Pretty Girls Make Graves - Elan Vital (Cover Artwork)

Pretty Girls Make Graves

Pretty Girls Make Graves: Elan VitalElan Vital (2006)
Matador Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: Matt_WhelihanMatt Whelihan
(others by this writer | submit your own)

When I've seen Pretty Girls Make Graves perform, they have always put on a convincing live show, one that transfers their raw post-punk energy and excellent musicianship into a tangible experience. Singer Andrea Zollo never misses a note, while bassist Derek Fudesco demands attention thanks to his m.
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When I've seen Pretty Girls Make Graves perform, they have always put on a convincing live show, one that transfers their raw post-punk energy and excellent musicianship into a tangible experience. Singer Andrea Zollo never misses a note, while bassist Derek Fudesco demands attention thanks to his massive stature and constant swaying, and drummer Nick Dewitt always drops creative beats and unexpected changes. Still, what steals the attention of my eyes most were guitarists Jay Clark and Nathan Thelen. Just watching their hands, as they frantically scamper across the fret board like escaped prisoners not sure which way to run, is well worth the ticket price alone. Their dagger-like riffing is never muddled or off, but instead intersected in feats of post-punk angularity.

So, when word came that Thelen had left the band to spend more time with his daughter and was shortly thereafter replaced by multi-instrumentalist Leona Marrs, I began to worry. How could a band that was based around dual buzzsaw guitar spasms still possibly bring the rock when down one guitarist? Well, after hearing Elan Vital, I now know that Pretty Girls Make Graves have an array of tactics at their disposal, as shedding the description "guitar-driven" has left them with nothing but room to explore.

The new sound of Pretty Girls Make Graves is one that is much more rhythm-heavy and minimalist. Each instrument stands out nicely when played and seems wholly appropriate when restrained. Still, certain attributes of the band have not disappeared. Zollo's vocals are, as always, both beautiful and passionate, and while the band may seem a bit more relaxed on Elan Vital, Dewitt's drumming is far from mere backing in its innovative and driving approach.

Over the course of the album you will hear everything from building synth-driven pop ("Pyrite Pedestal"), to funk guitar-laced stomps ("Domino"), accordion-led rockers ("Selling the Wind") and eerie Cure-like dirges ("Pearls on a Plate"). Hell, even bassist Derek Fudesco takes over on lead vocals for perhaps Elan Vital's most sparse track "Pictures of a Night Scene." A thudding bass drum leads a song of minimal bass, piano, percussion, and saxophone blurts, while Fudesco ditches his signature yell for near whispered vocals.

The album's standout track however, may be the immediately catchy anthem of workers' revolt, "Parade." Lead by what is possibly Elan Vital's best melody, "Parade" offers nothing more than a repetitive keyboard line, pounding drum beat, and pulsing bass-line in the music department, yet its simplicity is easily surpassed by its accessibility and pop smarts.

Quite often musical experiments can blow up in a band's face, leaving the members looking like confused cartoon characters with sooty cheeks and singed hair. Luckily for Pretty Girls Make Graves the addition of new instrumentation, as well as exploring new approaches to songwriting, has left them not only unscathed, but with their most diverse and compelling release to date.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (May 9, 2006)

murder city devils kill this band in every way

pasha (May 9, 2006)

Good album. I preffered the last one, but this is defintaly a grower.

kissdistinctlyamerican (May 9, 2006)

I'm so tired of synth.

Nathan needs to re-join.

Jesse (May 8, 2006)

Hey Matt, great review. Haven't heard enough of this album, but this review is pretty perfect for a standard, by the book piece of writing.

Anonymous (May 8, 2006)

This is cool. This is better: myspace.com/twoleftfeetrocks

Anonymous (May 7, 2006)

the vocals were horrible

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

good songwriting, but overall not as much of an impression as the last records. Solid.


GreenVandal (May 5, 2006)

I havent heard this yet, but I wasn't too big a fan of The New Romance. It wasn't bad or anything, but certainly far from memorable. But I will always love this band because they created Good Health. Good Health is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I can never understand how anyone could talk about the New Romance instead of it.

Their dual guitar attack was the core of their sound, so I am quite interested to hear what this sounds like. When you mentioned it being more minimalist and rhythmic, I found myself looking forward to it.

Also, this bands drummer is fucking amazing. Score is for the drummer and all of Good Health.

SlackMFr (May 5, 2006)

I like "The New Romance" much better, but this is a really good album also.

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)


FortyMinutesWesterberg (May 5, 2006)

Fathead > Matt Whelihan

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

i was at that irving plaza show too. the only thing i remember about their set was my brother turning to me saying "this band should change their name to chubby girl sings songs"

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

band tai..gatel sing reviw mesti cah ndangdut!!!

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

i saw PGMG open for alkaline years ago at irving plaza.
before the show my friend kept telling me they were awesome.
i blacked out before the end of their set, so who knows

iamfuckyou (May 5, 2006)

this record = horrible.

to think that derek used to be in Murder City is just a modern day tragedy. sad.

branden (May 5, 2006)

from far away this kinda looks like a bob marley shirt

RRK (May 5, 2006)

I don't think a better album will be released this year. I love the other two albums, but this blows them both away.

Archangel (May 5, 2006)

This is so uninspired compared to The New Romance.

danperrone (May 5, 2006)

yeah, this is just way too boring for me

this band used to kick ass too

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

this web site is cool

Anonymous (May 5, 2006)

i completely agree about "parade". excellent song and album

swingline (May 5, 2006)

really boring.

ElVaquero (May 5, 2006)

This is the only positive review I've seen of this everywhere, the change is too forced and they lost the punch that made them unique. It was a bad move to try and experiment!

: (

the_ken_chin_imposter (May 5, 2006)

As far as this genre of music goes, You Say Party, we say Die! is the best band out there. Pretty Girls make graves are alright too.

plaidical (May 5, 2006)

first time I heard this was in my car on a sunny, warm day with very little traffic. it was so boring to me that I turned it off at about the fourth song.
later I came back and gave it more tries, and this is a solid release. different from the last few for sure, but I havnt gotten into them until now, so its not shocking for me. seeing them friday at metro, and stoked.

joeg (May 5, 2006)

I didn't like this at first like I'm sure a lot of people but this grew on me after a few listens. Another solid effort.

SalsaShark (May 5, 2006)

This sort of stuff usually isn't my cup of tea, but I like this band.

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