The pains of being The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Blank Generation Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, May 21st, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at The Cockpit, Leeds

Float back on a wave of twee that surrounds The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and one could be in Leeds's famed Duchess or The Thekla in Bristol back at the start of the 1990s.

The New York band who play a set of St.Christopher or Field Mice inspired tunes pushed through more RAT pedals than My Bloody Valentine would find acceptable are a beguiling bunch. They beef up the sound with an extra guitarist and fuzz through most of the tracks from the d├ębut eponymous album.

As far as a band who make a sound from distortion it is note perfect but therein is the problem. Live they reproduce superbly but they add nothing new.

Not that this is always a bad thing and not that it is bad this evening but my mind that drifted before drifts back to last year and Vampire Weekend at this venue. Both bands are New Yorkers and both bands owe a chunk of thier sound to pilfering twenty years past. Like Vampire Weekend it is difficult to see where The Pains of Being Pure at Heart go next. The new song they try out sounds as if it could have been cut from the current album and oldie Kurt Cobain's Cardigan has not dated in their catalogue.

Like a great impressionist they, and Vampire Weekend, are yoked to the rise and fall of that from which they take inspiration. If twee fuzz up pop/doing The Strokes in a Paul Simon stylee falls from favour then the band fall from grace.

Nevertheless The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are, for the moment, very graceful. They encore with Hey Paul which along with Young Adult Friction stand out from a near perfect set and perhaps if a band takes inspiration from Sarah Records then so can I and suggest that the future for this band is irrelevant on a night of the less than pure pop being played to perfection.

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, May 21st, 2009

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4 Responses to “The pains of being The Pains of Being Pure at Heart”

  1. Ria Wood Says:

    Yes, they were accomplished and practised but lacked pizazz or engaging stage presence. They seemed to perk up a bit from their penultimate track (after expression to the audience the disappointment that The Cockpit wasn’t a gay bay) and the last track too. Then they sauntered off to return for encore which also started enthusiastically but faded away again, certainly by their second and final encore song. In perking up towards the end, I was reminded of Los Campesinos live.

    There was a bit of a consensus that the vocals were totally lost under the pile of guitar fuzz which is a bit of shame. I understand that is the nature of this music style but it seems such a waste. Even My Bloody Valentine lyrics can be heard at times. As the vocals were unable to engage me and the music lacked arresting melodies to carry me through, I found that this was the sort of music to do something else to rather than just watch or listen. Perhaps used in the background of some movie behind some dialogue, or perhaps whilst engaged in mental battle with a rather knotty algebraic equation to solve. In this respect there seems to be a similarity to the post-rock, “soundscape” music also doing the rounds (see earlier Vessels review).

    I am not a tweester, certainly not an original C86 era one anyhow (when I would have been 5 at the time and very much into The Frog Chorus instead) so I will probably never “feel” this sort of music to the depth of some others. Therefore, maybe I’m being a little harsh talking amongst the converts. However on giving the album several listens (of which there are at least 2 tracks that actually stand out although I couldn’t hum them for you now), and seeing this gig tonight, I didn’t get anything more out of seeing TPOBAH live than just listening to the cd in the kitchen whilst making some tea. If anything it was a lesser experience as I had no mug of tea.

  2. Jailhouse Joe Says:

    There is obviously a hardcore following for POBPAH, and like most such bands I feel excluded from it. The cognoscenti dance around to tunes they can hear in their head but for me seem to be drowned in guitar fuzz.

    The venue doesnt help either, it seems you have to be right at the front to enjoy it, otherwise all you get is a view of the bar and a sea of heads and caps. Same for the audio, its not the first time the cockpit’s sound crew have failed to address a lack of vocals. In fact the very last gig I went to there, the lead singer of those dancing days was clearly struggling with her voice but still no adjustments were made from the back of the venue.

    Shame really, I came open-minded and wanting to like them, but ended up shoegazing which Im guessing isnt the idea.

  3. Ria Wood Says:

    Yes, in response to JHJoe, sound can really make or break a gig quality. The Pete & Pirates gig we went to was excellently “sounded” all night. I even made the point of telling the soundman so and he was really quite flattered and surprised. Like record producers used to be, soundmen are unsung heroes – when they get it right!. Maximo Park started with low vocals too but they soon upped them and then the rest of gig was spot on.
    It’s not entirely different to seeing a film at the cinema being shown in the wrong aspect. You can still watch the film but if the picture is distorted, you’re just not going to enjoy it to it’s full potential, etc.

  4. Leon Carroll Says:

    Ah, now. You see, I AM a hardcore follower, at least in as much as this was the second time I have seen a band from t’other side of the world, and as far as I’m aware on their third visit to Leeds. I am also a keen follower of the pop they call indie. The sound WAS bloody awful, I couldn’t hear what difference the second guitarist made, I couldn;t make out the vocals either, but as I know and love the songs so well, I just filled in the gaps in my head I suppose. On the evidence of the Pains gig last December in the little room above the bar I would say that their latest visit does not do them justice. Then the songs had punch and bite and verve, this latest performance was a little wishy washy in comparison but that may be all down to mixing desk mix ups and poor acoustics.The songs were certainly played with the same energy.

    As for the songs and the band I reckon that it matters not a jot what they do next, if this was all they left us with that would be quite enough thank you, so I will await their 2nd attempt content that they have already made a difference to me.

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