Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pretty Girls Make Graves-Elan Vital

I’m late to the game on this one, but whatever, so many cds and so little money to spend. When I stumbled upon a recent release by Pretty Girls Make Graves, I remembered that I really enjoyed their debut Good Health and then I remembered that they released a second album (The New Romance) that I thought was fairly well received even though I didn’t buy it. Why not pick up the third and see where they’ve gone in the four years since Good Health?
It’s nice to hear that P.G.M.G. are trying to expand their abilities, but the question is, when do you reach the point where you’re simply reaching too far?
Elan Vital finds the band leaving ’78 Avengers-esque material and perfectly timing their age with that of the underground in ’82. And like a lot of those same underground records in ’82, there’s a large percentage of unmemorable tracks that tend to overwhelm the ones you wished you hadn’t forgotten.
There’s a few really good songs on Elan Vital (“The Nocturnal House” and the dreamy ballad “Pearls On A Plate” stand out). Unfortunately, you’ll probably forget about them in a year or two because the rest of the album is littered with a lot of half-baked ideas seemingly based on the notion that “Hey, it’s our third album so we really should have a trumpet on this track.”
As a result, the album is plagued with inconsistencies as the band tries their hand at different directions before they’ve even attempted to master the one they originally started with. Take “Parade,” which starts by asking “are you happy with what you got?” before urging the masses to “hang up their apron strings” and call their “auntie” to go marching in the streets. I’m not sure if I even have an “auntie,” but I’m positive that nobody in my family (male or female) has even owned an apron in the past half century. It’s a song better suited for a different generation and for a different band entirely. It’s also the song that got me wondering: what happened to Pretty Girls Make Graves?
Every song seems intent on starting a different approach, halfassed challenging themselves with placing the majority of the burden on the listener, particularly ones like me that at one time championed them.
Whereas before P.G.M.G. had a unique Avengers-meet-Fugazi vibe going before, they’ve managed to completely lose any sense of identity in the process of trying to find out who they want to become.

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