The Perfect Storm
Seattle's Pretty Girls Make Graves brews a hardcore tempest.
As if to make it clear that Pretty Girls Make Graves is a collaborative project--no songwriter-guitarist-fascist bandleader here--the quintet starts passing the telephone around its new Seattle apartment within seconds of the ring.
First, Derek Fudesco, bassist and former member of Murder City Devils, and thus the most "famous" member of a band whose pedigree includes a slew of current and former Seattle acts. Fudesco says Pretty Girls Make Graves, for a while a sideline to the Devils' just-now-defunct drunk, dirty and romantic punk, formed about nine months ago. Then he tosses the handset over to singer Andrea Zollo.
Zollo, a raspy fury both on disc and in the band's storming live show, talks for a minute, then turns the helm over to Nathen Johnson, responsible for one of the two guitars that burn and fade like dying stars over the Pretty Girls' rawboned beats. He says this kind of hot-potato is as integral to the band's songwriting process as it is, apparently, to its interview technique. "Sometimes you have a band where one member is the musical genius, and that's OK, I guess," Johnson says. "But when you have five people who can come together to work, I think you can come up with some pretty decent stuff."
No arguing with that, since Pretty Girls Make Graves is one of the most immediately exciting new bands to boil out of the Northwest rock underground in awhile. With Fudesco's bass and drummer Nick Dewitt providing a fluxing, driving framework, Johnson and Jason Clark exchange blasts of seething guitar. Zollo alternates growls with devastating belts of melody; the band trades off-kilter art-rock and straight-on hardcore. It's a volatile concoction, constantly in danger of frothing over the caldron's lip.
"It's a total gamble in a lot of ways because we're all so different," says Zollo of the chance that united her and Fudesco, with whom she played in the pre-Murder City Devils band the Death Wish Kids, with the likes of Clark, a member of both Kill Sadie and Sharks Keep Moving, a far more circumspect and jazzy Seattle indie band. "Fortunately, it seems to be working out. Usually, it seems like the bigger the fight, the better the result. It's like we have to go away hating each other for a while, then come back fresh, and that's how songs happen."
"People are confused," says Johnson. "They don't know how to describe us--I mean, I don't know how to describe us, either. I think that's good. Rock music is kind of stale right now. Either people have gone for this kind of 'sport metal,' like System of a Down, or they're trying to be as pretty as possible. They've lost their energy."
Well, no one could accuse Pretty Girls Make Graves of that. Zach Dundas
Pretty Girls Make Graves plays with Oxes and the Bonobo Project 9:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Satyricon, 125 NW 6th Ave., 243-2380. $7+ advance (Fastixx).
Old Enough to Know Better...
...D.C.'s Cry Baby Cry is still too young to care.
Some bands would shy from making an album as eccentric as Jesus Loves Stacey, the first disc from Washington, D.C.'s Cry Baby Cry. A disc that includes piano-driven fits of moodiness, slashing bursts of punk, Middle East-meets-suburban-kindergarten piano interludes, delicate acoustic moments, loopy glam and, frankly, some what-were-they-thinking remix trax lacks an identifiable target demographic. That's rare in an age when many a band that appears to be a scruffy little underground outfit is actually a product, niche-designed and -marketed like a new sports drink.
Add the fact that members of CBC are veterans of one of the most stereotyped music scenes in the country, and this playfulness seems even more defiant. Where's the earnest purity associated with the city that gave us Fugazi, Rites of Spring and, way back when, Minor Threat? What's with a D.C. band that not only has fun playing music, but deigns to sound like it's having fun?
"I think people are shaking off the idea that a D.C. band has to live up to the stereotype," says guitarist James Brady, formerly of mid-'90s Dischord Records band Trusty. "We had that problem more in Trusty, when people would show up in their bootlegged Rites of Spring T-shirts and then just walk out."
So is Cry Baby Cry a conscious effort by a foursome that also includes guitarist Kathy Cashill, once of the kinetic punk band Norman Meyer Group, to move away from the past?
"It might be, in an unconscious way," Brady says. "But I can say with certainty that there's nothing about this band that's planned. Or if there is, that plan never comes to fruition, and instead something else happens."
Chaos by design, eh? It shows up in the music, for sure--but in a good way. In a good way. Zach Dundas
Cry Baby Cry plays 9 pm Thursday, Nov. 22, at Meow Meow, 527 SE Pine St., 230-2111. $6. All ages.
AMPERSAND-A-RIFIC MUSIC &CLUB NEWS & GOSSIP
Hiss & Vinegar
MAY WE SUGGEST "NAKED BRATWURST"?
After years of living in Europe, Portland native Tracey Miller is inspired. Her new music/grub venue A Supper Club aims to capture the magic of Amsterdam's Supper Club (www.supperclub.nl), a jet-set joint where the beautiful and sophisticated eat, drink and dance. Miller has hosted two feasts of high-concept food and high-ticket music next to too-cool-for-school restaurant Mint. Last weekend, a jazz-dance klatsch headlined by Mr. Scruff of London label NinjaTune entertained while diners gorged on "naked sushi." This Saturday, Nov. 24, Jaffa drops sleazy funk and Spanish DJs from legendary Ibiza hangout Café del Mar slap wax for an evening of "naked tapas."
As for the drill, $25 gets you in for cocktails and supper at 8 pm, while a music-only $10 billet kicks in at 11 pm. There's a bar, so only legal-type adults can go--which is part of the larger Supper Club picture, in fact. Miller's teaming up to promote these shows with the gang from B Complex, the Southeast club that has cool music but no liquor license.
So what the hell's up with "naked" this and "naked" that? Miller's demure. "It's all about creating an atmosphere that's very speakeasy-ish," she says. "We want you to come in here with no expectations. It's all about unique servers and unique service." OK, let the reading betwixt the lines begin. A Supper Club is located at 821 N Russell St. Call 381-6331 for reservations.
TRYING TO DRINK AWAY MEMORIES OF THAT "MAN ON THE MOON" SONG, MAYBE?
The quote of the week comes from England, where R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck faced trial last week for alleged booze-sodden antics on a plane. Buck's charged with befouling a British Airways flight from Seattle to London last April, covering himself with yogurt and toppling a service cart. Flight attendants claim Buck, undoubtedly depressed that he is 44, balding and still in a band with Michael Stipe, consumed 15 glasses of red wine before geeking. "He became the transmogrification of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde," trilled prosecutor Edward Lewis. Buck claims sleeping tablets caused alcohol to affect him oddly. You would think that 20-years-plus in rock and roll would teach a guy a thing or two about drug interactions. Whatever. We've always said wealth is wasted on the rich. The trial was suspended, by the way, and its future is unclear.
ITEMS FOR SHATTERED ATTENTION SPANS
We screwed up last week and listed the wrong date for Spigot's CD release party last Saturday at the White Eagle. See Sonic Reducer, page 45, for a review of the disc...The best rumor H&V's heard recently involves a former Portland rock biz player who apparently found himself in stir. The unlucky prisoner supposedly dispatched his son to collect bail money--but the son split town with the cash and Dad's car! Now that's what we call "disorganized crime"!...Doris Dodge releases a new CD this Friday (swear to God) at the White Eagle...We hear the kids in Kabul are celebrating the Taliban's retreat by forming lots of "roots groove funk" bands...In a possibly related development, Timbuktunes, Portland's first record shop specializing in world music, opened at the beginning of the month. The shop, at 4726-B SE Hawthorne Blvd., boasts large selections of African, Cuban, Brazilian, Middle Eastern, Indonesian and early European music.
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