This northwestern quintet plays jagged post-punk with a dash of goth verve (thanks to keyboards and singer Andrea Zollo), sounding like Siouxsie Sioux fronting Fugazi. Formed with ex-Murder City Devils bassist Derek Fudesco shortly after that act's demise in 2001, the Pretty Girls have put out two full-lengths, progressing from West Coast indie label Lookout to indie powerhouse Matador for 2003's The New Romance
. The curt, punchy guitars that punctuate the songs are more spasms of melody than riffs, and overall, PGMG's crisp latticework of guitar has a brash nature somewhere between that of an inebriated Russell Crowe and paparazzi-buster Sean Penn. Such sonic aggression -- due largely to the rough-hewn guitar lines -- is counterbalanced by Zollo's ethereal gothic delivery, creating an eerie combination that's dark, melancholy, and bracing. The result is much more original and intriguing than what's produced these days by the hundreds of punk-funk Gang of Four wannabes lurking in every musical corner.