Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong review

The second album from New York indie shoegazers The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is aptly titled Belong, especially when you consider that every song is the musical equivalent of a reassuring pep talk from your mom.  Seriously though, if the band's debut album was an introspective piece of distortion drenched pining and reverb-soaked lovesickness, this sophomore effort is like an emotional support group, and anyone who has ever had a relationship gone awry can indeed, belong.

Belong finds The Pains of Being Pure at Heart opting for a more refined and polished sound.  After listening to their self-titled debut and then this new album, its quite obvious that the band is moving further away from their lo-fi origins in favor of stadium anthems.  Under normal circumstances I probably would have guessed that adopting big choruses and Coldplay-sized hooks would have spelled certain doom for a band who crafted a name for themselves (albeit a shitty and unnecessarily long name) by cranking up the distortion on their amps, stepping on some fuzzboxes, playing two, maybe three chords while the smoky croon of vocalist Kip Berman wafted around all of that noise somewhat haphazardly.  To my surprise however, it all seems to work.  Not a single song on Belong sounds forced, the tunes progress organically and grow to deliver the goods.

Despite sounding clearer on this album, sonically The Pains of Being Pure at Heart don't really mess around with the formula they came up with on their debut.  Guitars still moan, synthesizers still reel and shimmer and the stomp boxes are all still there.  Lyrically the subjects tackled are more of the same, heartbreak, loss, alienation, take your pick.  We've essentially heard it all before and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart really don't do anything new or innovative at all.  Their lyrics are kind of questionable ('When everyone was doing drugs/we were just doing love' what is that?) and they could almost pass as a pussified Jesus and Mary Chain, yet I am enjoying this album.  I can't explain accurately why I like Belong so much, maybe because the lyrics are vague enough that I can do a sort of fill-in-the-blank act with each of the songs, placing myself in the shoes of the lovelorn protagonist.  Or maybe it's because the music itself sounds nostalgic, kind of like when I want to remember high school as better than what it was and I pop in an M83 record.

Any way you slice it, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have delivered a sophomore effort that certainly lives up to its predecessor by tweaking the formula just enough to be fresh without alienating us with a total change in direction.  Belong is a catchy record, just not entirely original, but I think that that familiarity is what makes the album so instantly accessible and easy to listen to.  We've heard it all before, but we can't deny that it is a sound that we all like.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - This Love is Fucking Right

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Belong

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