Pretty Girls Make Graves; Giant Drag | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Pretty Girls Make Graves; Giant Drag 

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Until it finally showed up on record store shelves last month, it seemed PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES' much-talked-about third album, Elan Vital (Matador), might never see the light of day. For much of the last two years the band appeared to be in a state of entropy: second guitarist Nathan Thelen left the group and was replaced by keyboardist Leona Marrs; the record was recorded and mixed only to be scrapped and tried again; and once it was completed, the release date was bumped three times. They kept touring and playing to bigger audiences, thanks to support slots with Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab, but the members were spending just as much time working on their side projects. Elan Vital sounds a little worse for the wear and a touch scattered, but the band achieves a new musicality. Since she no longer has to duke it out with the twin-guitar attack of old, singer Andrea Zollo finds space to show off her dynamism, and the production introduces spare, dancey dropouts and minor, dubby accents (think Sandinista rather than Lee "Scratch" Perry). Even if they're not there yet, it sounds like the Girls are working toward something more grandiose and durable than killer skate-rock anthems. --Jessica Hopper

I guess "This Isn't It" by GIANT DRAG is my favorite song: when you wake up each morning with a tune in your head, walk through the day mouthing the words like you've been ventriloquized, and find yourself compulsively thumping the drumbeat in elevators, that's the only thing it could be. The tune first appeared on the LA duo's 2004 EP, Lemona (Wichita), and a rerecorded version is included on their 2005 full-length debut, Hearts and Unicorns (Kickball). Singer-guitarist Annie Hardy has been compared to Polly Harvey, Kim Deal, and Liz Phair (circa 1993), and if she keeps writing pipe bombs like this one she's going to join their company as an icon for tough young women with guitars. The song is a three-chord kiss-off with the glowing grace of "He's So Shy" or "Blitzkrieg Bop," and there are at least a dozen discrete things about it that give me chills and make my guts crawl. Hardy hurls the opening words of the chorus like a crumpled love letter, one she'd rather throw in the trash than in your face: "Love, love, love / This isn't it." Her languid drawl says she's utterly humiliating someone, somewhere, and the unsettling thing is how she makes her casually caustic wrath not just pleasurable but somehow righteous. It's also unspeakably sexy. I'd love this song even if it were about me. But oh man, would it hurt. --J. Niimi

Pretty Girls Make Graves headline, Giant Drag plays second, and the Joggers open. Fri 5/5, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $13 in advance, $15 at the door. All ages.

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