Review Summary: Despite some shortcomings pertaining to variety and originality, this is a charming debut from a band worth watching.
I am not qualified to write this review. The only exposition I have to this so-called “lo-fi/shoegaze/noise pop” genre is Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, an album which I admire and enjoy in equal measure. I’m not caught up on the newest releases by No Age, nor have I been touched by the glory that is The Microphones’ The Glow Pt. 2
. I haven’t even listened to If You’re Feeling Sinister
. However, when my ears first heard the combo of treble-y guitars and ethereal vocals on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
, I was both impressed and enjoying myself. This is the kind of album that may turn the unaccustomed onto other albums of the same manner.
Throughout the record, the indie quartet skillfully mix in their treble-y guitars with light, airy vocals: an easy listen, but not one that will bore the listener in any way. The songs are also very simple in spirit, containing simple chord progressions and barely reaching outside of the normal qualities of song structure. This simplicity ends up being both the album’s biggest asset and its biggest liability: the album’s straightforwardness makes it easy to swallow, but also makes it feel a tad generic and unexciting.
This is no big matter, because sound rather than originality wins out on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
, a record whose distant and atmospheric tone is always charming and never overbearing. The greatest examples of this are in the songs “Young Adult Friction” and “This Love is ***ing Right!” the best two on the album. “Young Adult Friction”, a song which, on first listen, barely seems to have any variation or chord changes, ends up one of the most endearing listens on the album. The song ends in a fittingly simple repetition of “don’t check me out”. The song leads into “This Love is ***ing Right!” which also features a strikingly simple guitar part and a simple structure. The song seems to be somewhat normal teenage-love fair until the chorus comes around, where a sudden and unexpected twist is put on the song: “You’re my sister, and this love is ***ing right.” Despite the song’s incestuous overtones, it’s still a charming listen, which attests to the skill of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
“This Love is ***ing Right!” is not the only song with an unexpected twist in the lyrics: “A Teenager in Love” suddenly pulls one over on us when it is revealed that the teenager in question is actually in love “with Christ and heroin”. Normally, a line like that would feel forced, but with the irresistible musical backdrop it’s given, the group pull it off.
At times, the listener may grow tired of the quartet’s sound, wishing they would throw in more variation. However, for most of the record, the group keeps it fresh, throwing in subtle but vital changes, keeping the listener interested throughout the album. So, despite its shortcomings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
is an impressive debut by a promising band, and an album that should keep listeners anticipated for the band’s next release.