Review: Pretty Mighty Mighty – Normal

Originally published in Delusions of Adequacy March 24, 2003
Look out, Frank Black. There’s a new set of pixies on the block.
Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Pretty Mighty Mighty craft the kind of alt-rock and four-minute power-pop songs that could get an entire crowd jumping and dancing in unison: guitar-driven gems that exhibit all of the required hooks and crashing choruses. But what may separate this band from much of the sophomoric, album-oriented rock that clutters your neighborhood Top 40 station is an ability to sidestep the familiar and tired formulas.

Pretty Mighty Mighty can write an almost unbearably catchy rock song, but they also manage to slip in unexpected contributions from violin, incredible and shimmering instrumental interludes, catchy two-part harmonies, and interwoven electric guitar lines that could be at home on a Chavez record.

While some bands become defined by charismatic frontmen and merely adequate backing players, every member of Pretty Mighty Mighty seems to define the musical equation.

Jon Chinn’s voice is perfectly suited to the band’s sound, energetic and engaging on louder pieces but still effective – though not overpowering – on slower pieces like the closing reflection, “Heaven Hates Me.”

John Fitzgerald complements Chinn’s guitar work throughout, providing an added density, texture and weight on both guitar and bass.

Drummer Neal Schmitt really holds together the record, while far from just being a human metronome, a fault of far too many commercially accessible rock acts. Violinist Noel Sayre may be the group’s overlooked treasure, as he lends a kind of grace to the proceedings, keeping songs from being solely about dueling guitars or driving refrains.

What’s most surprising about Normal, however, is the fact that it’s an EP.

Far from feeling like a breath between major projects or a half-hearted collection of B-sides, the seven-song Normal is alarmingly complete. From the distortion-drenched vocals and sampled percussion of “Ten Minutes” to the somber coda of “Heaven Hates Me,” the band seems to present a full picture of their capabilities and sound. Some bands couldn’t pull this off if they were given a double record.

Why aren’t these guys on the cover of Rolling Stone?

For those of you not prone to picking up records of the radio-friendly alt-rock variety, don’t fret; Pretty Mighty Mighty seems to avoid some of the tired cliches of the genre. Instead of using the big guitar sound as a crutch, Chinn and Fitzgerald play it off as a point of entry for slight departures from the norm. The result can be rewarding, whether it’s the Soul Coughing feel of “Sleepless,” the textured, stop-and-start guitars of “Waves” and “Still Fucked,” or the quiet complexities of “Heaven Hates Me.”

Normal is the second release from Pretty Mighty Mighty, following on the heels of 2000’s full-length Famous Past Lives. Try finding their stuff before they hit third, because pretty soon you’ll probably be hearing them everywhere.

1 Comment

  1. Check out the Dig Me Out Podcast for an interview with Pretty Mighty Mighty lead singer/guitarist Jon Chinn and a review of the album Famous Past Lives at, a weekly podcast dedicated to revisiting lost and forgotten rock of the 1990s.

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