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The Unsustainable Lifestyle

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Album Review

Despite the hubbub surrounding the Cigarette Girl from the Future and You Are Right to be Afraid EPs, Beauty Pill's full-length The Unsustainable Lifestyle is not so much exciting as it is intellectual, reflecting the arch modernism that's been percolating in indie rock — mostly on the East Coast — since at least the late '90s. It also feels like a patchwork at times, though this is to be expected considering lineup fluctuations and the two-year recording span detailed in the liners. Lifestyle's vocal presence ends up split between Wurlitzer player Rachel Burke and BP main brain Chad Clark; the musical palette has its variations, but only gives the guitars any opportunity to be loud or crazy (see the warbling, chiming leads alternating with weird dubby breakdowns in "Such Large Portions!"). "The Mule on the Plane" and "Western Prayer" drive forward at different paces, but are conscious of the deliberateness and concision that have become hallmarks of Dischord, not to mention Yo La Tengo's work, which keeps wafting through Lifestyle. Burke adds to this deliberateness with her precise intonation; on the acoustic standout "Prison Song" as well as "Quote Devout Unquote," her detachment makes her sound a lot like Mary Timony. Another highlight is "Nancy Medley, Girl Genius, Age 15," where Clark's near whisper guides an ambling post-rock guitar line shifting gracefully between a soothing melody and an urgent teeter of dangling notes. After mentioning both bomb-sniffing and seeing-eye dogs during its duration, The Unsustainable Lifestyle ends with a subtly catchy solo guitar, references to Idi Amin, and a challenge for the listener to stop terrible things from happening. For its part, the album is certainly not terrible. The instrumentation might have made more of a statement, but its intellectualism and studied approach make Beauty Pill's next move intriguing.


Formed: 1999 in Washington DC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

After D.C. post-punks Smart Went Crazy broke up in 1998, songwriters Chad Clark and Abram Goodrich decided to create music on their own. With the help of Black Sonya 2000, the name they gave their mobile studio kit, they formed the Beauty Pill. Clark used the producing experience he gained with Smart Went Crazy and Dismemberment Plan to experiment with new sounds. But the duo, wanting another human in the band, asked a friend, Joanne Gholl, to co-sing. A range of D.C. guest musicians -- from Burning...
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