So I don’t especially care for this american life because I find a lot of the stories, well, not all that compelling and kinda condescending. I do listen to (and love) 99 % Invisible because I secretly wish I wasn’t so terrible at math and navigating my body in space so I could’ve become an architect or urban planner or something relating to city skylines or subway systems. The show’s title is 100 percent apt- the show is about the things we take for granted every day and how wonderful or terrible or compelling they are. There’s an episode about the avant-garde jazz produced by the Washington DC Metro Escalators. There’s an episode, a great one, about the uber-modern and really beautiful prison hidden in plain site in the loop in Chicago. There’s an episode about the origin of the Teddy Bear, and one about how Cul-De-Sacs have changed how neighborhoods are built.
And then last week, they did one on the Beauty Pill. What, you might ask, would a Dischord punk-dance-gang have to do with a radio show about design? If you consider yourself a Beauty Pill fan (and if you do, then you are/you’d surely be a friend of mine), you can thank design and architecture for the existence of a forthcoming album from the band, the first new music they’ve released since 2004(!) The episode says it, but if for some reason you’re scared of podcasts or NPR, here’s the gist- The Beauty Pill singer/lyricist Chad Clark almost died a few years back. After that, fronting a punk act seemed pretty low on his list of things he wanted to do. He spent some time working on other people’s albums, but his own musical output became, well, not the point exactly.
And then a DC-area gallery asked Clark to set up shop in their space. He accepted, not at all sure what kind of music or, even, sounds, would come out. Quickly, he started writing and performing and part of what inspired him was a huge glass window in the gallery which piqued the interest of passersby. The window invited people in, and, once they were in, Chad invited them to play. It’s unclear how many people will end up on the recordings that will be on the new album, whenever it is released, but probably, it will be a lot. It’s an odd thought- this will be an album filled with strangers.
On my second or third post on this blog, 5 years ago, I talked about how The Beauty Pill felt more like a collective than a band. This looks to be more collaborative, more democratic, more like a crucible than even the band’s past work. This is exciting stuff, and the new song is just as unforgiving and provoking as you’d hope from this band. Listen to it again and again, you can stop when you think you might need stitches.