Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Review: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

New York's appallingly monikered The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's debut is an evocative, sparkling combination of early My Bloody Valentine fuzz, Stone Roses jangle, new wave melody and the sort of fey, Anglophile lead vocal that you rarely hear come out of the US any more outside of a late night Rocky Horror showing. It's 35 minute fever dream of adolescence, ploughing a late 80s furrow superficially similar to M83's "Graveyard Girl" and "Kim & Jessie" but with revved up guitars, propulsive bass and a little less calculation, the sound of every euphoric 3am first kiss you ever had.  One assumes Sophia Coppola's licensed the entire thing already.

There's a darkness and a melancholy in the lyrics that acts as a subtle undertow beneath some of the purest, giddiest pop in ages. "A Teenager In Love" takes a Prefab Sprout/Aztec Camera acoustic guitar riff, sprinkles a little synth over the top, and whispers a lyric that on closer examination tells the story of a teenager in love "with Christ and heroin." The overall effect is Less Than Zero reimagined by John Hughes.

Elsewhere, highlights include "Saturday Comes," a pean to the joys of infatuation and isolation, of staying locked away from everyone in "a wasted summer/with no drama." The splendidly titled "Young Adult Friction" is all fumbling in the library - "our bodies spent/among the dust and the microfiche." Synth player Peggy Wang's fragile harmonies twist in and out of Kip Berman's lead particularly effectively here.

"Stay Alive", the center of the record, starts out like a Stone Roses b-side — all thundering drums and acoustic guitar, until the synth bells and fuzzboxes herald a dreamlike, ambiguous lyric of surviving in a shithole. The Mary Chain drumbeat of closer "Gentle Sons" has a sense of the triumphant and the inevitable, a powerhouse closing to a brief, brilliant debut.

All killer, no filler. This is already being hyped into the stratosphere, but it's worth it. Spellbinding. 9/10.

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