Beauty Pill is a DC-based, semi-electronic band led by producer, singer, songwriter, and guitarist Chad Clark. The band includes Basla Andolsun, Jean Cook, Drew Doucette and Devin Ocampo. After a few critically acclaimed records (The New York Times and The Washington Post, Pitchfork gave their debut 9/10), Beauty Pill amicably parted ways with Dischord Records.
The excitement surrounding the return of Beauty Pill is not simply because of the densely constructed and deeply felt music found on their new LP, Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are. Some of that enthusiasm is for the plain fact that Chad Clark is alive and able to continue creating music… at all.
In 2008, Clark fell ill from a rare virus that infected his heart. It was as a harrowing experience. He underwent two open heart surgeries that saved his life.
Though the music evidences the darkness of this journey, Describes Things As They Are isn’t an album of wallowing or worrying. Only one song on the album, “Near Miss Stories” refers explicitly to the experience.
“The songs are all shaded by mortality. But I found I didn’t have many insights to impart about coming close to death that aren’t already available in lots of literature, boardwalk t-shirts and, y’know, It’s A Wonderful Life,” Clark says.
Clark’s experience is certainly threaded throughout the album (the opening lyric is “I want more life, fucker,” a quote from Blade Runner), but what concerns Beauty Pill most is in the title of this LP. These songs are lucid musical reportage, vividly and dryly presented, if often surreal.
Clark wants listeners to feel like they are “inside the songs,” an objective reflected in the unusual way Beauty Pill chose to record the album. The band created an art project called “Immersive Ideal,” commissioned and hosted by Artisphere, a Washington DC art museum. Immersive Ideal allowed visitors to observe the band at work, creating music. Viewers were invited to watch the band through a pane of glass as they went about recording the album in a specially constructed studio. (A concept subsequently explored by PJ Harvey.) It was an exercise in radical transparency. The band learned, arranged and recorded one song per day. There was no practice beforehand.
In addition to Describes Things As They Are, the band remastered, expanded and reissued its first release, The Cigarette Girl From The Future EP. They also scored a sold-out DC theater production of Hamlet.
Cumulatively, a hot burst of expression after years of silence.
– Robert Ham