New York-based indie quartet The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart evidently wear their influences on their collective sleeve. Despite the 2009 release date, this record could double as an epitaph for shoegazing. Made up of guitar-reliant pop numbers, girl-boy vocals and lyrics that speak of youthful immaturity, you will be forgiven for thinking you’ve been here before. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart sound like a hundred other bands you’ve heard along the way, yet their irresistibly catchy pop has echoes of everything memorable that has emerged from the indie genre in the last 20 years. With influences ranging from The Cure, My Bloody Valentine and The Pastels, the question remains if there is any substance to the Pains or are they just a poor substitute for their heroes?
From the opening chords of -Contender’, the scene is set: cheery melodies and blistering drums dominate, all adding up to a buzzing nod to the champions of shoegazing and the best of British indie. The band successfully marries the harshness of My Bloody Valentine with the twee melodies of Belle & Sebastian. -A Teenager In Love’ is one of the stronger tracks, shameless in its musical ancestry, unavoidably catchy and with vocals reminiscent of Stuart Murdoch circa Arab Strap. -This Love is Fucking Right!’, on the other hand, brings the lush sound of the criminally underrated Vaselines to mind.
The sound is almost sickly sweet throughout, yet the Pains sometimes manage to muster enough youthful sneer despite quite frail vocals to remain credible. -Hey Paul’ is about the most raucous they reach, which is a shame as it saves the record from becoming lodged in a mid-tempo limbo, where it lingers for most of its second half.
Undoubtedly one of the most straight-forward and accessible pop records likely to emerge this year, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart showcases a band with the potential to create some excellent lovelorn songs of youthful endeavour, but they’re not quite there yet. That said, their off-centre, shameless pop is well worth checking out: just don’t take them too seriously. With such flawless taste in music history, it’s a shame they didn’t inject some much needed personality and charisma to come out from under the shadow of their influences.