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The debut album from Brooklyn, NY's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a bold update on the noise pop template, as forged by bands like My Bloody Valentine, Pale Saints, The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Wedding Present. From this framework, the Pains emit their own exhilarating blast of youthful verve; big-hearted lashings of teen virtue smothered in a warm hug of fuzz and reverb. Featuring the recent singles "Come Saturday" and "Everything With You", each song on the album is one perfectly formed pop moment followed by another, resulting in an almighty feedback-soaked embrace!
2) Come Saturday
3) Young Adult Friction
4) This Love Is Fucking Right!
5) The Tenure Itch
6) Stay Alive
7) Everything With You
8) A Teenager in Love
9) Hey Paul
10) Gentle Sons
Like plenty of other bands in the internet era, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem poised to attract an audience that will far outstrip that of their easily identifiable precedents-- in their case, groups like Rocketship or Shop Assistants, each obscure these days even by Approved Indie Influence standards. A few other twee/noise-pop revivalists arguably pulled off that same trick last year, but Pains of Being Pure at Heart are likely to appeal to listeners beyond online name-droppers and Brooklyn scenesters.
That these second-wavers are getting first-rate attention shouldn't be a worry unless you're into dick-measuring contests about the late-1980s (but I was there) or still holding a grudge against Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. Despite being such a streamlined listen, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart acts as something of an indie Rorschach: Once our staff got a hold of the fuzzy, major-chord fizz of "Come Saturday" or "Stay Alive", it raised comparisons to everything from Sleepyhead to Black Tambourine to even Peter Bjorn and John (at their most shoegazy) and Ride (at their most heavy-lidded). In other words, you'll dig this record as long as you're a fan of trebly, melancholy pop music. Which is quite a lot of people reading this review.
What distinguishes POBPAH from the rest of their modern peers is a sense of craft located in the sweet spot between wilfull amateurism masking incompetence and not gumming things up with bells and whistles. It's immediate and substantial, but initially, it can seem distracting that the band is built more for speed than muscle. Yet these aren't songs that need anchors-- as much as Alex Naidus' bass plays an integral role in pushing everything forward, he's more likely to contribute melodic counterpoint than low end. Kip Berman's voice is appropriately unaffected, working in melodies that almost feel like 45-degree angles-- exact, acute, and just right. Keyboardist Peggy Wang-East doesn't harmonize in a traditional sense with Berman very often, but particularly on "Young Adult Friction", her vocals are a hook in themselves, taking an already strong chorus to a higher plateau.
So yeah, they've got the sound figured out, but what ensures that this will be something that'll make it past the point where the indie cycle of life goes on and bands are inevitably starting to cop the sounds of, say, Archers of Loaf? Regardless of the b&w cover art, there's more gray matter than initially appears. The title alone of "This Love Is Fucking Right!" is enough to set off the sugar shock factor (it's a nod to the Field Mice), and that's before the chorus which renders the f-bomb "feckin!," but the invocation of "you're my sister" before the title is as dark as you want it to be.
"Stay Alive" is the record's centerpiece, boasting the most anthemic chorus; initially, it could pass for cloyingly optimistic, with bell-like keyboard pinches accenting thumbs-up signifiers like "shoot at the sky" and "you'll stay alive." But once again, after closer listens it takes a darker tone, possibly talking down a suicidal friend. Most tellingly, "Come Saturday" sets the stage for the rest of the record with a promise of ignoring parties for a summer wasting and spent indoors. It's every bit as heartfelt as the later lyrical nod to Another Sunny Day.
But then again, sincerity never made me turn up the volume. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart simply made a slyly confident debut that mixes sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad bastard mopery, and you're just being a dick if you think the past has some kind of patent on that. That's just the way good pop music works.
Though the pace slackens a bit - they become more standard tempo pop songs for the vast majority of the rest of the record - the songs are perfect distillations of the sound they harness. “Young Adult Friction” takes its bounding bass line and duels the crystalline keyboards in an aching testament to adolescence. “Stay Alive” holds the lilting purity of some of shoegaze’s finest moments as a frame. Simple riffs that are at times clean, at times eradicated by treatment, great harmonies and vocals.
While it’s easy to imagine The Pains of Being Pure at Heart feeling right at home in the mid-to-late 80s, their sound is much more joyous in the surroundings of 2009. And in the midst of the deathly cold of winter, this is a slice of summertime that is badly needed." aquariumdrunkard.com