City Paper is not for tourists
There’s really no way around it: Pas/Cal sounds a lot like Belle and Sebastian. And if you want to dismiss this bunch of Michiganders for being a shameless imitation of a much better band, well, that’s certainly fair. And probably a more defensible stance than the one I’m about to take: That “What Happened to the Sands,” the opener on Pas/Cal’s new EP, “Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous”, is a shameless imitation of a much better band, yes, but it’s also a masterpiece. Precious even by the standards of a group whose members appear in a library on the cover photo, “Sands” is a starry-eyed eulogy for vanished glamour as embodied by the demolished Las Vegas casino of the same name. Replete with hand claps, “ba-ba-ba”s, and falsetto vocals, it’s a valentine to another time in more ways than one. Vocalist Casimer Pascal & Co. are so ’round-the-bend smitten with the pop-cultural past, in fact, that it’s really no use to accept them on anything but their own terms: as folks who feel that they missed out on something good and are entertainingly wrong about what that was. Plus, “Oh Honey”’s five songs—even “Poor Maude,” the one about a 115-year-old woman who prays, “‘Dear God, please deliver a swift blow/At least let me catch a bad cold’”—are recorded so splendidly, with rich-sounding acoustic guitars and lush string-quartet accents, you can almost forgive their jejune sentiments. Even “The Handbag Memoirs,” which really is an indie-pop vignette about looking through that special someone’s pocketbook (not to mention the title of Pas/Cal’s 2003 debut). Pascal marvels at the existence of a picture of his beloved “before you knew me” and concludes, “All the notes that you wrote without me in mind…/And all the places you’ve seen before me/I guess it’s all right.” What’s not all right, Cas, is that you’re going through your girlfriend’s purse. And that you sing the word “sand” as if you’re from Glasgow instead of Detroit. And that you glorify a bunch of gin-soaked assholes. But I’ll give you this: No one else gets it so wrong and still makes music that feels so right.