» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Beauty Pill
The Unsustainable Lifestyle
Dischord Records

Rating: 3/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Who exactly is this band, Beauty Pill? I mean, I know who they are, they're Chad Clark from Smart Went Crazy, Ryan Nelson from Most Secret Method, two other guys and two girls. That simplifies things, probably too much, but there you have it. Still, who are they? Who is this group who captured the attention of the indie world-at-large with their phenomenal debut EP, The Cigarette Girl from the Future, and made us all salivate for years in anticipation of this first full-length?

I ask with a great deal of incredulousness, in that the band who appears on The Unsustainable Lifestyle sounds next to nothing like that initial tease. I will continue to beg their identity, which will hopefully become more assured in a future release, but more so, What Happened?

2004 finds Beauty Pill stuck somewhere in 1993 knock-off Alternaland. We begin with "Goodnight for Real", which squarely originates the fear they've lost their edge. While the track is still nice on all counts, and as spacey as their signature appeal, it ends up being surprisingly pleasant, and as such a disappointment. Gone is the sense of futuristic alienation and in its place lies a fragile yet unbroken single - a warm-up that provides a slow start.

Next comes "Lifeguard in Wintertime," which cements the album as a true affair for vocalist Rachel Burke, whose chiming and vaguely distancing sounds continually rescue the album. Beginning with jazzy, off-kilter beats, the slow draw of her effeminate vocals mesh like a Breeders/Liz Phair hybrid, and feel darkly affected. The track, like the album, feels bogged down, and makes for plain, straight guitar rock with dead eyes and blank face. Burke's vocals are the true centerpiece of the album, or are at least shoved into the position by default: they are at once lofty, grounding, dated and played-out.

From the entire twelve songs, only three or four thoroughly enjoyable tracks can be lifted as worthwhile, which is an unfortunate result from such a highly anticipated outfit. "Prison Song" recalls Liz Phair's divine "Johnny Sunshine," almost note for note in places. Conversely, by the time the second-to-last track rolls around in the similarly derivative formula, the minor key pangs are sufficiently tired. "Won't You Be Mine?" is an ebullient cut, adeptly sampling bits and pieces from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, and mixing thoughts of make-believe with a political roast of modern racism. The mix of innocence and discontent is appropriately disturbing, and is aided by rapid-fire vocal bridges courtesy of Clark. The track is akin to a fever dream, but is both potent and infectious in nature.

The best selection by far is "Such Large Portions," the most obvious single and the most effective use of the femme fatale vocals. It's just eerie enough to make your skin crawl, but explosive enough in places to keep constant interest throughout. Sounding more like an outtake from the Breeders' recent Title TK, it is consciously hollow and raucous; a shaky little shell that's barely holding things together.

In the "affecting" column, chalk a final measure up to "Quote Devout Unquote," a somewhat mediocre track that nevertheless captures the former edginess that so characterized the band. It is knowingly odd and simplistic, like an otherworldly music box: there is a ballerina inside with a slightly malevolent face, jarring music and hidden danger. It is alien but pretty, and while Burke prattles about "No black arts, nobody is reading your mail," the disconcerting nerve of paranoia will not be quieted.

More than anything, the remaining eight tracks are marred by an overwhelming boredom, a lack of weight and an unconcerned air. They feel watered down, a pale imitation of expectations, and never truly attempt the catchiness or drama they so sorely lack. Instead, the songs plod along, content with being average and fairly nondescript - a soundtrack that goes comfortably unnoticed behind the scenes. There is very little in the album to connect to, so that we are not vested or interested; as an audience, we are not in it. Regrettably, as a result, it sounds as though the band isn't in it, either.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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