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Review

‘The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’ adds new twist on recycled material

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February 19, 2009

If you’re asking yourself right now, “Who the hell are The Pains of Being Pure at Heart?” then you probably find yourself in pretty good company. Yours truly hadn’t had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with the New York quartet until their self-titled debut album graced my speakers earlier this week. They apparently have a large underground following, and it doesn’t take long to realize why. 

As many critics have pointed out, TPOBPAH’s defining, encompassing sound shares the same DNA as that of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain; every minute of their first effort seems like it could have been ripped right out of the Lost in Translation soundtrack-probably one of the most glowing endorsements that could be bestowed on a piece of music.

What they have created here is a compact set list that pumps steadily with a youthful heartbeat. It is methodical but never too slow, upbeat without ever getting ahead of itself. The band has managed to draw upon the best qualities of their musical idols (the Pastels, the Ramones) and infuse them with a fresh, unique rejuvenating energy. 

The first single, “Come Saturday,” is a fuzz-filled gem that begins on a screechy note, but then effortlessly mingles itself around leadman Kip Berman’s smooth, facile voice. The album’s greatest track, “Gentle Sons” serves as the flourishing touch, with a cloudy beat that is perfectly balanced by a needle-sharp electric guitar interjection. The lyrics revolve around typical boy-girl relationships and the fiber that holds them together. 

In a way, the leisurely tendency of the tracks to flow together is a product of a spiritual simplicity that comes hand-in-hand with raw unexposed talent. TPOBPAH tends to play it safe with this collection of songs, which takes nothing away from the overall effort. 

In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I heard a record that registered such a deep, memorable imprint. I didn’t once have the urge to overanalyze the words, and it’s not the type of music to get up and dance to. Instead, I just wanted to sit back and enjoy the dreamy atmosphere and great melodies. 

It is a record that has no illusions or intentions of appealing to a broad audience, but it may well eventually be hailed as an indie rock classic. Although the sound may be recycled, it’s simply too infectious to fade from memory anytime soon.

Andrew Phelps is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.