The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, S/T (2009)

I am not a difficult man to please, on the whole. But once, when I and my friends were looking around for houses to inhabit, we found that none were quite right. There’d be a promise of cheap rent, or a nice location, or a good space to cost ratio, but something would just be off. We eventually settled on the least “off” house of the bunch, but I remember that period as being one of pure indecision, as none of the houses we looked at, despite initially appearing to be okay, fit the bill.

This is roughly how I felt listening to “The Pains of Being Pure At Heart”‘s first, self-titled album. Everything was all there; lashings of shoegaze fuzz, syrupy chords, hooks of the kind Weezer stopped putting out in 1994, and melancholy tweeisms that wouldn’t be out of place in a Belle and Sebastian song. All the elements for my kind of thing were there… But in this instance, all I could see were the seams. This album is a useless composite.

It’s a real shame. Opener, “Contender”, sets things off with a splash of feedback , a little bit of drum machine wizardry, and some “Loveless” style guitars, before Kip Berman’s vocals trip through a tale of misplaced youth; “you traded books for film/you traded films for time/now that you’ve got none” is a lovely lyric and there’s a plainspoken quality to it that’s quite endearing. It’s nothing special, but it’s not a bad way to spend two and a half minutes. It could signal better things to come, or make sense as part of a wider whole.

Then second track, “Come Saturday” continues with a splash of feedback, a bit of drum machine wizardry, and… Yeah. For the remaining half hour of this disc, track after track rushes by with little nuance or variation. There are bright spots; the aforementioned opener, for one, and the 80’s jangle and sheen of “A Teenager In Love”, and the sweep of closer “Gentle Sons” (which is a cruel track, breaking the funk of the previous songs but at the least useful moment). However, these are rare blips of activity on the heartbeat monitor of this comatose, inert album.

There is no sense of urgency, or cohesion, no flow or sweep to the whole thing that makes you feel like you’re listening to an album. It’s just a dump of very similar-sounding songs, strung together in a fairly uninspired way.

It’s a shame, because in theory this is right up my alley. I also don’t go out of my way to listen to music that I know doesn’t appeal to me (hence why all my previous reviews have been positive). But here I was all set to enjoy this thing… And it carried nothing for me. It’s just a load of recycled bits from bands I like more. I’d recommend it to people with a similar taste to mine, but sadly I found nothing here to like.

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