The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Slumberland Records, 2009

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


I accidentally got drunk last night.

The kind of drunk where you look at yourself in the mirror just before you pass out and even though you’re all alone, you feel ashamed and kind of embarrassed. But I wasn’t drinking because I was sad or anything; I was just so very much into the album that was flowing out of my speakers that I couldn’t stop guzzling beer. I was having my own little party right there in my living room. Dancing around, thinking about how I wished I been a teenager when The Smiths were still together, wondering if The Cure would be better off splitting up. You know…important stuff like that.  

As I stood there with a beer in my hand admiring the sleeve -- simple, straightforward, black and white awesomeness -- of the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’s self-titled debut album I thought to myself, “You know, Self, if most pop music these days is just a musical tour through the band’s own record collection -- and it is -- then pop criticism has, by necessity, become something very similar. For a shit-ton of rock critics, it’s the name that influence game!” Well I decided right then and there that for this here album, I wasn’t going to play that game. No sir!

I finished the beer in my hand and turned to go to the kitchen for another and that’s when I tripped over a stack of records and CDs I’d had out because earlier I’d suddenly had the – drunken -- desire to do some rearranging of my collection. I remained there on the carpet for a moment, face-planted on the floor, thankful the beer bottle I’d had was empty, and I took stock of the scattered pile of CDs in front of me: The Strokes’ my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Room On Fire, some early Kings Of Leon, The Shins, The Smiths’ Louder Than Bombs, some Cure albums, a Stone Roses compilation, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, and The Jesus And Mary Chain’s Psychocandy. And do you know where my copy of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart landed? Right smack dab there on top of that pile.

Weird, eh?

Anyway, back to not name-dropping influences and albums as a form of criticism; it’d be totally easy to do that for The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s excellent debut album, but let’s not. That would be counterproductive and a waste of space on the page.

To be certain, TPOBPAH’s full-length debut is derivative. Very much so. But that’s okay, because just about everything plaguing our radios, iPods, and stereos is derivative these days. At least TPOBPAH aren’t trying to hide it. They’ve fully embraced it. After a string of exciting, promising -- and successful -- singles and EPs, New York-based TPOBPAH have delivered on their promises and released nothing more than a good old fashioned indie-pop album.

Guitars that are sometimes shimmery, sometimes fuzzy, but always controlled, smart, and sophisticated drown this album in a delicious early ‘90s college radio sound and make for a listening experience that is….well…it’s just plain fun. Although placing “Contender” at the top of the play list might have been a misstep for an album-opener, it’s a strong tune nonetheless and segues perfectly into “Come Saturday” where TPOBPAH really work the gimmicks with lines like “I can’t stand to see your picture, on the dresser where I left you. Another sunny day, and you’re 80 miles away…” Ten tracks in all and just under thirty-five minutes, there’s no filler here -- shit, there wouldn’t be room for filler anyway. “Young Adult Friction” stands out among the rest and will undoubtedly be one of the best pop songs of 2009. “The Tenure Itch,” “Stay Alive,” and “Everything With You” flow into one another quickly and perfectly and lead up to the album’s second strongest track “A Teenager In Love” where we find TPOBPAH fully embracing the genre with the refrain “A teenager in love with Christ and heroin.”

In the end what you get is thirty-five minutes of absolutely perfected, fine-tuned -- totally derivative -- and smart indie-pop. Even if The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are predictable at nearly every turn, what’s wrong with that?

Sometimes it’s nice to break free of the exotic and just revisit the familiar. This is an exceedingly strong debut and I dare you not to fall in love with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.

Good luck.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Slumberland Records, and is used for informational purposes only.