When Pretty Girls Make Graves released their 2003 album The New Romance, I didn't think there was any way for it to not make the majority of critics' top 10 lists. It made some, but an album that cracked a window long painted shut and let the air flow through the tomb of modern music deserved better.
There were many factors that made it a great album. Having a great, fresh sound was one of them due in large part to their guitarists Jay Clark and Nathan Thelen. So believe me when I say that when Pretty Girls Make Graves were in the position of having to replace a guitarist - Thelen left in 2004 - and decided to do so with a keyboardist, I was equally torn between worry for the sound that I had come to know and love and admiration for the balls it must have took to make such a drastic change. Mix that with a sprinkling of "Are you fucking nuts???" and you have my colorful plethora of emotions on the subject.
The first listen and every subsequent listen of Élan Vital will always remind me that I am an overreactive pussy that needs to trust the artist. Élan Vital is every bit as good as I should have known it to be, and the addition of aforementioned keyboardist Leona Marrs has the band leapfrogging down the line of the evolutionary chart once again. Indeed, the added estrogen of Marrs have given the band a softer edge, but if "edge" was what you ever looking for in Pretty Girls', then just put in an L7 album and shut the fuck up.
There's a seemingly calculated luster and sheen to this album that would usually do songs like "The Nocturnal House" and "Bullet Charm" a disservice, but again, this band knows what they're doing. Singer Andrea Zollo does some of the best work of her career and until every single person with a shred of musical taste acknowledges her uniqueness, I will be forever baffled. While certainly influenced by the whole riot grrrl thing, there really hasn't been a female vocalist in the movement that made you love her femininity just as much as her "don't fuck with me" attitude.
This album has been dismissed/praised for embracing the 80's sound that's so popular with the kids these days, but to tell you the truth, I'm just not hearing it unless their basis of judgment is the keyboard thing. And if that's the case, then there's a virtual epidemic of tunnel vision going on. Depending on your social circle, the word "keyboard" could be either the basis of your thoroughly bitchin' music collection, or in my case, the bane of it. Nowadays I'm just glad we have albums like Élan Vital to set the standard of what a damn good album can be.
8.2 / 10
While there definitely are problems with musical priority in this album, after listening to Good Health, the most negative thing I can say about this album is it pales in ...
Posted May 3, 2004, 12:04 p.m.
The Wrong Side (AKA Dumptruck) sign to Stillborn Records. One of their new songs, "A War On Words", can be heard here. It's unmastered! The Wrong Side will also ...
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