The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

by Al Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2011-03-28

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are one of those derivative bands it's okay to like because they do it so well. This album sees them expanding their palette a bit, while keeping their sights trained on the big, shiny balloon marked 'POP!'.

Opening track 'Belong' is like the best song that The Smashing Pumpkins never wrote (note to younger readers: The Smashing Pumpkins were a band from the 90s with about five good songs.) It has the kind of clean, soaring riffage/overdriven power-chords combo that always sounds like a defiant teenage call-to-arms. "We just don't belong", sighs Kip Berman over the top and your stupid adolescent heart melts.

The Pains get compared to My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain a lot but sometimes they have more in common with melodic rock bands of the 90s, like The Pumpkins or Ash. 'Heaven's Gonna Happen Now' uses every pop-impact trick it can: double-tracked riffs and vocals; not-so subtle drum-rolls that herald a soaring chorus. It all works though, so kudos to them. For the first time I notice how much Berman sounds like Bernard Butler - then the whole band start sounding like New Order on 'The Body', whose motorik drumming and plaintive chorus ("Tell me again what the body's for/ I can't feel it anymore") make it little more than pastiche - very well executed pastiche, but still.

'Even in Dreams' is full on teen-power-ballad territory, and even on autopilot, no-one does it better than The Pains; yearning, high-school declarations of everlasting love are their absolute forte. "Even in dreams/ I cannot betray you" sings Berman over a raft of fuzzy, stuttering power-chords; and his fragile sincerity will either make you barf or weaken your knees. 'My Terrible Friend' is again simplistic and heartfelt (a bit wet I suppose) and probably could have been written by a 14-year-old, but isn't that the definition of great pop music? 'Girls of 1000 Dreams' is a bit more rocking, sounding like The Raveonettes with its buzzsaw guitars and boy-girl harmonies on the infectious chorus.'Too Tough' is the kind of redemptive, lighters-aloft slow-anthem that teenagers will listen to while thinking about their all-encompassing crushes late into the night.

There are no major curveballs here: but the overall quality is commendably high, and The Pains are perhaps alone in being able to combine an obsessive knowledge of their influences with genuinely emotive songwriting. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are still music for idealistic indie geeks, but there are worse things to be.

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