The PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART – ” The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart ” Released 3rd February 2009 Classic Album

Posted: February 4, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, which turns 10 years of age this week, The New York indie pop quartet built up a pretty rabid fan base in the indie pop community prior to the release of their self-titled debut record in early 2009. For this, they could thank a string of excellent singles and EPs that began in 2007 (songs from which appear on the album) but more than that they can put it down to the fact that their sound melds together the trademarked sounds of many beloved indie and noise pop bands into one shiny ball of sound and melancholy. Mixed in skillfully are the sonic assaults of early My Bloody Valentine, the hazy sweetness of Ride, the introspective and usually morose lyrical approach perfected by the Field Mice, the sensitive and tender vocals purveyed by most Sarah records bands, and the rhythmic drive of early-’90s Amer-Indie bands the likes of which more often than not found themselves on Slumberland (Lilys, the Ropers, Velocity Girl — whose Archie Moore ably mixes the album).

The awkward characters that populate the New York group’s brisk and clumsy first full-length are also lovesick misfits for whom the simple task of staying alive seems overwhelming. “It sounds like teen drama,” the band’s frontman Kip Berman explained once.

In the tradition of bands like Beat Happening and Belle And Sebastian, the members of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart celebrate teenageness — nowhere towns, long wasted summers, lust at first sight — with a bit of hindsight. Before Pains, Berman toiled away in a call center and did some some marketing for a company called Drillteam. He also spent time stumbling around Portland, Oregon’s DIY scene, eventually moving to NYC and geeking out over Dear Nora songs with Pains’ founding keyboardist Peggy Wang, who worked full-time for a new startup called BuzzFeed. At the same time, bassist Alex Naidus edited for eMusic’s Canadian website and drummer Kurt Feldman taught music to kids. Their teenage years were in the rear view, but an adolescent-like desire to belong to something lingered — as did their appreciation for the messy mythology of being young and in love.

The record dropped in February 2009 via Slumberland, an act of kismet considering the band’s vibe was clearly informed by the iconic label’s roster of scrappy noise-makers. At first glance, Pains seemed doomed to be typecast as yet another fashionable group with fashionable influences and a retro looking album cover. And while it was true that nothing about the songs felt particularly contemporary, they definitely didn’t sound stale either. The album’s first track, “Contender,” which makes lyrical allusions to the Exploding Hearts and On The Waterfront, was the first song the group wrote together. It’s a mid tempo letter from Berman to his aimless younger self: “You saw the boys in white sing ‘I’m a pretender’ / But you never were / You never were a contender,” he sings, his mopey timbre layered atop Wang’s background melodies.

Things mostly get brighter and noisier from there: The sweet and thrashy “Come Saturday” posits a skipped party as the light at the end of the tunnel, while the Psychocandy-esque closer “Gentle Sons” is about mortality and Mondays: “You stumble down the diamond path / And every breath could be your last,” goes the latter’s hook. The relatively huge-sounding “Stay Alive” teases the kind of room-filling, Creation Records-indebted dream pop that the group turned to when making the album’s 2011 follow-up, Belong. (The Higher Than The Stars EP, which includes a drop-dead gorgeous Saint Etienne remix that is absolutely worth revisiting, came in between.) But the self-titled’s most eternal artifact is probably “Young Adult Friction,” an unselfconsciously twee chant-along about hooking up in a library. The innuendo-laced wordplay is top-notch (“I never thought I would come of age / Let alone on a moldy page”) and Berman and Wang’s call-and-response chorus is pure, jangly joy.

Best of all is the amazingly hooky “Everything with You,” which stands as the equal of anything the shoegaze poppers or pop losers cranked out back in the day. If you had gone out and bought the 7,” after one play you would have tacked the sleeve up on your wall and played the record until the grooves wore out. It’s that good. It lifts the album from pretty good to almost great.

But for all its nostalgic energy, the songs on Pains also reflect another classically teenage concern: uncertainty about the future. “You say you’ve been waiting … waiting since you were born / For a moment when everything’s alright,” Berman sings on the bouncy, distorted “Hey Paul.” It’s hard to look back at albums that came out at the end of the aughts without thinking about the financial crisis — especially ones made by 20-somethings who were attempting to find their place in a bottomed-out economy while simultaneously searching for footing in the shifting musical landscape. Maybe there is a tendency to drift off into an idealized version of the past when things seem really shitty. Listening to the album in 2019, when things are deeply fucked in a different way, it feels borderline magical to spend 35 minutes in a teenage world full of power pop bangers and dusty old books, a place where hearts break and dreams fade but there’s always another weekend on the horizon.

It remains a coming-of-age classic to many, an unflinching and hopelessly quotable tribute to the rollercoaster romance of youth. So far it seems like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is destined to be remembered fondly.

thanks a little to Stereogum,

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