All Music GuideA Fistful of Pills Review by John D. Luerssen Since 1995, The Pills have been Boston's preeminent power pop faction, blending a hard-hitting guitar assault akin to the Smithereens with the rapid roar of the Jam. A Fistful of Pills finds the group more forceful than ever, with the addition of one-time Shods and Mighty Might Bosstones guitarist Dave Aaronoff. The tight, bluesy blast of "Hang On Tight" starts the commotion that evolves into the quirky roar of "Butterfield 8." Fascinations with early Cheap Trick and the Knack abound, if the blistering "Good Thing Going" is any indication, and the undeniable, spirited delivery of tracks like "Brand New Pair of Eyes," and "Rock & Roll Heart" prove that whether it's bassist Corin Ashley, or guitarist David Thompson handling the lead vocal chores, the results are usually good. "Rub My Eyes" is even brilliant, recalling 1970s nuggets by the Records and Bram Tchaikovsky, but the thirty-second shot of "Continental Breakfast" is pretty disposable. The countrified "Ballad of Don Crawford" affirms suspicions that there could be more to the Pills in the future than just skilled, easily digested mod rock. Just the same, the bulk of A Fistful is a blast. Now take your medicine.
The Pills' third release is filled with songs that define a genre, giving me another record to play for people besides Mark Bacino's Pop Job when they ask me what I mean when I say I listen to Power Pop. The first half of A Fistful Of Pills finds the Boston boppers combining their trademark amphetamine pop muscle with enough of a melody dose to keep from knocking the listener out, although the hyper-speed 27 seconds of "Continental Breakfast" comes close.
The Pills deftly temper Who-style bombast ("Slam Book", "You Could Have Kept That To Yourself") with lilting '60s-inspired jangle ("Brand New Pair Of Eyes", "Rock & Roll Heart"), resulting in a record that is sure to satisfy fans of classic UK mod and pure American Power Pop equally. Throw in the album closing acoustic campfire shit-kicker, "Ballad Of Don Crawford", and A Fistful Of Pills is easy to swallow indeed.
- Joe Lutz
The Pills have now put out three albums, and about the only area in which they haven't steadily improved is album cover design, and I may be biased, since I thought the young woman on the cover of their debut was ultracute. Otherwise, The Pills have done what bands are supposed to do -- get better. As the band's songs get stronger and more sophisticated, the punky mod energy that they unleashed on their debut is still in plentiful supply. The Pills now harness that energy so that it serves the songs without overwhelming them.
So you end up with a disc that can be favorably compared to everything from early Elvis Costello & the Attractions to the poppier stuff on Nuggets to The Undertones to The Smugglers -- The Pills are that catchy, crackling and clever. Exhibit A is the riff ridden "Slam Book", with atypical screaming vocals and thick rhythm guitars panning all over the speakers. The verses are the structured sounds of things falling apart, while the bridge pulls things together with the majesty of Guided By Voices, leading into a chorus that is midway between Cheap Trick and The Young Fresh Fellows. (Of course, I don't mean that they sound exactly like any of these bands -- The Pills are comparable, not mere mimics).
Exhibit B is even better, and displays some of that sophistication I was talking about above. "Brand New Pair of Eyes" is a corker. This is a classic theme -- a guy telling his ex that she's made a mistake, and he's still the only one for her. Check out these clever observational lyrics: "Does he know about the secret spot between your shoulder blades/does he know to wrap his feet around your legs at night/does he know about your student loans/or the way your favorite rocking chair groans/as you rise to make the tea". The song also has a classic build up from throbbing mid-tempo groove to a blistering melodic guitar fueled chorus that shows an utter command of dynamics (the guitars dropping out as the title phrase is gently sung). Throw in the nifty keyboard dominated middle eight and a final chorus that has that extra bit of oomph to drive the song home...well, you have a goddamn great tune.
This track is equaled by the marvelous "Kissing the Dirt". The song starts off with an almost dub-like quality, with Corin Ashley playing deftly on the bass, and Dave Aaronoff providing multiple accents on the keyboards, including a cool psychedelic "Strawberry Fields"-like part near the end of the verse, that builds the bridge into the chorus. And the chorus provides a big time release, as a bed of acoustic guitars builds the melody into an exemplary pop-rock hook. By the end of the track, that hook is monolithic. The Pills other visits to the land of mellow don't venture out into such rocking extremes, but both the sweet "Almost Inman Square" (a Splitsville-worthy ballad) and "Rock and Roll Heart" (which does rock, but in an appropriately reserved way, with a great Beatleish touch at the end of the chorus) provide further evidence that The Pills have two ace songwriters (Ashley and guitarist David Thompson) who are not slaves to fast tempos.
The creativity on display here makes me think that The Pills are on par with so much of the wonderful music (incorrectly tagged as New Wave, back in the day) of the early-'80s, where so many great bands, from The Undertones to The Boomtown Rats, et al., accented their rock with other styles. Of course, sometimes it's their jagged catchy riffs that evoke that era -- for example, the dual guitar work on "Fighting Words" is reminiscent of early Joe Jackson and the best of 999.
Topping it all off is a the crisp sound of the record -- the band and Roger Lavallee handled the production chores quite well. (Kudos to Lavallee for his work on the Marxaphone too, though I don't have the slightest clue what that is). This record shows how maturity is not a dirty word, particularly when a band isn't wussing out. In addition to the aforementioned Splitsville and The Undertones, you can also compare this record favorably to bands such as Supergrass and The Wonder Stuff. The Pills might not quite be at that level, but, if not, they are really close, which is saying a lot.
Power-pop perfectionists the Pills return with ``Fistful of Pills.'' Detail Dave Aaronoff joins up for a tour of duty, and the results are glorious. From the tightly coiled guitars and delirious ``whoo-hoos'' of opener ``Hang on Tight'' to the wounded anger of watching the new boyfriend get to know your old girlfriend on ``Brand New Pair of Eyes'' to the straight-up country of the closer ``Ballad of Don Crawford,'' this is irresistible stuff. As usual it's advisable to fill this prescription. The Pills play T.T. the Bear's Place on Nov. 22 (www.pillsrock.com).
A Fistfull of Pills
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.
The Pills -- A Fistful of Pills
Coming in November, the city of Boston will be offering a fistful of pills that are surely not hard to swallow. Boston's own David Thompson, Corin Ashley, David Aaronoff and Jamie Vavra make up the talented group The Pills. A Fistful of Pills is the quartet's third album release from Primary Voltage Records. With The Pills' aggressive bi-coastal touring, and a strong following with the college students and indie radio airplay, this gives them all the rights to expose to you what the group likes to call 'amphetamine pop'.
What exactly is amphetamine pop? Listen to any of The Pills records and you shall find your definition. The band's innate ability to transfer the electric energy from their live performances to the recording studio is something amazing and makes you yearn for more. The Pills performs around 150 concert dates a year, so it is lucid that the band has strong cohesiveness. Having said that, consider The Pills the scientists of amphetamine pop. Their formula includes: raging energy within a song, a conscious blend of rock influences from Motown to 80's punk rock, and vocal harmonies that are second to none.
A Fistful Of Pills is a collection of 13 tracks full of musical surprises. The CD opens with the track entitled Hang On Tight. A great introductory piece filled with a riveting percussion foundation, a catchy hook, and a strong sense of guitars that embrace you throughout the song. Another standout from the collection is the song titled Brand New Pair of Eyes.This song displays the band's sense of versatility, and their influences of the various bands of the previous decades.
Rock and Roll Heart is a track that is a plea for a second chance with a particular lady that speaks to heart. With lyrics like "If it's truly over, take some time comprehend the loss. Have our souls been saved yet?" Someone is speaking from personal experience and that is the best material for a song, with a strong guitar solo for the ending. To understand what the Pills do the best, and hear amphetamine pop at its finest, then take a listen to the tracks, Slam Book and You Could Have Kept That To Yourself.
The band slows things down with Almost Inman Square, a lush rock and roll ballad with nice harmonic structure and a jazzy bass line transition. The energy is picked back up once again with Rub My Eyes. The energy comes through so profoundly on this track, that this song could be easily could be mistaken for a live track. The bands ends the CD with the folksy/country-tinged Ballad of Don Crawford.
In summation, The Pills have something that I have never seen before in liner notes: the actual chords to each of their songs. Also the band has an well-organized and informative website which brings add-on value to The Pills name. With an overabundance of energy, top-notch musicians, and quality material, these are some pills you can say yes to.
A little sugar helps these Pills
Like the pharmaceutical tablets from which they take their name, The Pills' offerings come in varying sizes and strengths. To the band's credit, the majority of the material on "The Pills Kick In" (Monolyth Record Group) goes down with ease, as though the pop-flavored guitar work of Clyde O'Scope and David Thompson was a spoonful of sugar. The Pills wear their influences proudly: the gorgeously Kinks-esque "Dictionary" fitting comfortably against the Zombies meet Elvis Costello hook of "Pop Goes Mandy" and "I've Got My Spies on You." If "Down with the Beautiful" is toio cutesy a number for a band with such well-defined muscle, they quickly make up for it.
Despite an obvious appreciate for the masters of the power-pop genre, The Pills are also capable of summoning more contemporary comparisions. "Thumb/Star" and "She's All Yours" sound as though they could just as easily have come from the California stomping grounds of The Vandals and The Mr. T Experience as from Boston. When The Pills' various elements synthesize as successfully as they do on "Spork," a contagiously catchy blast of bubblegum rock that found its way into a recent episode of "Dawson's Creek," the effect is addictive.The Pills perform at Bill's Bar tonight.
The Pills - Kick In (CD, Monolyth Record Group, Pop/rock)Fierce pumped up happy pop music played with fresh conviction and definite style. Opening up with the infectious, hyperactive "Pop Goes Mandy" these guys let the listener know immediately where they're coming from. The guitars are loud and the rhythms are speedy indeed, but neither get in the way of the band's soaring melodies. Drummer Jamie Vavra is a fantastic drummer, continually churning out a solid beat with tons of frenetic improvisation. Bassist/vocalist Corin Ashley keeps the throbbing bass lines going while guitarists/vocalists Clyde O'Scope and David Thompson spew out guitar chords with precision. The overall feeling when get listening to this band is the same feeling we get when we hear very early Beatles or even Elvis Costello before he hit it big. These men are excited about what they're doing and that natural energy shines comes across crystal clear...making their music really and truly "kick in". This album is chock full of instantly catchy tunes. Songs like "Musclecar," "Big Muff" (yeah!), "Spork," and "Dictionary" will have pop fans crawling through the cracks to get their hands on a copy. Do we love it? Hell YEAH!!! (Rating: 5+++)
The Pills: Wide Awake With The Pills (Monolyth)
Absolutely top-knotch, ass-kicking, power-popping madmen! No shit, these Boston based beatheads deserve a place in every modern person's multi-disc changer. From the opening salvo of "All That Way" to the very last note of "Scooter Gurl" this kicks serious ass. Do yourself a favor and visit their website at www.pillsrock.com and download a bite or two. But better still: order the damn thing from them right away!
The Pills - Wide Awake with The Pills
Self-described as "amphetamine pop", the power pop of this Boston quartet sticks in your head like a sugar-sweet addiction. Layers of dead-on harmonies build a well around the smart, catchy lyrics (She fills the room like stereo, when she go-go goes!). Driving bass, reved-up drums, and guitars trading slick licks and far-out effects make these Pills easy to swallow again and again and again...
The Pills have been Boston's best kept secret for too long. Their brand of straight-up power pop doffs a cap to the quintessential UK mod bands of the '60s, namely the Kinks and the Who, though they're a bit nippier than both. The songs are kept short and sweet, and rely heavily on mod themes - girls, mod girls, scooters, clothes and speed. Standout track, Scooter Gurl (She's So Faithful) does it's best to incoporate most of that stuff into it's 3 minutes 45 seconds; a song of almost epic proportions compared to the rest of Wide Awake (12 songs, a smidgen under 29 minutes). It's an enjoyable album from a band that aren't taking themselves too seriously, and apart from a slightly worrying tendency to tack on some inappropriate choppy ska guitar on a couple of occasions, there's much here to encourage the resurgence of fishtail parkas and purple hearts. (rating: 7)
It's rather ironic that the pills named their album Wide Awake With when I've actually found myself rendered a bit of an insomniac for the last couple days, thanks to a song of theirs that just refuses to leave my head. "The Devil's Song" is the title of my sleeplessness. It's your classic title of my sleeplessness. It's your classic goofy break-up song to the likes of Nerf Herder's "Sorry", full of energy, pseudo-anger, a quick ska-beat interlude, and sing-along goodness. In fact, about half of this album is just as lethally catchy, with enough hooks to catch a sea of fish.
The pills are floating somewhere in the indie-rock realm, borrowing occasionally from pop-punk but always including a touch of their own. This album is really just plain fun, with clever lyrics functioning primarily as dumb love songs. Their fast-paced distorted guitars aren't there just to make noise, either. There's a distinct feel that each song carries with it that, to be honest, just makes me want to run around the room in some kind of frenzied romp.
There really isn't a bad thing I can say about this album. It's nothing life-changing, granted, but it's a lot of fun for indie-rock and pop-punk fans alike. This is just one pretty goofy band with one damn entertaining album. And after theses songs implant themselves in your head, you'll wonder how you ever went on without them. Monolyth Record Group, PO Box 990980, Boston, MA 02199-0980.
Not to be confused with the industrial band of the same name signed to TVT, Boston's pills play rowdy rawk 'n' roll that takes its cues from both '70s lipstick punk and '80s power-pop. Tracks such as "All That Way", "Butternut", and "The Devil's Song" sound like the direct result of the pills members' intense repeated exposure to their older siblings' Elvis Costello and X albums. Other cuts, such as "Molly & Me" and "Scooter Gurl" procure a bratty, deftly melodic demeanor that recalls NYC's late-70s downtown rock scene. Overall, Wide Awake with the Pills" is a clever, brash slice of new wave power-pop that will appeal to fans of both punk and pop alike.
- Ron Hart -
Boston's pills play an infectious brand of guitar pop, a perfect hybrid of UK mod and classic American power pop sounds with hint of classic 70's punk thrown in for good measure. Their debut long player Wide Awake will hit you like the mod drug of choice they're named after and you won't suffer through any comedowns! Instead, you'll want to hit the repeat play button and listen to these zippy three minute pop songs all over again. In addition to being catchy, the songs are well written and have substance. "Butternut" is a hysterical tale about a beautiful loser - sort of a modern update of the "Happy Jack" theme - while other tracks like "All That Way", "Scooter Gurl", and "Molly & Me" are cleverly penned accounts on how a girl can liven up and/;or fuck up a guy's life. My favorite tune is probably the blistering "Soft", which opens up with a post punk powered riff not unlike Magazine's "Shot By Both Sides". I wish more bands would play rock 'n' roll the way the pills do. Loud, fast, and fun.
The Big Takeover The Pills are from Boston, and it's safe to assume that they spend most of their time in that city's easternmost reaches. Why? Because it's closer to England! That's to say that these guys are Anglophilic with a capital A. But it comes off as affectionate and fun, rather than mannered, and thus their modish music buzzes hard with humor, melody and intensity. "Real, Real gone" updates the Jam's gum-snapping dynamism with crunchy post-Nevermind studio muscle. "The Devil's Song" travels similar territory, but introduces a frenetic, Specials-recalling, ska-based rhythm. Despite the Brit flavor of much of the material, the quartet occasionally looks stateside for it's inspiration. "Soft" is a monstrous, melodic affair, bringing to mind a revved-up Cheap Trick doing battle with a no- nonsense Jellyfish. (Monolyth, Box 990980, Boston, MA 02199) Terry Banks
The pills are definitely Boston's best power pop band! The songs are fast, catchy, and have a great rhythm to them. "The Devil's Song" is a great pop tune with a hint of ska and should be getting airplay all over the place. These guys could be the next "big thing" out of Boston. Look, this disc is very cool. Just get out there and buy it!
- Denis Sheehan -
for fans of the Gigolo Aunts, the Figgs, Rip DizzyWide Awake with the Pills is a nice, fun little pop-punk album which pretty much appeared out of nowhere. The Pills are described on their website as incorporating into their music the sounds of such artists as XTC, The Kinks, Sloan, The Pretty Things, Cheap Trick and Joe Jackson; it's the last of those listed that come out the most, particularly as the Angry Young Man sounded during his "Look Sharp!" era. Still, the harmonies and catchy choruses of such songs as "Something About Nicola" and "Scooter Gurl" are certainly reminiscent of early XTC and Kinks.
The album clocks in at under half an hour, so even those who don't like it won't have to worry about the agony going on for that long. Realistically, though, it's so cheery and upbeat that it's far more likely that most will be thrilled at how many spins they can get in in a day.
The Pills - Wide Awake with the Pills (US Import)
American power pop at its very best. Is this revivalist? Is it retro? Who knows? And to be honest, who cares? Part 60s, part revival and part 90s power pop, the Pills are brash, fast and furious. If you like your guitar pop with read speed and dynamics, try the Pills, they'll give you a buzz.
Under The Volcano
Grooveadelic Rock 'n' Roll is what this effort's all about. Yes indeed, all 11 tracks are filled with poppy yet trippy '70's arena rock meets alternative / indie rock. There's a bountiful of soaring vox, catchy choruses and mega upbeat rhythm section patterns dominating the mix. A plateful of Peyote may be recommended for this listen.
Instant Magazine CD Review, Wide Awake with the Pills
These Boston based mod-rockers have been tearing up the local scene for the last few years and have finally released a CD. Wide Awake With owes just as much to the English mod rock scene as it does to plain old rock-n-roll. Equal parts The Who, The Kinks, and Gigolo Aunts, The Pills take the adage "Out With The Old, In With The New" and change it around so they take the old, take the new, spice it up and assault your senses with it. They are melodic, they rock, and they know how to put on a live show. Songs like "Real, Real Gone" and "Wide Awake" simply stick in your head and don't leave.
Amplifier Magazine Corin Ashley, the singer-bassist of Boston power punk outfit the Pills told me "Please feel free to compare us to the Jam as much as you'd like." Well, Ashley together with colleagues Clyde O'Scope (yeah right), Jamie Vavra & Dave Thompson make no bones about their source of inspiration and why should they? This assortment of 1979 post-punk gems may raise the collective ghosts of the Police, the Clash, XTC, the Pretenders, the Buzzcocks & of course Woking's finest but when it is delivered with such panache, wit, authority and straightforward pop smarts, nothing else matters except the music. Rightly so, because the best pop music always involves establishing that vital connection between heart and soul and doing it with a killer beat. -Kevin Mathews-