TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2009|
It's rare that in 2009 a quality pop album creeps under the radar without any hype attached, but that's exactly what happened with the self-titled rookie outing from Brooklyn based four-piece The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Operating somewhere in between the fuzzy hum of shoegaze and the boom-boom-CRASH of amateurish garage (the good kind), The Pains... sound like the composite sketch of every 80's movie soundtrack in the same vein as The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink-- veiled and darkly lit with all the beautifully caricatured features of obsessive teenaged idealism (kind of like Molly Ringwald, but with a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette).
While hardly reinventing the wheel, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart succeeds as an album because it's a strange, contrast-y amalgamation of both pragmatic nostalgia and teenaged rebellion. However, it's punk-rock in a different way, much unlike the in your face, riot inciting thrash we've become accustomed to. On the contrary, it's rebelliousness lies in the way The Pains... embrace their own mega-poppy sound-- they make no apologies whatsoever for their own brand of pulsing melancholy that seems to intentionally dodge any sort of faux indie intellectualism. In many ways, they're kind of like an inverted Lady Gaga, but visually non-descript and actually talented.
The album itself is devoid of any sort of variation or experimentation-- it's 10 tracks of visceral, major chord fuzz stacked under the nasally vocals of lead singer Kip Berman and the lighter than air harmonies of keyboardist Peggy Wang-East. "Young Adult Friction" and "Everything With You" drill their way into your skull before nesting comfortably in your hum-along subconscious, but the standout here is the incestually Oedipus-ian "This Love is Fucking Right", with it's unassuming and disturbing chorus lurking under the album's catchiest melody: "You're my sister / and this love is fucking right"-- there's enough here to make Freud stroke his beard in his grave.
Morbidities aside, this album is the pleasantest of pleasant surprises we've come across in a long time. Listening to The Pains... felt like browsing through my high school yearbook, but with all the bad parts blacked out in thick and aggressive Sharpie. If you like simple, catchy melodies handcrafted in the most delicate of ways (and who doesn't!), then this album is definitely for you. If not, then well, I guess there's always Lady Gaga...or something.- Chris Gayomali