PAS/CAL: Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous (Le Grand Magistery, 2004)
Oh Detroit. That smelly, grey and brown monstrosity of a city, bleak and morose. Having driven through Detroit countless times on my way to sunnier places, I’ve seen the decay of this once great metropolis first-hand. It’s not too hard to imagine how the impoverished streets of Detroit could inspire the angst-filled rapping of Eminem, but upon hearing that pop-group PAS/CAL proudly hails from Mo-town, I’m left scratching my head. How could a group who writes perhaps the most positively exquisite pop music be based out of such a dreary area?
Well, whatever the answer, I will be forever indebted to smelly Detroit for being the starting point of one of the best pop-rock groups I have ever heard. With complex songwriting, gorgeous arrangements, witty lyrics, and stylish instrumentation, PAS/CAL has captured my heart and become one of my favourite bands. They are simply one of the smartest pop groups around, and their latest release, “Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous”, only emphasizes and improves the talent displayed on their previous EP “The Handbag Memoirs”. Recalling Beach Boys harmonies, wistful yet mischievous lyrics, and an appreciation for the 60’s and 70’s, Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous is an artful expression of expertly written pop music.
Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous opens with the campy “What Happened to the Sands?”, an ode to a decrepit hotel. Beginning with an inconspicuous handclap, the song bursts into a glorious, fast-developing pop song, and quickly delves deeply into complex vocal and guitar harmonies. Its longing feel, both musically and lyrically, somehow combines with the fast paced loud climax of the song. “What Happened to the Sands?” showcases many of PAS/CAL’s endearing qualities, such as the ability to tastefully explore a number of great ideas and hooks within the framework of one song (many bands don’t have even one good hook in a song!), Casimer Pascal’s ultra-smooth falsetto vocals, the group’s well-written multipart vocal harmonies, and a splash of vibrancy and energy. Next up is perhaps my favourite song on the 5 song EP, the delightful “Poor Maude”. Reminding the listener of a 1970’s mid-tempo pop ballad, “Poor Maude” features gorgeous string and key arrangements, those wonderful vocal harmonies, and wickedly (and poignant) funny lyrics about a very old lady: “Dear God please deliver a swift blow, at least let me catch a bad cold, and I’ll be gone in a fortnight.” “The Handbag Memoirs” follows in the more laid-back style of the previous song, and includes a sweet melody, more well-written lyrics, and a beautiful chord structure (especially in the flowing “ba-ba-ba” chorus). The song reminds me again of 70’s music, with its tasteful acoustic guitar and keyboard arrangements, and vocal stylings. “The Handbag Memoirs” seems a little more stripped down than the other songs on the EP, but with PAS/CAL, appearances can be deceiving, as the songwriting in this song is as complex and intricate as ever. Lyrically, the song takes the feature character’s purse, dumps it out, and describes the contents of the purse and what the contents reveal about the character and her relationships. My own flawed description doesn’t give this clever lyrical idea justice. The short instrumental “Bem, Please Come Home” follows, showcasing gorgeous melodies played on keys. Finally, the humorous “What Do the American Girls Have on Jennifer JoJo”? closes of the EP with a 60’s styled melody, recalling the kind of early American pop music that my mother would dance to as a teenager. Yet, even with it’s obviously intentional retro-feel, “What Do the American Girls Have on Jennifer JoJo” is well written, and casts new light on a familiar style of music.
All in all, this little EP has grabbed the early lead on the EP of the Year sweepstakes for me. Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous is gorgeous, complex, and overwhelmingly beautiful from an aesthetic point of view. I also need to mention that Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous is a step up for PAS/CAL from their stellar debut EP The Handbag Memoirs in terms of songwriting, arrangements, and unity in the songs (though The Handbag Memoirs is a great EP in its own right). PAS/CAL is a fascinating and accomplished group who’ve proved themselves outright to be virtuosos of pop music with only 2 short EP’s to their credit. Fans of the Beach Boys, Wayne Everett, The Beatles, The Apples in Stereo, 70’s pop music, and anyone looking for intelligent, fun, and exquisite music will enjoy this EP. Very highly recommended.
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