By: Eric Greenwood
Maybe, I just haven't listened to it enough yet, but Élan Vital falls completely flat to my ears. Admittedly, I was very slow to accept The New Romance for the whip-smart musical piranha that it is, so I'm aware that Élan Vital could also be a grower. I'm more skeptical this time, though.
All of the attributes which previously vaulted Pretty Girls Make Graves above the slew of rabid-riffed, post-punk clones are missing here. Élan Vital is a softer, more experimental record, focusing on synthetics and a more expansive musical base. The music is still subversively smart and expertly crafted; it's just missing the bite (i.e. razor-sharp, dueling guitars). The other trouble is vocalist Andrea's Zollo's voice is so limiting in its hackneyed, monotone, riot grrrl yelp that she can't hold up her end of the deal, which compromises the record's inherent musical audacity from the start.
I'm not one to complain about a band taking risks in pursuit of creating new sounds, but it's a double-edged sword. Foregoing the instant gratification of approval for long-term vision is what bands that matter do. Not all of them survive the jump, though, and I'm not sure Pretty Girls Make Graves is destined to be one of them.