Review Summary: And the tape is clicking on and on
Back in the beginning of 2007, when Seattle based art-punkers Pretty Girls Make Graves announced their impending split after a few additional shows it really didn’t come as much of a surprise. The tension was not only apparent on record but it was pretty easy to tell in a live atmosphere, on stage it almost exuded off of them. Really it was something that gave the band’s first few recordings such a visceral sense of urgency in the first place, it was never a drawback in the musical sense. They managed to walk the line between noise and pop with ease, almost willingly taking hops into either side as they please. This tenacity was always a strong point of PGMG, making their early records, not to mention live sets, a cluster*** of buzzy emotion.
Conflict was bound to rise with the self-described ‘jam band’ recorders though. Giving equal footing to one another in the studio, as lead singer Andrea Zollo described herself and the band (to exclaim.ca) as extremely strong minded,
but that they tended not to agree musically.
It helped diversify the record, and you can hear the gang-recording in the music, the LP feels almost communal, as if Zollo is just a representative of the hoard. Her own personal diatribes transcending to those of the masses; it also helps that the music is epic. Good Health
is less a record of a singular mind or idea, and more of a collection of thoughts and aspirations of a distanced 20-something learning life’s stupid lessons all at once and usually away from home. It’s engaging, jarring, accessible but still technical, loud and hook laden -- oh yeah, and punk as ***.
The break-up aside, when the band followed up their stellar debut EP with this album it was almost a logical progression. The rougher hardcore edges of their brand of booming art-punk were smoothed. They began to rely more heavily on the guitar work of J Clark and Nathan Thelen, allowing them to craft killer licks rather than a mash of chaos (“More Sweet Soul” & “If You Hate Your Friends…”) Derek Fudesco’s bass is still the main source of reverb, as he’s mixed gut wrenchingly low and raw, but it just propels the manic drum work of Nick Dewitt, who can easily take the spotlight if he tries (see “Ghosts In The Radio” & “Sad Girls Por Vida.”) His mix of classic jazz drumming paired with a hardcore penchant for off-beats just enhances the structure being placed around him.
Really the drums are the weight that keep the band’s feet planted firmly in the squall, regardless of how hard they may try for organization. He and Fudesco keep the music on edge; which is imperative for a collection of songs so heavily reliant on their volatile mash of noise, jangle and clash. Pretty Girls Make Graves are more than adept and Good Health
practically bleeds pop-savy technicality, each song rife with infectious riffs, maniac drums and almost an overabundance of fist-pumping, head-banging hooks.
As it kind of always was and definitely would blatantly become, Good Health
is still the Andrea Zollo show. Honestly it’s probably the best season, her invigorated yelps and thunderous growls are at their fullest, even her softer performance on “The Get Away” exhibits a venomous quality. Though, this whole I could kick your ass
persona Andrea exudes is just a bonus to her performances on record. There are times when she just seriously sounds psychotic (album standout “By The Throat”), in the best way possible. Her ability to switch from an angelic coo to a earth-shaking scream on a dime was always impressive, but it was her proficiency with which she uses her voice that always made her stand out. It wasn’t so much that she could
, but more so that Andrea knew when and where to stick the tension, or to bring back the hooks -- and regardless of how the band may have been writing the tunes in the studio, it was still Zollo who was the selling point in the end.
Her on record persona (not to mention gravitational stage presence), albeit a bit rough, was never too concerned with itself. In reality, that assertion probably couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Seeing as Zollo would later garner an abundance of “control freak” jibes amongst many rumors; but at least on Good Health
she still seems more concerned with the music compared to her own image. Which is a good thing, being that in the end what gives Good Health
it’s (immense) replay value is just that sense of teetering madness; the vitality of the entire group of musicians seemingly at odds with itself right from the start lends the album an air of purpose, like these people believe so much in what they had to say that they’d suffer through each other to deliver it. Thankfully you don’t need to suffer through anything to hear it, Good Health
is a doctor recommended excursion from front to back.