The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is hardly a band name which trips off the tongue. It may not always be one you’ll remember; however, in the past they’ve received some decent press. I hadn’t known what to expect when approaching this album, but it turns out I got a pleasant surprise.
Beginning with the bass-less, drum-less fuzziness of ‘Contender’, initially I thought this band wouldn’t interest me at all. But…by the time track two arrives, I’m reminded of the more commercial elements of Lush and 90s shoegaze/alt-pop – and that pleases me. Female ooh’s, quirky lead vocals, a pace that’s too punchy for the some of the indie kids, yet not quite punk-pop – a sunny quality which comes as a pleasant surprise. Faster than Lush, more tuneful than the indie-pop chav gold from Kenickie, Pains of Being Pure at Heart have some great musical qualities. ‘Young Adult Friction’ is pure jangle pop – the kind that never really goes out of style; and the slightly kooky keyboard lodged under the mix of other stuff helps to add colour. The only criticism is that at just over four minutes, it feels a little long.
It may not have been the desired end result, but ‘Hey Paul’ sounds like The Wedding Present even if vocalist Kip Bermon doesn’t have the curmudgeonly demeanour of David Gedge. One of the standout tracks, ‘Stay Alive’, shows the lighter side of the band. This track stands out due to the chirpy nature of the music alone, as the vocals aren’t as clear as they could be. Some moments feel a little more traditionally shoegaze – ‘Gentle Sons’ has an echoing vocal matched against a mid paced drone of guitars. Some listeners are bound to love it, but ‘Teenager In Love’ is my contender for the track likely to be skipped every time – if something reminds me of the twee nastiness of Belle and Sebastian that much, you can keep it! Thanks.
This album may not be an all round classic, but its balance somewhere between sugary pop songs and fuzzy noise is so early 90s it feels good…and sometimes, that’s all you need.