Every once in a while, I run into a band that is in every way good enough to “change my life” and what-not, but they are so buried in obscurity that really I’m only able to get about 1 or 2 albums from them before they disappear forever.
Such a band is The Pale Pacific.
Now, as I understand it, The Pale Pacific are considered “indie” and I am not sure how to take that. They definitely produced their stuff independently, and they do enjoy reverb on guitars and such, but if I had to call it anything, I’d call it melancholy pop, something that sounds great on a dreary rainy day, of which Washington state (where the band resides) has plenty.
The band actually started out a lot more upbeat, back when they were simply called The Pale. Actually, if one took the previous album to this one, titled Gravity Gets Things Done, it was more half-upbeat, half-dreary, and very long. I suppose the addition of “Pacific” to the band’s moniker signaled the advent of a new all-dreary sound. The only Pale Pacific album, Urgency, however, is really good for being so dreary.
The album opens up with “In The Sun, Pt. 2”, the first part of which is on the Rules Are Predictable EP, the Pale Pacific’s first EP under that name. Really though, the song is not a true sequel, it’s actually just a re-recording of the original, where driving beats and distorted guitars are replaced with mellow E-piano and acoustic guitar. The song is quite short, and almost sounds unfinished, but serves really well as an intro to what’s coming up.
The song “Sucker Punch” should rightfully be considered the best song on the album, which is not to take away from the rest of the album, but it’s a really good song. The beat is trippy, the vocal/e-piano melody gorgeous (hence my hesitation to call it an “indie” song as they hardly ever feature any kind of discernible melody), and the guitars are reverb’d to the moon. The only thing that keeps me from declaring “perfection” with this song is the awkward bassline that doesn’t really follow anything. I guess it works, but I guess being a bassist myself, I can’t help but imagine it being better.
The climactic ending of “Sucker Punch” brings the album up quite nicely from the murky climate it had established into a slightly more energetic phase, and that is continued with the song “Tied To A Million Things”, which features a sinister wall of reverbed guitar and a crunchy bassline that makes me forgive the bassline from the previous song.
After that wall-of-sound mess (a pleasant mess, mind you), we are then treated to a cleaned-up pop song called “Identity Theft”, a straight-forward song about not getting into a life of crime with your dad. It’s got a catchy beat that the song is more-or-less built around, and despite the fact that almost NOBODY I show this album to ever warms up to this track, I think it’s great. It features some real quick strumming from the guitarist as well, which is always fun.
The album is then brought down a spell by the irrepressibly mellow “Fortune Folds”, which is a track that I probably shouldn’t like because it really does kind of sound like an “indie” song at least until the chorus, where it is really a magical little number. The lyrics are really vague though, but in a way that kind of helps to not pay attention to them. After all, if the melody’s good enough, who needs words that make sense?
Speaking of which, the next song is another more “cleaned up” number called “Your Parent’s House”, which is apparently sung from the perspective of a dude who really hates hanging with his girlfriend’s parents and likes to complain about it for 4 minutes in song. Despite the wussiness of the lyrics, it’s a rockin’ track that is every bit as strong as “Sucker Punch” as far as the arrangement goes.
We then move on to “Written Down”, a straight-forward guitar-driven song again sung from the perspective of a selfish wimp, someone who just had a child but wanted a son but got a daughter and proceeded to be all bitchy and passive-aggressive about it (I am guessing anyway, the whole thing is slightly vague). All in all, a fairly fun song.
The tone is then slowed down for “The Strangest Second Chance”, which tells the story of an alienated small-town friend who leaves her group of jerk friends to drive in her truck until she feels better about a recent fall-out. She then proceeds to fall asleep and crashes the car, waking up with amnesia and doesn’t remember the bad stuff her friends did, and loves them again, hence “The Strangest Second Chance”. Uhh, I kind of told the whole story of the song there, but hey if you like really mellow guitars and a slow beat, you should still give the song a listen.
The next song is more of a straight-up pop song, and I’m as fond of it as the others, but it is put together quite well. “If Only She’d Leave Town” is a song about pushing away a woman the singer feels ambivalent about or somethin’ like that. It is one of the only “upbeat” songs on the album, and maybe that throws it off for me.
The album slows down with “Back To You”, about an awkward childhood moment the singer reflects on. It’s a nice, introspective number that I’m sure many particularly sensitive people who recall their pasts often can relate to. I don’t know any of those people, though.
Finally, the album ends with the epic 8-minute crawl of “Fall To Place”, a song so slow you can sometimes forget you’re listening to it between the beats. I really dig it, and in fact the previous album had a very long ending track too, so I guess it’s a running theme. The song is very sad, and in a way that seems appropriate to the overall feel of the album.
It’s not so bad
When you look back
Keep your chin up
But don’t hope for more than you should
It takes an entire minute and a half to sing that much. There are some really fun low frequencies that drone on in the background, though, so I always wind up listening to this track for the duration. Subtlety, eh?
So that’s the album, and it was probably my absolute favorite album for the entire year of 2006, the year after its release. I was pretty depressed all the time, though, and one tends to gravitate to these kinds of albums when that happens. I still am quite fond of it, and I really would like The Pale Pacific (and maybe their “sister” band, Fair, of whom I will definitely be speaking of alter) to come back to Texas, as the only time they came out this way was in 2005 touring with Dredg, of all bands. I was so impressed by their performance that I bought all the CD’s they had available. Still, such is the curse of “independent” bands, they are almost never independent of the amount of money and time it takes to go touring. Moreso the shame, but maybe they’ll put together another album and tour, I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on their Myspace page to be in the know when they do.
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