The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — who were named after an unpublished children’s story written by a friend of lead singer Kip Berman — return today with their second full-length, Belong. The record was produced by Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder of Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine fame, respectively.
Title track “Belong” opens the album with 12 seconds of unobtrusive musical pleasantry, followed by an eruption of hard distortion that will encourage immediate air-guitar strummage from anyone who suffered through their teens in the 1990s. Cue Berman’s sexy vocals and some I’m-bored-so-let’s-just-do-it lyrics (“If you’re mine / I don’t mind / we tried another / let’s try each other”) and you have the recipe for a PoBPaH grilled chicken sandwich (but clearly not a PoBPaH coq au vin).
There’s no musical rocket science here. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart simply make music that is easy to listen to: catchy guitar+keyboard melodies, four-by-four bass plucking and drum beating, guy/girl harmonies that make it easy to sing along with your significant other in the car, and lyrics that inspire self-inflicted, diminutive mysterioso (see the lyric “Held my breath / thought of death / and things I’d like to do ’til then” on “Girls of 1000 Dreams”).
The miss in the mistake of first single “Heart In Your Heartbreak” is that it lacks both heart and break. It needs to be headier and heavier, beseechingly so, to find the credibility in the stark ineptitude of “And no matter what you say, it’s never gonna come back.” “My Terrible Friend” is anxious and 80s-sounding, but not in a cool or modern way, and how passive-aggro is it to tell your friend you hate them via song?
“Strange” finishes the album with the same musical makeup as the rest of the album, and ends with the line “And dreams can still come true, and it’s coming true for you” – fulfilling my own vilified mysterioso.
Sure, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart can write and play songs, but in a time when hundreds of bands are fighting to be heard for their innovative and profound music, they just may not belong.