Pretty Girls Make Graves : Oxford Zodiac

Pass the Strepsils, motherfuckers!

Is that a rocket fuel-dipped disco biscuit that Andrea Zollo slips into her mouth before tonight’s set starts? Or maybe even the still-beating heart of a vampire bat? Erm, no, not really. Actually it’s a Strepsil, officially the least rock’n’roll thing ever ingested in the name of noise. Which makes us ask – how on earth are these five polite-looking emo kids from Seattle ever going to rock Oxford’s grand collegiate buildings off their foundations?

It’s a question that remains unanswered until the spider-webbed guitar line of opener ‘Something Bigger, Something Brighter’ peters out and… SWEETJESUSFUCKINGCHRIST, what was that?!?!? Because in one glorious second, drums suffer bouts of tourettes, amplifiers have their innards cleared out and dazed crowd-members try in vain to squeeze out the words, ‘Excuse me PGMG, but do you realise your full-throttle guitar-skrawks are attempting to dry-hump my eardrums into a sweaty pulp?’

To say PGMG are more than the sum of their parts is a bit like saying George Bush quite likes firework displays. Their blur of influences – from Gang Of Four-flavoured disco grooves to hyperactive keyboard bleeps – fizzle together and explode when let loose on the same stage, causing mass hand-clap frenzies and deranged moshpit rituals. Meanwhile, Andrea feeds off every fuzzy decibel, transforming herself into a frontwoman so dynamic she could make Karen O quiver in her Louis Vuitton boots.

Not that PGMG simply thrill through their intensity. Rather, their sound is crawling with subtleties and complexities, making it devilishly hard to stick them a pigeonhole and say ‘sit’. Underneath the surface-layer of ferocious emo-pop lurks riot-starting vocals a la grrrl heroines Sleater-Kinney ( ‘Mr. Club’), pulsating, punk-funkin’ basslines ( ‘Chemical, Chemical’) and killer pop tunes ( ‘Speakers Push The Air’). And whereas their latest LP, ‘The New Romance’, is a dark and challenging affair that requires several listens to really seep under your skin, tonight the band add an essential whoomph factor by wrestling their instruments around the stage like they’re cocaine-crazed alligators.

But whatever. Because trying to ‘scientifically’ distil the parts that make PGMG such an ear-thrilling prospect is pointless when you can simply stand there and have your brainstem slapped around Oxfordshire until you’re left panting and gasping. Pass the Strepsils, motherfuckers!

Tim Jonze