The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Belong” (2011, Slumberland Records)
Reviewer: Matthew Sanderlin
This review is republished with permission. It originally
appeared at Headphone Transmissions.
Through the grit of fuzz and the heat of nostalgic fervency, a strand of simple (yet substantial) melody graciously coats a set of poignant lyrics in the presence of rich synth. The drums thunder with focused and forceful dynamic and the bass sinks into its low frequency with a satisfied sigh.
This, dear reader, is sound of Belong, the second full-length release from lo-fi, shoegaze kings The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Their first, self-titled album introduced us to ten memorable melodies and their ten sets of humourous and quirky (and sometimes racy) lyrics— all accented with sound remnants of classic indie acts such as The Smiths and My Bloody Valentine. Pop gems like “Come Saturday,” “Young Adult Friction,” and “Everything with You” quickly built and solidified the group’s budding sound and stature in the messy world of indie pop/rock.
Belong finds our beloved Pains in a bigger and more accessible atmosphere. Percussionist Kurt Feldman is guided by the legendary producer Flood in the anthemic expansion of the drums, and Alex Naidus’s always-faithful bass matches this progression with a melodic interpretation of the low end of things. Especially on early album track “The Body,” Feldman and Naidus’s rhythm section really flows together and eventually launches the already full and dreamy arrangement into an explosion of energetic bliss.
Song structures are simple enough (and in one case, too simple; the predictable execution of the I, V, vi, IV chord progression in “My Terrible Friend” is indeed disappointing), but leaders Kip Berman and Peggy Wang vary things up appropriately with distinct vocal melodies and starry-eyed synth movements, respectively. The two masterfully blend their talents in nearly all of the tunes, but “Even in Dreams,” “Strange,” and “My Terrible Friend” are the best showcases of their vocal/guitar/synth conglomeration.
Lyrics are also intriguing in the world of Belong. In “Anne with an E,” Berman tells a rueful tale of adolescent love-making and heart-breaking, pillowing airy, U2-esque guitar proclamations with lyrical phrases like—
“We’ll call in sick tomorrow and shake ’til we can’t speak,
And know it won’t get better, but still you wanna see
Our bodies fall apart and lose the will to breathe,
And fall asleep forever in perfect harmony.”
In lead single “Heart in Your Heartbreak,” Berman’s lyrics shift smoothly from lucid and nostalgic to clever and learned. Smart expressions like, “She was the ‘heart’ in your ‘heartbreak’ / She was the ‘miss’ in your ‘mistake,’” and “She was the tear in a rainstorm / She was the promise that you would’ve sworn” bring an already great tune to a level of unmistakeable genius and shoegaze-tinted charm.
In conclusion, these ten new songs reveal a blossoming, confident band with plenty of outstanding musical ideas, effortlessly finding their groove, advancing towards a common, creative goal. Belong is a trophy record, one of 2011′s best, and possibly even better than the Pains’ debut LP.
A record like this indubitably belongs in your record collection (pun intended).