dc indie legends beauty pill release the “lost” album ‘sorry you’re here’
By Nathan Leigh
June 12, 2019
It’s a rare theatre score that can survive on its own without the umbilical tie to the play it was written for. (I don’t say this lightly or happily, in my other career, I’ve composed around 120 original theatre scores…) But leave it to Chad Clark, the polymath behind DC indie stalwarts Beauty Pill to create something that doesn’t merely survive, but thrives on its own merits.
Sorry You’re Here began life as the score to “suicide.chat.room,” a play produced by DC’s Taffety Punk Theatre Company in 2010. Though a few tracks were periodically posted on the band’s Soundcloud page over the years, the full score has often been teased, but never released. Finally nearly a decade later, the band has collected it into a proper album, and it’s well worth the wait.
For fans of Beauty Pill’s early records on Dischord, the heavily electronic affair may be a little alienating. Chad’s habitual wry observational lyrics are starkly absent, replaced with mostly instrumental experimental electronic tracks. Though the same creativity of arrangement and love of the juxtaposition between lush beautiful chords with harsh bursts of noise that has always been a part of his work is present throughout. It bears far more in common with the band’s 2015 masterpiece Describes Things As They Are, living in an alternate universe where the electronic elements that color in the margins of Describes Things As They Are take center stage.
Clark uses the instrumental focus as an opportunity to flex his considerable skill as a producer, crafting rich and emotional soundscapes. Opener “So Dark Blinking Makes No Difference,” and the twin interludes “If One’s Loneliness Is Compounded” are haunting, and even surprisingly hopeful, given the source material. While the sarcastic humor at the heart of Beauty Pill’s best material is on full display in “Isn’t There Something Within You,” which mutates a recording, presumably from the show itself, into a meditation on faith, mortality, and the false promises of technology.
The two covers that flank the record stand out for their radical reinvention of classic songs. The heartbreaking “Some Folks’ Lives Roll Easy” turns the Paul Simon classic into a proper Beauty Pill song, such is the band’s gravity. While the album’s highlight is their rendition of Bowie’s “Jump They Say,” a mid-period song that rarely makes anyone’s top ten list becomes a marvelously nervous contemplative affair in Clark’s hands. Clark’s raspy voice adds a touch of humanity to the glitched-out production. If “Jump They Say” wasn’t your favorite Bowie song before, it is now.
Rock history is full of “lost” albums who were better in theory than in actuality; the reality never truly able to live up to the legend. Sorry You’re Here joins Smile, For The Whole World To See and Van Hunt’s Popular as the rare record that doesn’t merely live up to unrealistic expectations, but in its best moments, exceeds them. Now we just need Prince’s estate to finally give us Camille…
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