thing about being ahead of your time: if you wait long enough, eventually time catches up."

Vice review and profile from 2015
Chad Clark’s first words on the Washington, DC band Beauty Pill’s new album are “I want more life, fucker.” On first blush, this seems like a defiant acknowledgment of the grim reality that’s hung over the album’s lengthy gestation: In 2007, Clark was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, and the next year he underwent open-heart surgery. [...]

The opening song addressed to the aforementioned fucker, “Drapetomania!,” is named after a pseudoscientific 19th century term for the supposed mental illness that would cause a slave to flee their master (“The neighbor’s wi-fi is called ‘magic negro’ now / I would like to burn his house down,” goes one lyric). “Steven & Tiwonge” uses a real 2010 news story of a Malawian gay couple jailed for their sexual orientation as the basis not for a political song about equal rights but for an elliptical rumination on how two people don’t magically share one unified mind when they become a couple. Clark deals with the mortality of his late dog Lucy as sensitively as his own on the lead single, “Dog With Rabbit In Mouth, Unharmed.” [...]

Clark’s words, as strange and funny and haunting as they are, frequently get upstaged by the music on Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are. The tracks, often initially pieced together by Clark with samplers and sequencers and guitars, were brought to life by the other four multi-instrumentalists in Beauty Pill [...] during 2011 sessions in the Arlington, Virginia, museum Artisphere.[...] In Clark’s own words, it’s a sprawling mosaic, an album on which “each song is its own genre.”
Time's Best Albums of the Decade

Beauty Pill's Tiny Desk Concert -- set list: Afrikaner Barista, Drapetomania, Exit without saving - the audio setup isn't as good on this, tracks on the album are obviously better audiowise

Several of their albums seem to be out of print, but Chad Clark says buying copies of their music through Beauty Pill's Bandcamp page allows the band to actually get paid.

Brief timeline:
Article about Smart Went Crazy, Clark's 1990s band
Pitchfork interview before Beauty Pill had played their first show, 2001
Their albums:
The Cigarette Girl From The Future, 2001
You Are Right To Be Afraid, 2003
The Unsustainable Lifestyle, 2004 - funnily, contemporaneous reviews of this album were mixed and a lot of reviews seemed to be tut-tutting Clark, disappointed it was "just pop" rather than more hard, not taking the lyrics as being as pointed as they were, etc, that now read like the reviewers just not getting it
NPR interview, mostly about the process of recording the album at the art gallery in 2011
Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are, 2015
Sorry You’re Here, 2019 - the long-awaited release of a score to a 2010 theatrical play - Afropunk's review
posted by LobsterMitten (3 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. They had totally fallen off my radar in recent years. I love that you shared this!

I still remember seeing Beauty Pill play at a downtown bar my freshman year of college; this would have been '04. I met Chad and he was super chill. At the time I considered them local DC indie rock Gods/Goddesses and couldn't believe they weren't better known.

I am going to be listening to them for the rest of the day now.
posted by nightrecordings at 10:54 AM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Whoa. That song and video Afrikaner Barista is incredible. Thanks for letting us know about this band.
posted by umbú at 11:04 AM on November 26, 2019

Timing! I was just now listening to a recent episode of Aimee Mann and Ted Leo's podcast, The Art of Process, about and featuring Chad. It's a good listen, even for someone who's never bothered to check out his music (a problem I now want to redress).
posted by mykescipark at 3:38 PM on November 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

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