What a difference a couple of years can make. If The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart had released this record back then, you could almost guarantee that it would have slipped by concertedly unnoticed. Indeed, one look at the artists name and it's fair to say a host of potential suitors would have switched off immediately, no doubt nonplussed by the moniker's emo connotations.
Thankfully, its not always the wisest of moves to judge every book by the cover, and even though The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, all dressed in its monochrome photo negative-style format doesn't exactly fit any pre-conceived stereotypes, there is something quite striking about its unpretentious, slightly understated demeanour.
There is also something quite self-explanatory about the whole packaging; The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart don't need any kind of market-researched slick aesthetic to bury what they're about. Forget the obvious reference points - pre-Creation My Bloody Valentine, Sarah Records, The Pastels and Black Tambourine - as this is an ambitious collection of songs that deserves to be recognised on its own merits rather than those that may have inspired it.
Lead singer and main songwriter Kip Berman has an uncanny knack when it comes to penning lyrics that perhaps don't fit the "oh-so-twee" vein his band look set to find themselves lumbered with. Take 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' for example, one of three songs re-recorded here from earlier releases (in this case their also self-titled debut EP). Its subject matter takes on something of an ambiguous turn when Berman announces "You're my sister...and this love is fucking right!" in quite startling fashion. For the most part, Berman seems to be dealing with much much darker issues than the fizzy pop that juxtaposedly underscores his words. He tackles what appears to be suicide ('Stay Alive'), heroin addiction ('A Teenager In Love'), and various relationship mishaps ('Contender', 'Hey Paul', 'Everything With You').
It probably wouldn't come as such a surprise if it weren't for the almost incessantly happy-go-lucky crescendo of the music itself, from keyboard player Peggy Wong's radiant "la la/ooh ooh" backing interludes to the upbeat rhythm section that makes this record almost impossible to sit still to, let alone concentrate at times on Berman's implausibly sensitive musings. Or maybe that was the intention?
Whatever their game plan may be, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have crafted an impeccable debut way beyond their years, and any misconceptions about them being mere revivalists of a scene only their elders could recall at first hand will surely be diminished instantaneously upon hearing this most accomplished of long players. As for those of you still unconvinced, remember how long it took the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine to get from their starting point to the 'Lazy'-era TPOBPAH seem to have drawn inspiration from so comfortably; bearing that in mind, the prospects as to what this band may achieve in the future is incredibly exciting to say the least...
8Dom Gourlay's Score