Face Magazine



A Fistfull of Pills
The Pills
Primary Voltage Records, 13 song CD

Why, why, why? Why is there no justice in this world? Why are drones like The Strokes bathed in FM and limo glory while The Pills get in the van and trudge from Boston to Cleveland for pizza and gas money? Why are the kids subjected to buzz clips from Good Charlotte while The Pills are a mere buzz just below the surface? It would be easy to write a review of A Fistfull of Pills that borders on puppy-eyed fawning (don’t worry; this is not such a review). Their 1998 debut Wide Awake with The Pills established an impossible precedent of beautifully structured pogo-dancing icepick-in-the-forhead Amphetamine Pop (imagine if Dee Dee Ramone had hired Todd Rundgren to write “Wart Hog”), and the band has never looked back, even with such a lofty monument in the rearview. And Fistfull is an even better record in a lot of key respects. First and foremost, this new record is a release from a band that has grown and, shudder, matured. Not likely that The Pills of 1998 would or could have opened an album with a slowish classic ‘70s vibe like “Hang on Tight.” And singer/ guitarist Dave Thompson wouldn’t have delivered the aching falsetto of “Rock & Roll Heart” back in the day. No, these modern Pills (Thompson, guitarist/singer/keyboardist Dave Aaronoff, bassist/ singer Corin Ashley and drummer Jamie Vavra) are all grown up now, and taking chances like a big band. Which is not to say that everything works, nor that time/distance/maturity/whatever have completely rid the band of the obligations of Wide Awake. The 28-second “Continental Breakfast” feels like a nod-to-the-past afterthought (a RAWKING afterthought, but nevertheless). And after growing to love Dave’s larynx-shredding vocals on older material, I’m not totally convinced by that oh-so-angelic croon on “Rock & Roll Heart.” Having said that, the new directions are rather phenomenal. “You Could Have Kept That To Yourself” is nothing short of pretty, “Almost Inman Square” is a wistful C-minor ballad featuring acoustic guitars, and “Kissing the Dirt” brings a noir “Tea in the Sahara” vibe. And again, these tunes might not have made it a few years ago. But lest you think that the new Pills have lost their formula, take a gander at “Fighting Words” and “Slam Book.” Try to stay in your chaise lounge on those tunes, I dare you. Five years into their recording career, The Pills have made an album that takes quantum leaps from the starting line, yet retains a healthy reverence for the roots. It’s not 100% brilliant, but 80% of The Pills is preferable to 1,000% of John Mayer or 1,000,000% of Jason Mraz any day. This could be the start of something bigger.


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