Pretty Girls Make Graves, 'The New Romance' (Matador)

6
The New Romance
Critical Mass
Label: Matador

by Will Hermes

"She wants it now / And she will not wait / But she's too rough / And I'm too delicate," warbled Morrissey on the Smiths' "Pretty Girls Make Graves," a song that trembles alongside "Girlfriend in a Coma," "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others," and "Girl Afraid" in one of the more gynophobic oeuvres in rock history. But Andrea Zollo and the lanky boys who took their band name from the song aren't trying to scare anyone, even if lines like "Two knuckles gone / Bitten from the thumb of the digit / Meant to keep us satisfied" make getting to third base seem extremely dangerous. In sex, as in their swashbuckling post-punk, they just have extremely high standards.

Besides, The New Romance sounds nothing like the Smiths--except maybe "The Teeth Collector," which resembles a sped-up, pissed off "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out." Pretty Girls believe in anthems, which would be irritating if they didn't make you believe, too. Good Health, their breathless 27-minute debut, had plenty; the best (like "Speakers Push the Air") were about music and the impossible desire it both mirrors and fuels.

Romance is more diffuse, but the best songs run with a simple idea, like "This Is Our Emergency," which seems to demand conviction from a fickle lover and the equally fickle alt-rock nation. "Soon it spreads from state to state / From Williamsburg to Silverlake," Zollo booms, urging moshers to marshal their passions into movements with a brio the Dems should study. Of course, she has it easy. With her mighty pipes (pitched between Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker and the Gossip's Beth Ditto), a bunch of bellowing dudes to court the male vote, and swarming stereo-war guitars polished by Built to Spill producer Phil Ek, getting the message out is a lot easier than stumping through primaries. And Pretty Girls' platform--mainly about replacing depressed, do-nothing solitude with activist solidarity and hot fun in the basement--is probably more captivating than anything the pols will offer in New Hampshire this January. If Zollo can provide her generation with a better rallying cry than "Free File Sharing Now!," she has my vote.

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