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The Pale Pacific – Rules are Predictable

Is it me, or isn’t a song where a guy sings to a girl, softly, sweetly, “I will wreck you,” over and over lend itself to the self-help section of Barnes and Nobel? Yes, it is. Why is love so hard? Why God, why?

This is the mood I find myself in after listening to the song “Sucker Punch,” from The Pale Pacific’s new EP, Rules are Predictable.

The band used to be known as The Pale, releasing such albums as First Attempt at World Domination and Gravity Gets Things Done, but they’ve changed some members and added more words to the name. Cousins Gabe Archer (lyrics/vocals, piano, guitar) and Cameron Nicklaus (guitar, vocals, keyboards), formed the group in 1994. The current lineup also features Greg Swinehart (drums, guitar) and Justin Harcus (bass, keyboards).


An immediate comparison comes to mind when listening to Rules are Predictable: Death Cab for Cutie. I suppose it’s unfair since Death Cab didn’t form until 1997, but hey, those are the breaks. They look similar; they are both from Bellingham, Washington, and Ben Gibbard sounds like Gabe Archer. I suppose there are worse things than being compared to Death Cab. For a little roundness of comparison, they are also reminiscent of Stars, The Decemberists and Ben Folds Five.

The song “Sucker Punch,” which cheered me so, begins the EP with a dark and brooding sound. All glibness aside, it begins with drums punctuated with what I might describe as a klaxon. The rhythm section is soon joined by a mournful piano, combined with shoegazer guitar riffs and the equally somber voice of Gabe. Rather than moping about in the doldrums the song gathers speed, if not cheerfulness, and builds to a reverberating crescendo.

The next song, “Identity Theft,” was actually quite a surprise. I was expecting more of the same, not the indie-med surf-punk I was served. Settling in with the lights off, the room lit by a single candle and my computer screen, I expected to enjoy a glass of scotch and misery. This up-tempo beat with a bass line recalls the ripcurls of the Hawaiian North Shore, pulling me from my reverie. After a moment of adjustment, I found myself enjoying what sounded like the Ventures fronted by Conner Oberst. It was the first surf music I’ve heard that managed to sound wistful. Kudos to you, The Pale Pacific.

A four song EP is a tough thing on which to judge a band. The final two songs, “In the Sun pt. 1” and “All My Friends,” were good, but not groundbreaking. Soon they will be releasing their new album Urgency. Hopefully, the fine people at SideCho Records will send me a copy to review. You aren’t stupid. If my fumbling descriptions don’t help you, then at least the other bands I referenced should let you know if this is the type of music that you listen to. So go for it tiger.


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