Pill’s new album begins with a scream. After a short percussion intro on the first song, “60 Sec.,” Veronica Torres comes in with a blood-curdling sound that swings between guttural shriek and chest-vibrating snarl, continuing in intensity as noisy guitars and a barrage of shouted lyrics enter, some of which blend into the noise, while others emerge in focus (for example: “Contemporary colonialism / What a pretty thing I can buy for myself”). Not a bad start for the band’s full-length debut.
But it's not an entirely representative one either. Though the shriek, snarl, and intensity all return at points throughout Convenience, they come wrapped up in shades of nuance and joined by other varied voices that Torres masters. On “Which Is True?” she slips into a Patti Smith–style chant, spouting poetry over the nervous hum of post-punk bass; in “J-E-N-O-V-A,” she sings in a quiet, scared whisper, conjuring the image of a lone figure trapped in the tunnel of a bad dream as indistinct sounds buzz around her; in “My Rights,” her she switches between yelps, shouts, and one instance of a line melting into a pretty melody (“my decision to bring life”). Alongside her partners in Brooklyn DIY (Andrew Spaulding, Benjamin Jaffe, and Jon Campolo), Torres wields a voice to match the wildness of music that is rooted in punk but follows the clever whims of its skilled creators—through no-wave experimentation, saxophone jazz, and whatever energetic impulses come their way.
The messages in Convenience are as nuanced as the voice that relays them. Much of the album materializes at that boisterous intersection of politics and emotion, engaging with issues of identity, attachment, and above all, power. In “My Rights,” the feminist dictum is overt: “My body my fight / Congressman wants to steal all of my rights.” In “Dead Boys,” Pills shrouds their beliefs in a song about lust, singing, “All you dead boys / I’m a girls’ girl.” In direct tension with its title, “100% Cute” barks over a hostile surf-rock riff, “My flesh smells best with you on top of me… / Defeat, defeat, defeat me / I wither at the touch.” In the single, “Medicine,” a completely enrapturing song and one of the bounciest on the album, Torres repeats, “The war is over!” while keeping the nature of the battle abstract.
Amid all the ferocity, though, exists a sense of playfulness. In “Speaking Up,” a script about workplace sexual harassment, Pill includes a frowning emoticon at the end of a line (“No I won’t get you a coffee :-(”), situating the drama in an online chat and adding a note of ironic distance. In other songs such as “Vagabond,” they take other liberties with form, creating a list of phrases to append to the word “vagabond” in each line. Throughout the lyrics on the album, they plant marks of experimental flourishes, slashes and dashes that read like the breathless poetry of Emily Dickinson (but louder and meaner). In the shape and content of the lyrics, in Torres’ snarls, yelps, and screams, and in the exuberant touches of sax, Pill proves that playfulness and ferocity are not mutually exclusive.
Catch Pill on Tour
Sept. 4 - Brooklyn, NY @ Aviv (Summer's End Music Festival 2016)
Sept. 5 - Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor
Sept. 7 - Nashville, TN @ Drkmttr ^
Sept. 8 - St. Louis, MO @ Foam ^
Sept. 9 - Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
Sept. 10 - Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
^ w/ Guerilla Toss
Oct. 14 - Brussels, BE @ Orangerie*
Oct. 15 - Groningen, NL @ Vera*
Oct. 16 - Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli (Pandora)*
Oct. 17 - Cologne, DE @ Gebäude 9*
Oct. 18 - Berlin, DE @ SO36*
Oct. 19 - Prague, CR @ MeetFactory*
Oct. 20 - Munich, DE @ Strom*
Oct. 22 - Bologna, IT @ Covo Club*
Oct. 23 - Milan, IT @ Biko*
Oct. 25 - Zurich, CH @ Rote Fabrik*
Oct. 26 - Strasbourg, FR @ La Laiterie*
Oct. 27 - Paris, FR @ TBD
Oct. 29 - Brighton, UK @ TBD
Oct. 30 - London @ The Shacklewell Arms
* w/ Parquet Courts