Sunday, 15 May 2011

Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

From what started as a band put together for the birthday of Peggy Wang, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have done rather well for themselves. Having released their latest album after their hugely successful 2009 self-titled album and performed at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, 2011 has already been a massive year. The new album 'Belong' adopts a rockier approach while ultimately retains its combination of twee-pop and shoegaze to be one of the best releases among a genre awash with The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine ripoffs.

The harmonies, clanging guitars and distortion pedals all return to great effect in the second of TPOBPAH's releases. This is epitomised in the albums second track 'Heavens Gonna Happen Now' which kicks off with some rapid-fire drumming before smoothly breaking into a jangly guitar riff and Kip Bergman's lyrics. The following track, 'Heart In Your Heartbreak' continues in this twee groove with Bergman singing "She was the tear in a rainstorm/She was the promise that you would've sworn/And no matter what you say/it's never gonna come back". These innocent lyrics that are so typical of the twee genre are followed by hand-claps later on in the song. These are not necessarily bad things but the style has become a little bit clich├ęd and predictable. From a band that is evidently extremely talented, 'Belong' often seems a bit safe and rarely expansive.
'The Body' is a synth driven song which picks up the excitement levels and interest. Bergman takes on a bit more of a seductive tone with lyrics such as "I can't feel it anymore/tell me again what's the body for/I can't feel it anymore/tell me again it's only skin/we should swim". 'Anne with an E' is a slow number with a simple guitar and drum rhythm and lovesick lyrics. 'My Terrible Friend' is the most enjoyable song off the album. The harmonies, jangles and drums come together effortlessly. A great catchy piano tune flows through the track accompanied by simple drums and guitars.

'Belong' is a good album. But it lacks the many great moments that the self-titled had. The album as a whole just seems a big flat. There are some redeeming tracks like 'My Terrible Friend', 'Heart In Your Heartbreak', and the closing track 'Strange' which almost takes on a shoegaze-post-rock sort of vibe. Overall 'Belong' is an enjoyable album but it seems to be a bit too polished. The roughness of the self-titled album was something that made it so great. 'Belong' is by no means poor although it is rather distinctly one-dimensional. That being said; if you listen to this album knowing that you'll be getting 10 rather typical pop songs with a few great melodies and catchy riffs, you'll probably be rather satisfied. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have made a solid album proving that they are the in the top echelon of shoegaze/twee/jangle bands but for a band this talented, perhaps a chance to make something great has just been missed. 

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