Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gut Feeling: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong


I am a man who craves satisfaction. Scratch that, I am an overgrown boy unwilling to face manhood who likes music for wimps. And that is why I like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Well, like is taking it a bit too far, considering that I have the same reaction to their music. You see, the thing is, they seem to evolve with my own music tastes. Their eponymous debut came out in 2009 when I was still very much an admirer of the whole twee pop/Sarah Records thing, but I couldn’t help but think that they were just blatantly ripping off a bunch of bands I loved without half the soul. It sounded amazing upon the first few listens, but then it all fell apart when I realized I could just listen to the Field Mice and ignore the Pains of Being Pure at Heart forever.

But it sounded good, and I saw them at SXSW that year and their show was pretty good, but really only served to cement my feelings that they were copping a mess of other bands’ style and that they were too be ignored. Come 2011, they’ve got a new album coming out with a couple of pretty excellent sounding initial singles. “Heart in Your Heartbreak” is a pretty solid by the numbers indie-pop jam where “Belong,” ventured into new territory. 90s alternative rock territory. Notably, Smashing Pumpkins turf. I got that feeling that I got the first time I saw the “Tonight, Tonight” video and recalled wearing that ZERO shirt with the star Billy Corgan on the playground in 6th grade and understanding what I wanted to get out of music at a base level. My problem with Belong as an album is that it feels like that base level 6th grader on a playground album. It’s a bunch of fucking around without showing anyone anything NEW. It’s a rehash of a bunch of bands you loved, and at first you will knee-jerk into digging on it because you like the bands being copped, but after three or so listens you will soon realize that you might as well listen to the fucking music this band has put into a blender.

This album’s influences aren’t so much worn on its sleeve as they are splattered on their whole fucking t-shirt. It’s as if they’ve just cracked open the skull of the Cure with an axe and freely let the blood flow over their cheap white poly-cotton blend Hanes tee. Not just the Cure though, despite the fact that Robert Smith has taken up residence inside this album and quietly wishes to be evicted. The Jesus and Mary Chain, New Order, live here, and so does Robert Wratten despite the fact that he spent plenty of time inside of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s debut and despite the fact that he probably got his fill on that. Or maybe he likes this band, I don’t know. I hear the Field Mice and I hear true and honest heartbreak and pleas for someone to be let back in and I hear the Pains of Being Pure at Heart and I feel like they’re faking it. And really, that’s what kills me here. It’s not the influences on the sleeves and splatters, it’s how it all sounds so rehearsed and faked through. I can wag my head from side to side to the melodies but three listens in I can tell there’s nothing there and five or six I’m wanting to write a diatribe about how this band needs to find their own fucking sound because Christ this is fucking boring.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are always a band that I want to love. They appeal to my base urges to embrace indie-pop, but upon further listening I realize that their music is shallow in a disgusting sort of way. I don’t think they are bad people, or that they are committing some sort of crime, I don’t think there is anything wrong with them as people. I think they really love music, but I think the problem is that they may love music too much that they can’t disconnect themselves from the people they admire and that makes for some records that really need to be listening to. They are fine records once through, but I could just mash-up to Wish and Darklands and Loveless and Sittin’ Pretty and that jumbled mess would still sound more genuine. Despite the fact that they make it obvious that it is painful, being pure at heart and all, it’s hard to see the heart. Or the purity. Or the pain. And frankly, any one of those three would make this an album worth listening to.

P.S. For the sake of actual criticism despite the ideology of this album, I'll say this: Most of the songs commit the modern rock atrocity of having a decent first minute and repeating that first minute for two more superfluous minutes, play emotional by adding layers of reverb to the vocals that makes them only sound more insincere, and as probably already inferred, try so fucking hard to sound like other songs that its distracting...but mostly only after the whole "repeating the first minute for four minutes" shit. That chorus for "Even in Dreams" would kill me so perfectly if the thing was three goddamn minutes sorter. Goddamnit, I want to like this band so much every time they put out a new record and why the fuck does it have to sound so vacant?

Yes, the distortion and well, most of it for that matter, is cribbed from vintage Smashing Pumpkins songs but this is still the best track on the record. It's a bit overlong, but mixes it up enough to make it compelling in its message (and oft repeated chorus). But why do all the guitars sound like fey little children! There is some righteous distortion at work but the guitars still sound like they'd fall over and curl into a little ball if you breathed on them wrong! In short, where's that Calvin Johnson ethic of being a pussy but still having some balls? Stop giving so much of a fuck, dudes (and dudette)! Maybe some day you can be a band that isn't defined by a gazillion other bands!

1 comment:

  1. even in dreams makes me drooool... nom nom want me some of that kip berman