142. Song No. 2,168: “The Crash,” The Pale Pacific
Gravity Gets Things Done, 2003
First things first: The Band Formerly Known as The Pale changed their name sometime after I liberated a copy of their third studio album from my college radio station, and they’ve been The Pale on the, like, four iPods and three computers I’ve uploaded those ripped sound files to since discovering this album in the early aughts. I was going to leave it at referring to them as The Pale in relation to Gravity Gets Things Done and The Pale Pacific in relation to their fourth album, 2005’s Urgency, and on every other reference and even had a very real internal debate about it for a solid 24 hours before just finally opting for some retroactive consistency.
Secondly: It is terrifically, terribly unfair but I will always default to thinking of this band as the poor man’s Death Cab for Cutie. “Your Parents’ House” from Urgency was the first song of theirs that really grabbed me… aaaand it was largely because it sounded so much like “Information Travels Faster,” apparently forever cementing that completely undeserved pale-approximation-of association that this band so does not deserve. (They also remind me of the similarly obscure-ish This Day & Age, with their easily likable tunes and lyrics written with one’s heart resolutely but precariously displayed on one’s sleeve. Actually, to be honest, they’ve sounded like everything from Ben Folds’ piano rock to Miracle of 86’s deliberately plunked-out outward approximation of a vulnerable inner world to a panoply of other early- to mid-’00s indie evocations.)
These songs, at least on the two albums I have, embody some of my favorite musical qualities: They’re sweetly earnest, impossibly catchy and often longer than four minutes. That trifecta should have been enough to endear this band to me in its own right! But I think the problem I have is summarized well enough in some review that posited The Pale Pacific makes music to enjoy rather than be impressed by. And that’s not a bad thing, but it is a pretty apt summation of the difference between an album I love and an album that I compulsively play over and over and over again.
This is the third Pale Pacific song I’ve encountered since starting 12,700 Songs and every one of those instances has led me to playing everything I have of theirs for a couple days because I am so annoyed at myself for not appreciating this band more. They’ve got these, like, Yes-calibre movements shoehorning three different songs into one track that just escalates into an infuriatingly catchy crescendo, and “The Crash” embodies that arc so well.
You know what this band is? They’re the musical equivalent of cute aggression. Even when The Pale Pacific is working their way through a song about checking in with a loved one after a recent loss seems to be edging them closer to the ruin they were already predisposed to under ideal circumstances, the lyrics are poignant without getting mawkishly saccharine and earnest without being vapidly self-absorbed, and the music is just so irresistibly charming that I want to punch something to emotionally recalibrate myself.
This song was particularly primed to catch me the right way after a collaborative Spotify playlist I lucked into via a forum of musically like-minded folks saw someone else throw a Pale Pacific song on there right around the time “The Crash” popped up in the alphabetical shuffle, and my delight in knowing that someone else not only knows but also enjoys this band was shrill and squeeful and dove directly into Gravity Gets Things Done and Urgency with…. well, smitten urgency, I suppose.
I think I’m at the point where going through my music library is less of a curious journey and more of an opportunity to reconnect with and rediscover the music I never gave enough attention or credit. It feels like it’s taken me a long-ass time to saunter through the Cs: I think that’s partly due to the pandemic making time more liquid than cats but I also think I have taken waaaaay more detours through songs and albums and entire freaking bands I’ve forgotten about or was finally in the right place to appreciate or just wanted to indulge in because I love them so much still.
The Pale Pacific is a essentially the perfect example of that. Anything I discovered in college is inherently colored with the rosy hues of affectionate nostalgia, but these guys really are just an enjoyable band that are a pleasure to come back to make their 1.6 hours of music I own last for three days through the magic of the infinite, obsessive repeat listens I have owed this track and its kin for quite some time.