Stereogum darlings and DIY art punks Pill are back, louder, skronkier and more rebellious than ever. Their second studio album Soft Hell — out this Friday but premiering here today — follows up their 2016 debut Convenience and 2017 EP Aggressive Advertising. It’s a full-throttle assault on boring, empty, complacent music that’s so crammed with sound and substance that it feels like you could peel apart the 12 tracks cheese-stick style into two full albums.
The four-piece squeezes their interpolated avant-garde jazz, scrupulous math rock, pungent hardcore, and inventive riot grrrl shouting into a super-compact space. However it never becomes harsh or excessive. Instead, all the noise floods around catchy, head-bashing melodies, of the sort that make body sitting at a desk crave a dark basement to flail around in. It’s heavy on distorted guitar chaos, but piercing saxophone squawks courtesy of Benjamin Jaffe paint electric color onto the dark, stormy sounds. Veronica Torres eviscerates on bass and as a vocalist with her typical venom. She squeals, sneers, and taunts, occasionally in Spanish, and occasionally in spoken-word form, about the paradoxes of power, gender, exploitation, political paralysis, and social implosion.
It’s loaded with acrid, sewer-dark humor and a stinging critical eye that starts with the title (intended to evoke sexual bondage, NYC’s bourgeoisie rat race, and “the cyclical monotony of humans harming one another” all in two syllables) and is kneaded into nearly every track. It’s a cathartically angry album, Torres’ screams in particular, but Pill aren’t looking for activist accolades or trying to make “soapbox, manifesto music.” Drummer Andrew Spaulding emphasized in a press release: “Calling this political music in 2018 is basically redundant.” Pill is just making music that sounds like how they they feel, and they’re furious, freaked out, and occasionally amused — an emotional palate they’ve transformed into a masterful and fantastic set of shit-kicking punk songs.
Take an early listen to Soft Hell below.
Soft Hell is out 10/26 on Mexican Summer. Pre-order it here.