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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

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Artist: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Album: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Label: Painbow

Review date: Oct. 15, 2007

Despite your noble intentions, by this point in life you’ve probably wronged enough people to dispense with the idea that you’re fundamentally innocent. Even if the cruelty, selfishness and insincerity you encounter in the world on a daily basis are enough to give you an epileptic fit, you’re still not quite Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin.

So when you encounter a band with a name like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it makes you wonder a few things. Are they really convinced of their own purity? Are they asking you to return to a less emotionally complex time, when you, your high school’s awkward music geek, were in love with a cheerleader, and wore your emotional wounds like a badge of honor? Are they making an ironic statement about the appeal of indie-pop to the side of you that remains forever 16, clumsy and shy? Are you reading too much into what is, most likely, just an interesting name for a band?

After a few listens, it’s not totally clear which side of the indie-pop spectrum the band falls on; knowingly naïve or emotionally complex. The aesthetic they’re going for is, on the other hand, an obvious combination of a few indie-pop micro-genres, with the requisite amount of self-referentiality. The Pains show their reverence for the early Sarah Records catalog, naming the EP’s first track “This Love is Fucking Right!” in titular homage to The Field Mice’s “This Love is Not Wrong.” Their affinity for My Bloody Valentine’s early incarnation as a fuzzy, paradoxically unsettling jangle-pop band comes through in their adopted label name, “Painbow,” a reference both to the band’s moniker and a contraction of the title of the classic early MBV track “Paint a Rainbow."

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart fuzzes out fey indie-pop melodies in a take on the early MBV sound that comes off almost like homage to the Strawberry Wine and Ecstasy EP’s. Vocalist Kip Berman assumes a sleepy, slightly off-key affected vocal lull, delivering lyrics with a slight (presumably fake) British accent.

“This Love is Fucking Right!” seems to promise an indie-pop anthem that improves on the Field Mice’s slice of star-crossed perfection by at least one expletive and one exclamation point. Unfortunately, it falls short of the grandeur of its namesake. A poppy Cure-inspired riff and some perplexing lyrics that are either ironic or figurative (“You’re my sister / and this love is fucking right!”) don’t quite provide the emotional oomph you’d hope for. Kip delivers the word "fucking" so dismissively that it seems thrown in purely for cadence, not emphasis.

The EP picks up with “Orchard of My Eye,” which sounds like a less furious take on MBV’s “Sylvie’s Head.” By the time you get to “Hey Paul,” the disc starts to sound like excellent fodder for a mixtape – which is precisely what it should be. It doesn’t reach the starry-eyed perfection of, say, Staring at the Sky-era Lucksmiths or the self-styled gravitas of early Wedding Present, but The Pains of Being Pure at Heart shows a band with the potential to craft some excellent heartbreak anthems. And how often is it that you hear an indie-pop band from the states whose prime influences are of the C86 variety? Even with the EP’s ambiguities and weaker spots, a band working towards crafting that kind of idiosyncratic, lo-fi jangle pop is worth checking out.

By Matthew A. Stern

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