Boston Globe


Uppers: The Pills

BY JONATHAN PERRY | Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001

It's a wonder a band that bills itself as "amphetamine pop" can't sit still. A frenetic live show, relentless touring, and a seemingly endless capacity to write fast, frothy hooks is all in a day's work for the Pills, a Boston foursome that has just released its second album, "Kick In," on the local Monolyth label. The band headlines T.T. the Bear's Place Friday night as part of an international club tour.

"After doing this many shows" -- the Pills average 150 per year -- you put us on the stage and we know what to do," says singer-bassist Corin Ashley. "If you're at the bar and have had a few cocktails, we will turn your head and you will feel compelled to buy a CD." If Ashley appears a tad confident, it's with good reason. Although the new disc and 1999's debut, "Wide Awake with the Pills" (winner of a Boston Music Award), offer good examples of its soundm you have to attend a concert to appreciate the band's energy, grit, and vitality.

When the group -- which also includes singer-guitarists Cory Harding and David Thompson and drummer Jamie Vavra -- formed five years ago, the guys were after an often elusive sound that combined melodies with muscle. "It seems as if there's always been this discrepancy between bands that have harmonies and bands that rock," says Ashley. "We tried being a band that brings that together."

They've succeeded. The Pills' dovetailing three-part harmonies, slicing electric guitars, and feverish rhythmic shifts evoke both the sparking power pop of groups like the Raspberries and the Shoes and the spiky Brit-style punk of the Buzzcocks and the Jam. A more recent influence is the Canadian export Sloan and the Flashing Lights. In fact, one of the group's new songs, "Halifax," is a love letter to the city that spawned Sloan, one of Ashley's favorite bands.

The 13 tracks that make up "Kick In," says Ashley, were culled from an astounding 40 songs the band penned for the new album. Tunes like "Down with the Beautiful" and "Spork" (heard recently on the TV show "Dawson's Creek") blissfully carpet bomb your brain with chewy choruses and catchy hooks. The arrangements display new-found cohesiveness and sophistication, sounding almost diabolically perfect.


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