[14 July 2005]
Summertime in New York can be a frenetic and fantastic affair. After nearly half a year of living out of a closet, eight million-plus eagerly flood the streets to make their stories public. Mixed with the normally torpid climate, the city becomes a sweaty and sensual cesspool of flirtatious energy and colorful activity; it’s business as usual, with a touch more flesh and foot traffic. This summer has been unusual, as it has been graced with some gorgeously temperate days that have left a noticeably tender touch on the Naked City; while the swelter usually sets a low boiling point for acute tempers, the mildness has only left a warm sea of breezy dresses, clip-clopping flip flops, and strolling bodies. In other words, it is the perfect time to ease into a plastic lawnchair in the shade beneath the stoop, mix good drinks with better friends, and let Pale Sunday play.
For any believer of this dream, the mix makes sense because the Brasilian trio conjures such an unabashedly romantic image on their second album, Summertime?. Fusing early sadCure riffs with Concretes innocence (and similarly affected English pronunciation), these guys empty their pockets of posies for girls, girls, and punk girls with the gusto of totally crushed out eight-year olds. Their outlook is intentionally twee, though their cool approach does not hide their time in the “I’m a nerd… but damn hot” school of rock. Subsequently, the production is squeaky Weezer clean, though flatter and lower in budget. However, the record earns points for the details; as Tasty Fanzine points out, Pale Sunday goes out of its way to give you the hooks, in addition to the hook of glossy cardstock packaging, Color Me Tomine line drawings, and a linear note letter wishy wash with love (in broken English, no less). In sum, Summertime? pulls out all the stops in the name of summer fun; it’s here, not here to stay, but at least for the day.
Like a breezy read, Summertime? hits its marks in quick succession. Opening with “White Tambourine”, jaunty tempos and jangling guitars reveal Corvette verses and crane-shot choruses. Featherweight themes are crooned to the tune of, “Who’s that girl playing a white tambourine? / And singing ‘la, la, lala…’” Pale Sunday love is framed in neon-trimmed sticker shots (peace sign!), passed among secret friend circles, and buried in a wallet for itself to become a nostalgic relic.
However, like the absurd heart projections of Tanabe “Japan’s Johnny Carson” Morihe, Pale Sunday love can also be stupefyingly in love with itself. With the charm of a Lost in Translation Sanrio expression, “Sunday Morning” opines, “I wonder what a perfect Sunday morning / I could lay down on the ground / And say to everyone around / Feel this Sunday morning light.” The smother factor of the sentiment would make even Will Farrell think twice about his Elfitude. In addition to projecting familiar male fantasies—“Skinny girl / Big black eyes / Boots that shine / Red guitar” (note the subtle difference between freak and geek ideals)—Summertime? occasionally has difficulty relying on its charms alone.
However, with plenty of catchy riffs, PS’s purpose is crystal clear: simple observations in the major keys. Blocky guitars and wooshing keyboard fills make “Sunday”‘s chorus glitter like Dian-er Ross at the Swedish disco. “Twiggy Superstar” could actually use a boost of handclaps, but all is forgiven when the swinging backbeat kicks in, accented by Hi-Five tremolo. “My Punk Girl” coasts past at a Judy is a Punk clip, but has more Gilman love than CBGB competition in its heart. Especially in this last song, Pale Sunday’s heavily referential streak is made intentional and apparent: “Her bedroom is an ‘80s pub / Even she never saw once.” By pulling from a collective pop rock well, Pale Sunday constructs nostalgia. Granted, their vision is eerily void of angst (even a midtempo moper like “She’ll Never Be Mine” is littered with magnetic poetry lines like, “She’s made of dreams and magic”), but such is the point: their music is specifically for that idyllic moment.
Summertime? fulfills the passing needs of the season, and succeeds by not asking for anything more. The chords have been stated before, the beats are familiar and friendly, and the three sing like they believe “dreams and real life are so close.” Not who, but when could you ask for anything more? Now’s the time; say, “Saude.”