Rx - Loose Pills (Off The Hip)
With a band lineage like The Eastern Dark, the New Christs, Orange Humble Band, Happy Hate Me Nots, Lemonheads, Pyramidiacs, The Scruffs and Eva Trout among others, you’d have high expectations and “Rx”, the debut album for Sydney supergroup Loose Pills, matches the label on the bottle.
The doctor says this is a dozen pop-rock songs to be taken with good times, as many times a day as you see fit, and you should take that advice seriously. These are “grown up” songs where you can play Spot The Influence - of which there are many - or simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
“Not The Driver” was the lead-off on the EP of the same name and remains the benchmark for the rest of the songs to meet. The good news is that most of them go close - and in a few instances (“Stop”, “Nail” and “Please”) even exceed.
The plaintive voice of Ryan Elsmore runs through these dozen songs like a racing stripe on a production racing car. Here’s a guy who grew up on Big Star, The Replacements and all the usual ‘60s influences and who manages to sound like himself. The Matthew Sweet-like “This City” might just be his best vocal moment here, dripping in emotion and aided and abetted by some cracking guitar and moody keys.
Elsmore’s first band of note, The Stiffies, came from the NSW Mid North Coast. They and the subsequent Hammerfish (whose ranks included Pills drummer Stu Wilson) distilled all that stuff in a blender - and sounded nothing like Loose Pills. He wrote all but three of the songs so he’s the major element on that front. Most of "Rx" was going to be his solo album.
His guitar sparks nicely off that of Matt Galvin whose credentials are self-evident (Barbarellas, modern-day Happy Hate Me Nots and The Scruffs being the most relevant.) Hell, he even spent five minutes in Tactics. Have a listen to the pyrotechnics he and Ellsmore indulge in on “Walls” for it to all make sense. A vocal from him on the sole cover, The Spikes’ “She’s Melting”, lends the album variety but it’s the six-string stuff that you’ll appreciate most. He’s a vastly under-rated player.
Drummer Stu Wilson adds his own voice on his own “Please” and “Dragged Down” and locks in with bassist Bill Gibson to form a V-8 engine. Of course great rock and roll lives and dies by the bass and drums. Here’s where the pop herein derives its power. The whole package is embellished by occasional colourings of keys and trumpet from Mick O’Regan and Peter Kelly respectively.
The recording is by Grant Shanahan at Leisure Suit Studios. Sure sounds fine and well-rounded to these ears with all the elements transparently in place. The guitars in particular have ample room to breathe.
Loose Stools? Loo Spills? You can have a lot of fun with a band name. The band says this is an album that had to happen after most of the members had played with each other in various configurations. I believe them.
Hate to keep harping about how devoid Sydney is of durable live music and how the pop end of the spectrum is no longer recognisable to what held sway 20 years ago, but Loose Pills counter-balance all that with “Rx”. Bearing that in mind, I think I even gave them their first live gig. All that remains now is for you to click the link below and buy it.