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PAS/CAL - Oh Honey, We're Ridiculous

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Artist: PAS/CAL

Album: Oh Honey, We're Ridiculous

Label: Le Grand Magistery

Review date: Jun. 17, 2004

It’s always over too soon with these fellows, but goddamn if you don’t get your money’s worth.

The punk and noise experiments of the late-’70s may have bastardized and recontextualized pop music’s repetitive nature to form something fresh and compelling; either way, they certainly made the world safe for two-chord hooks. So it’s nice to hear a band drift as easily from hook to hook as PAS/CAL, hovering over one melody long enough to lodge it in your skull forever and then swaying into a slight inversion and never going all the way back. Even during the British Invasion, pure pop was hardly ever this confident or complex.

Only on “What Do the American Girls Have on Jennifer JoJo?” does PAS/CAL’s gluestick bleed a tad, and I’ll look the other way because it’s still a thrill to behold, even if it never quite gels. After-hours swing segues into a hook that reaches so far up on the last note, dude must’ve burned his hand. Then he starts whistling, spaghetti Western style, over the bridge. Ridiculous indeed, in the most amusing way (read: entirely poker-faced) this stuff can be.

It’s also witty as all hell. “What Happened to the Sands” finds our narrator meeting the new breed of flapper (“She was all glued-on long lashes / And Kandinsky colored splashes”) as he calls out to ghosts at titular nightspot’s wreckage. “Is it the golden, glowing glimmer,” she asks, “that first brought you here?” The song ends before he can respond. “Poor Maude” is a bizarre but touching party invitation to a 115 year old matron who craves swift death (“Let me catch a bad cold / And I’ll be gone in a fortnight”). In “The Handbag Memoirs,” our man dumps his paramour’s purse out on her brother’s bed and sifts through her artifacts. (Unlike Material Issue’s “Going Through Your Purse,” this one lets the gal be privy to the investigation.) “All the notes you wrote without me in mind / It’s all right / And all the places you’ve seen before me / I guess it’s all right / Some things you carry on your shoulder far too long.”

Dispatched as it is from New Internationalist pop HQ, it’s refreshing to hear this disc acknowledge the numbness that puddle-jumping can bring on the higher emotions. “An 18-hour plane ride,” Jennifer JoJo is warned, “isn’t going to cure what’s wrong.”

And that’s it. I’m both satisfied and eager for more.

By Emerson Dameron

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