Click to hear: “She Can Leave Me”
Pal has finally checked out.
I don’t mean mentally. The local psych-pop folkie turned in his reality badge long ago. I mean he’s finally checked out of a Falmouth motel where he’d been living for the past year or so, making this clammy, claustrophobic album.
It’s not hard to surmise the circumstances that led to his exile. Song titles include “She Can Leave Me,” “Say Goodbye,” and “Drunk, Wednesday, 3 AM.” Ouch.
Unfortunately, heartbreak and the psychedelic experience don’t mix well. Compared to the weird whimsy or Pal’s previous two releases — Joungleur’s Soundtrack (1 of 5) and (2 of 5) — Motel Music is a bad trip.
Things start off on an unintentionally comic note with “Avenue of Lights.” Pal begins reading a poem titled “Achillian Highway” in a closely mic’d whisper over a disjointed and distorted musical background, but anyone who’s heard Joe’s Garage will hear Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer, instead. “An overpass down the way,” Pal whispers, “and every once in a while, the swoon / of an 18 wheeler / passing through a time zone / I had a room there.”
“The White Zone is for loading and unloading only.” That’s what I hear. “If you gotta load or unload, go to the White Zone. You’ll love it. It’s a way of life.” The association effectively ruins the song, but there’s not much to salvage in this nearly 10-minute mess, anyway.
The next song, “Drunk, Wednesday, 3 AM,” is better, a damaged ballad with hints of loveliness beneath its gloomy surface. The pity party continues with “She Can Leave Me,” a more upbeat, albeit resigned, strummer sporting a simple drum track and an oddly treated guitar solo.
“Joust: Expectation of Heart” is more akin to the Joungler’s material: light, elliptical and long (8:38), with multi-tracked vocals delivering pages of lyrics like “I want to dive into a shallow pool of you / I want to break my neck like a hanging will do.” Dude, get off the balcony! Call room service and 911 or somethin’. You’re freakin’ us out!
Unsurprisingly, “Say Goodbye” doesn’t lift the fog of sorrow enshrouding this six-song release. The closer, “Fool (For the Girl),” lets some fresh air in during its Beatlesque chorus, but Pal sounds lost and disoriented by the end, just like the listener.
In a note accompanying my review copy, Pal said the motel-room recording environment limited the amount of instrumentation he could apply to this album. The more stripped-down sound doesn’t do his music any favors. Now that Pal’s moved on, work will soon commence on the third Joungler’s album, he said.
Here’s to better days, and better songs, ahead, Pal.
— Chris Busby
Pal does not exist on the Internet. His albums can be found a local indie record stores of distinction — try Strange Maine, on Congress Street in Portland.