The Crack Pipes
Beauty School (Sonic Surgery)
Reviewed by Michael Toland, Fri., Oct. 20, 2017
When a band known for garage rock makes its Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the results usually don't live up to either its ambitions or its prior achievements. That's not the case for the Crack Pipes' Beauty School. Originally released in 2005, the third LP from the Austin quartet revels in its music nerd membership raiding their substantial record collections for inspiration beyond Sixties garage psych sampler Nuggets or blues-punk archivists Fat Possum Records. Not satisfied to simply regurgitate the signature hard-rocking sound of the latter institution, the Crack Pipes instead showcase a wide but logical diversity, expanding on its foundation with successful excursions into soul, country, and psychedelia. Given the variety of approaches documented here, the band bolsters a sonic palette beyond its guitar/bass/drums/harmonica core. Horns, guest vocals, prominent keyboards, and even, on the instrumental reprise of the title track, strings and autoharp all throw in. Despite setting off in so many directions, the album doesn't feel like a various artists compilation. The avant-garde electronics of "East Side Injections" contrast with the James Brown funk of "Make Out Party," yet both tracks feel cut from the same Cracked cloth. The album's heart resides in "Q&A," a flowering mini-epic that begins with soulful spoken social commentary before erupting into a frenzied blaze of rock & roll. Revived as a double LP set with improved artwork and a careful remaster that makes the music really sing on vinyl, this definitive edition of Beauty School is the Crack Pipes' masterpiece.