Like every kid fueled by sugary cereals and social dysfunction, I sometimes had a hard time sleeping. Occasionally, I could talk my mom into staying up and watching the night dramas with her. It wasn’t just trysts of entangled lovers on “Dallas” and “Falcon Crest” that confused my preadolescent mind; the adult commercials were equally mysterious. The most memorable of these was for shampoo. A beautiful, floating head, larger than life at the center of the screen, softly offered a honeyed plea: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” And then — in a few seconds — she faded out and was gone.
I didn’t have an inkling of such a concept at the time — one that made a beautiful thing into an object of hatred — but in the 20 years since, the idea has come into focus. When I try to justify my utter hatred, my curdling spite, my embittered repulsion at the music of Pas/Cal, there might be no other reason except that it is too beautiful.
The darling Detroit outfit’s latest, Oh Honey, We’re Ridiculous, follows the blueprint of their tuneful debut with a cache of brilliant hooks, bookish observations and blissful sentimentality.
Oh Honey springs to action with hands clapping a cheerleader’s cadence and vocalist Casimer Pascal’s falsetto posing the questions: “What happened to the sand? What happened to the men who would stay up so late?” Unable to contain themselves, it takes the sing-songers just over a minute to prance buoyantly into pitch-perfect “la-di-das.” The squeaky-clean playing and attentive arrangement are almost too perfect. Imagine their shiny pink faces! Imagine them jet-setting with designer attachés! Throwing back highballs at the club with their legs crossed at the knee and an ’80s cosmetics model on each arm! You almost have to hate it.
From the perky handclaps to the final fade, Pas/Cal’s aural sunshine never finds a cloud. The subject of “Poor Maude” may be a garishly dressed granny with suicidal tendencies, but the band’s airtight pop seems to frolic through the narrative giddily. When they do wax misty for an Asian cutie with a “slurry curry voice”(how Anglo is that?!) in “What do the American Girls Have On Jennifer Jo Jo?,” the record is still on the verge of exploding in a hail of happy pills.
By the time the EP joyfully spins round a handful of times, Pas/Cal’s super-chic happiness proves itself just as addictive as it is immaculate. It reinforces the band’s place as one of Detroit’s most stylistically refreshing up-and-comers. In the end, maybe the only real reason to hate the 20-minute offering is that — like the floating head — it’s a beautiful thing that disappears too fast.
Pas/Cal will celebrate the release of this record on Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit). Call 313-961-4668.
E-mail Nate Cavalieri at firstname.lastname@example.org.