REVIEW: The Pills - Take Your Pills

Kelly Kirwan

There are two sides to the psych-rock coin; the dizzying, distorted heights of frenetic riffs—firing off in streaks of neon across a song's arrangement—and the more subdued waves of lo-fi guitar twangs offset by a steadily chugging percussion. The sort of trance-like buzz that often goes hand-in-hand with a gentle mind-altering experience, leaving you loose and dreamy in a world of brighter and broader color. For or our midwestern friends that have set up shop in Chicago’s alternative scene, The Pills, we have the kind of late 60’s revival that leans more towards the mellow.

Their tunes are for gentle teetering between the heels and balls of your feet--a crowd that sways in tandem--with the occasional head-bang for when their melodies flirt with that amped, hallucinogenic delirium. Their album, Take Your Pills, wryly references that pupils-dilated subculture most famously represented in the summer of '69, which sought a little wrangling in their perception with the help of an LSD strip. It's an album title that also puts a pleasurable spin on that old adage of sitting tight and taking one's medicine. And it's in the space between those references that The Pills exist--what you crave also just happens to do your body good (or your earbuds, specifically). 

Drummer, singer, lyricist, producer (and seemingly jack-of-all-trades) Max Barnett led The Pills on this follow-up to last year’s Real Cheese—delivering seven groove-laden tracks. The more subdued tempo of their tracks fosters a warm, sedated environment—you feel at ease amid their melodies, which have the sort of structure of a kaleidoscope’s inner image—rich colors swirling in no set pattern. On tracks like Is There Any Other Way, you slip into a welcome lethargy, as if inspired by the act of a snake charmer, instilling a sense of calm with the tangy-spiral of their notes. It’s easily a top pick off Take Your Pills for the ease in which it rolls along, the guitars and drums working in a repetitive tandem—their interplay instantly familiar, feeling like a lost remnant from a Beatles—Beach Boys hybrid with a modern twist. “I’m thinking of a time/When everything is fine…what if I could disappear/there’d be no fear” Barnett sings in his high head-bound pitch, and we feel relaxed as our thoughts run off on tangents, as if The Pills were the push in a domino sequence. It’s top notch. 

Equally enticing is Only Children, which is even softer than Is There Any Other Way in its opening delivery. The track shimmers with soft cymbal tapping and Barnett's airy voice, before breaking into a melody that's a complete change of pace. It's a sly move, a song within a song, the latter half focused on slow strumming and a rolling dorm line that's still downtempo but deliberate in its every move. You don't even realize it presses on for just under ten minutes–just as you don't realize when Take Your Pills is nearing its end. Because, the band's songs fit seamlessly into your experience. They're unassuming but not soon forgotten–a lesson that feels intuitively learned, or a pill that goes down smooth.