HEAR THIS: BEAUTY PILL

May 05. 2020 | By Wayne Jessup
Carousel photo by Cameron Whitman/Photo above by Morgan Klein

Back in the beginning of Our Great Quarantine Adventure, Randall Roberts in the LA Times did a great piece on deep listening, and that’s the perfect place to start with today’s subject. This is the time when you ignore the earbuds, and dust off those earmuff headphones.

Chad Clark does business under the name Beauty Pill, with the DC project yielding a small but meticulous and lovingly crafted catalogue. Please Advise is the latest addition, a new EP on Northern Spy due out 5/8. As always, the devil’s in the details, right down the origin story of the EP’s title, stemming from a cable from producer Teo Macero to his label higher-ups, facing down a Miles Davis situation.

Situational cognitive dissonance could well be called the lyrical meat-and-potatoes of Beauty Pill’s output, and musically as well, there’s much going on under the surface. After making his mark with Smart Went Crazy, releasing two LP’s on Dischord, including 1997’s Con Art, he went behind the boards to produce the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I, as well as engineering duties on Fugazi’s The Argument. Beauty Pill evolved over two EP’s, leading to their first full-length, 2004’s The Unsustainable Lifestyle.

And then things got interesting, with Clark in a life or death battle with a rare heart disease. Overcoming that, it wasn’t until 2015 that the followup appeared, but Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are was rightfully acclaimed in all corners. Fighting an untenable label situation, Clark got the rights to his masterwork back, then set out for the new. On the road to 2020, he had to process the death of his father while working on not one, but two Beauty Pill projects. In February, he released Sorry You’re Here, the score to Taffety Punk’s dance play suicide.chat.room. While putting the finishing touches on the current EP, one would observe that: 2020 happened.

“The Damnedest Thing” is the just released second single from Please Advise, (shoutout William Eggleston). It captures and deepens the widescreen epic approach of their last LP, coming to a satisfyingly noisy conclusion. Lyrically, it couldn’t fit better as a quarantine anthem, and also works as a healthy antidote to the traditional ‘lyric video’.

As their first work exposed since 2015’s Describes Things As They Are, “Pardon Our Dust” serves as a showcase for new singer Erin Nelson, (wife of BP alumni Ryan Nelson), and a horn section that adds a powerful undercurrent to the band’s sound.

The EP is rounded out with a cover of the Pretender’s “Tattooed Love Boys” and an updated take on “Prison Song” from the The Unsustainable Lifestyle, along with a bonus track, which, because this is Beauty Pill, will vary depending on which format you obtain it in. For the deeper dig, Chad Clark has assembled a sprawling and enlightening Beauty Pill Adjacent playlist on Spotify, with playlists from his bandmates to follow.

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