I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Laura (Le Grand Magistery)
Detroit's Casimer Pascal is a fop-pop genius, the case being made first with three leave-'em-wanting-more EPs and now indisputable with this debut full-length. Caz is the RZA of Pas/Cal's Wu-Tang Clan (its seven members also play in Hidden Ghost Balloon Ship), and it's his lavender fist and airy vocals that give I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Laura its wings when they just as easily could have blown hot air. The arrangements are jaw-dropping, saying "Sure, why not?" to strings, upright pianos, doo-wop vocals, impressionistic drumming, stop-starts, even the odd Farfisa and violin, but the album still sounds effortless. Breezy, even. The opener, "The Truth Behind All the Vogues She Sold," starts with an "Aladdin Sane"-ish stilted piano and a kinda-spooky Caz giving us a teen cover model — "She's got deep dark circles around her eyes," he begins before the song breaks down into a sympathetic big-brother whisper, then string-soaked la-la-las, and finally a tabula-rasa riff with the coda "They steal youth, and that's the truth behind all the Vogues she sold." It's a history of indie rock in a single song — with a message, no less. Bowie- and Costello-isms abound on I Was Raised, from the truth of "You Were Too Old for Me" to the narrative joyride of "We Made Our Way, We Amtrakked" and kinetic soul-searching of "Dearest Bernard Living." Even the feel-good "Summer Is Almost Here" has a kind of seeing-stars-from-the-gutter incline to it. This is the kind of sexy-epic stuff London Suede was too deep in Britpop to get. Like the genius title says, Caz has the Good Book in one hand but the remote in the other, and he's not afraid to use them both liberally. Love and learn.