The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s 2009 self-titled debut was as perfect as indie pop gets. Combining Kip Berman’s infectious borderline-twee melodies with washes of fuzzy Ecstasy and Wine-era My Bloody Valentine guitars in all the right places, this Brooklyn outfit proved to be the perfect marriage of Belle and Sebastian and the early 1990s Creation Records sound. Like B&S, or The Smiths for that matter, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are champion song-smiths, the rare band whose lyric sheets you actually want to read. Tracks such as “This Love Is Fucking Right!” (a clever play on The Field Mice’s “This Love Is Not Wrong”), “Young Adult Friction,” and “Everything With You” (the latter nearly out “riding” the best of Ride) rightfully elevated the band to indie stardom.
Eighteen months and several one-off singles later, the group is back with their long awaited follow-up. How much you’ll like Belong depends on how much you like some of the bigger sounding shoegaze-y albums of the 1990s. Produced by Flood (Smashing Pumpkins, U2, PJ Harvey) and mixed by Alan Moulder, who produced the likes of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Ride, Belong is a big step forward – emphasis on the word big. Thankfully, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart prove they can handle the step up from clubs to arenas without missing a beat.
The opening title track sets the tone for the album with some pretty amazing loud/soft dynamics, Berman’s hushed (almost too much so, at times) vocals contrasting with crashing guitars and percussion. If you’re a fan of the early Smashing Pumpkins (pre-Billy Corgan Zero t-shirt era), you’ll love this album. Even better is “The Body,” a soaring epic with a similar majestic beauty to prime time Echo & The Bunnymen (think “The Killing Moon” and “Bring On the Dancing Horses”) with its windswept atmosphere and gorgeous chorus. How can you not love the following lyric: “You try so hard to keep it together / and you look so hard in fishnets and leather / But I know who you are, you are just a lost saint…”?
Another standout is the way-too-short “Girl Of 1,000 Dreams,” the scuzzy guitar sound bringing to mind The Jesus and Mary Chain circa Honey’s Dead. The breezy “Heart In Your Heartbreak” is closest in style and spirit to Pains’ debut, an impossibly catchy ode to love gone sour (“She was the heart in your heartbreak / She was the miss in your mistake”), while “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now” is a perfect companion piece to Ride’s “Twisterella.”
Belong proves that big doesn’t necessarily have to mean bad, and it’s okay for your favorite bands to shoot for the stars. Here’s hoping The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sell millions with this one. John Hughes would have loved these guys.Visit: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart | Slumberland
Purchase: Insound | eMusic