Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2003
'I heard a record and it opened my eyes," goes the pivotal line in "Speakers Push the Air," the opening song on "Good Health," last year's debut album by the Seattle quintet Pretty Girls Make Graves. The record's passionate immediacy opened a lot of people's eyes to the possibility that punk still had potential, but the group was talking about something beyond its own ability to grab your attention. "Nothing else matters when you turn it up loud," shouted vocalist Andrea Zollo, letting it be known that she listens to music for the same reasons you do.
On their second album, "The New Romance," PGMG moves further toward punk as a spiritual obsession, even as they stray further from the form itself. Zollo sings like a woman who knows how to control her feelings but would just as soon not. "Make it electric," she demands on the throbbing statement of purpose, "Something Bigger, Something Brighter," which connects with a satisfying stainless-steel snap to the following cut, "The Grandmother Wolf." Bassist Derek Fudesco, formerly of the traditionalist punk band Murder City Devils, has developed a funkier edge to his playing and teamed up with another MCD veteran, drummer Nick Dewitt, to set the pace in more ways than just rhythm. The pair often commandeer the melodic development that Zollo and guitarists J Clark and Nathan Thelen would normally be in charge of.
But melody isn't the key to PGMG's appeal. "Teeth Collector," a raw piece of meat, uses off-beats to drive home Zollo's point about how easy it is to tell and believe lies, and the discordant momentum of "Holy Names" pulls the listener along behind it. "If you don't know, then you won't know," Zollo says about this mysterious force in "The New Romance," a Farfisa-led new wave song that conjures up the flailing energy of The Au Pairs. The best music doesn't need explanation.