On last year’s 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 – they’re here to remind you themselves.
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…let’s get out of this mess." (Yo, Seattle!) "I’m fine," Zollo insists on "Blue Lights," and though you know she’s anything but, 'The New Romance' is hardly about wallowing; Pretty Girls Make Graves are all about the galvanizing power of their music. The album’s high point is the inspirational "This Is Our Emergency," which reminds us not to give up on the few dreams we have left. "It hasn’t 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 seconds.
Some people are gonna say that 'The New Romance' is the album of the year, but forget that: It’s 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.