September 9, 2003
last years debut, Pretty Girls Make Graves asked, "Do
you remember when the music meant something?" Now, with their
bigger, brighter followup 'The New Romance', Pretty Girls Make Graves
are through with questions theyre here to remind you
Pretty Girls Make Graves formed in Seattle in 2001, fused together
out of the still glowing embers of nearly a dozen important groups.
Andrea and Derek had played together in Death Wish Kids and Area
51 along with Dann Gallucci, with whom Derek formed the popular
Murder City Devils. Shortly before the Murder City Devils called
it quits, he and Andrea started Pretty Girls Make Graves with Jay
(who was in Kill Sadie and Sharks Keep Moving) and Nick and Nathan
(both in Bee Hive Vaults). The band released an EP on DimMak before
releasing their debut album 'Good Health' on Lookout in April 2002.
If 'Good Health' was the exhilarating sound of five people mashing
their myriad ideas and influences into fresh noise, 'The New Romance'
is the sound of one incredibly confident band capable of anything.
Brilliantly produced by Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, Les
Savy Fav), 'The New Romance' magnifies Pretty Girls Make Graves
songcraft and technical prowess while letting some air into their
songs and keeping things in crisp focus. Every song on 'The New
Romance' is an anthem, yet without traditional verses and choruses.
Tension builds and shifts without conventional release, as moments
of glassy beauty and rousing aggression trade sides. Dissonant,
spiralling guitar parts butt up against handclaps and singalongs.
Deep and creepy rhythms undermine pop sensibilities, then give way
to swaggering beats moments later. As CMJ wrote, "the notion
that hard rock should be not only intellectually stimulating and
structurally imaginative, but just plain fucking enjoyable, doubles
as their theme and M.O."
Lead singer Andrea Zollo is ferocious, sultry, and whip-smart. She
sings about separation, sedation, television, boredom, sadness,
and addiction and does so with enough urgency to snap you
out of all six. Basically, she wants you to get off your ass. "We
want more than memories," she sings in "The Grandmother
Wolf." "All Medicated Geniuses" bemoans a "spent
and sick" city where "our ideas die so quickly"
maybe the same city of "A Certain Cemetary," where the
feelings are "as dark as this town
lets get out
of this mess." (Yo, Seattle!) "Im fine," Zollo
insists on "Blue Lights," and though you know shes
anything but, 'The New Romance' is hardly about wallowing; Pretty
Girls Make Graves are all about the galvanizing power of their music.
The albums high point is the inspirational "This Is Our
Emergency," which reminds us not to give up on the few dreams
we have left. "It hasnt been in vain," sings Zollo
(listen closely, you can almost hear her fist in the air), "unfulfillment
is killing you." The song is a masterpiece, a rousing alarm
claxon, a middle-finger raised against apathy, and a group hug all
rolled up into an utterly essential three minutes and forty-four
Some people are gonna say that 'The New Romance' is the album of
the year, but forget that: Its the album of the moment. So
put down your iPod and quit Googling yourself. This is your emergency,
too, ya know.
The New Romance? Pucker up, tiger.