The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart... Could be indigestion

Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Echo Lake and Hatcham Social at Dingwalls

Published on October 18th, 2012 | Theo Gorst

As is apt, the first line sung by Kip Berman – “you’re dying just to hear the sound” – is met by the eager reaction one has come to expect from a Pains of Being Pure at Heart show. Specialising in the twee-pop pioneered throughout the late ’80s – and into the ’90s – the Brooklyintes elicit the sort of fervour only reserved for cult fixtures. Modest though Dingwalls may be, the sense of affection felt for the band amongst the crowd is palpable. Berman’s lyrics encompass awkwardness and isolation, not as a fast track to populist appeal but as a calling card to those who find solace in bands like the Field Mice, Rocketship and Belle and Sebastian. The crowd are indeed “dying to hear the sound”, and for the resulting hour every chord, lyric and melody matters.

Before Pains take to the stage for their allotted 9:45 slot the crowd are treated to support in the form Hatcham Social and label-mates Echo Lake. The former grow into their set with the terrific jangle of tracks like “Lois Lane” and “Crocodiles” proving an obvious ear for melody, although it’s the new track they end with that sounds the most exciting of all. When adding further instrumentation to the traditional set-up favoured on earlier tracks, Hatcham Social’s sound is an absorbing one.

Songs from Echo Lake’s debut LP Wild Peace are expanded upon magnificently when played live,  resounding drums and quickened guitars transforming a band who showed real potential on record to one who seem capable of writing a dream-pop masterpiece; and yet it’s undoubtedly the Pains of Being Pure at Heart who are the main draw.

Playing cuts from their two LPs, an intervening EP and some new tracks, the band flit from the varying styles with aplomb. Orange Juice fans though they may be, there’s little to relate to in reference to the lyric “we leapt onstage though we couldn’t play”. Berman’s and keyboardist Peggy Wang’s vocals remain strong, while the band remains impossibly tight, due in part to Kurt Feldman’s imaginative and propulsive drumming. Unlike Echo Lake, Pains – for the most part – remain faithful to the recorded versions of their tracks, with an emphasis on noise being the most marked difference.

“Belong” starts with beautifully chiming guitars before making way for an avalanche of distortion aided by second guitarist Connor Hanwick, as the band’s cries of “we don’t belong” resound around the 400-plus capacity venue it marks a powerful moment where tracks that inhabit bedsits are transferred to the excitement of a live setting. Indeed the squeal of distortion juxtaposed with the comfort of Wang’s vocals on tracks like “Come Saturday” and “Young Adult Friction” is simply electrifying. It makes sense for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to be on Slumberland Records, as tonight proves they deliver the perfect pop song expertly.

Easing from the raw emotion of “Belong” to the New Order-esque, jangly dance of tracks like “Higher Than the Stars” and “My Terrible Friend” betrays a confidence in craft which is further evidenced by new cuts “Kelly”, “Sure” and “Until the Sun Explodes”; combining the minor-key magic of their first LP with the sophistication of “Belong”, these songs show the band to be blessed with consistency. Those in attendance are most likely drawn to Pains for their perfect articulation of not belonging; for tonight, however, they certainly do.

Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!

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About the Author

Living on a sonic diet of Belle and Sebastian, Pavement and Yo La Tengo, Theo resides in London and when not writing for Rocksucker studies English at Goldsmiths University.