March 27, 2011

Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Belong


When The Pains of Being Pure at Heart released their outstanding self-titled debut in 2009, it cracked open the doors for a new wave of bands heavily indebted to '90s alternative nostalgia. Middle-of-the-line fuzzy production in excess, tracks that homaged Kurt Cobain's cardigan and not really having any aspirations other than making music they enjoyed put The Pains at the precursor of a revitalized indie alt-rock nation. Since then, others such as Japandroids and Yuck have joined in their plight, MTV has announced the resurrection of venerable video shows, 120 Minutes and Beavis and Butthead, and while there may not be another Nirvana out there, we at least have bands who remember seminal cuts from the likes of Slowdive, Teenage Fanclub, early Morrissey and not just arena rock "grunge." That mentality again suits The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's approach on their sophomore effort, Belong. Produced and mixed by Flood and Alan Moulder (two men familiar with the '90s, as they've worked with the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, My Bloody Valentine and Nine Inch Nails,) the Brooklyn nu-gazers said their intent recruiting the alternative masterminds was not to create a "big" sound but rather, just make them sound like a better band. Belong's title track and opener was a surefire indication of this when we heard it a few months ago. Like that track, these songs here continue to revel in elements of punchy shoegaze and tales of young romance, but it's louder, enacted with more confidence and tighter precision in the band's distortion-fueled guitars and rhythm ("The Body," "Even In Dreams," "Girl of 1,000 Dreams" and "Strange.") The janglier, small-scale indie pop numbers heard on their debut aren't conveyed in the same light as they are on Belong, but chalk that up to The Pains just sounding more comfortable with shifting chord progressions, quieter points and lead singer, Kip Berman, letting his nimble voice carry the music instead of letting the music carry him ("Heavens Gonna Happen Now," "My Terrible Friend," "Anne With an E.") As artists, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's progression on Belong is an assuring natural one where they've maintained their identities and dreamier thematics despite Flood and Moulder's glossy tag team production. Indie rock will likely continue embracing the '90s until the next decade rolls around, but in the meantime, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Belong cultivates that era's excitement where any band could sound big just by staying themselves.



The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's Belong will be released March 29, 2011 on Slumberland Records.

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