Since forming in early 2007, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart have become one of the most talked about pop bands in years. Their distinctive brand of noisy pop is a tidy distillation of all the great noise-pop precedents - early MBV, House of Love, Pale Saints, Rocketship - but with that incredible exuberance and energy that the Pains bring to every song. They have released a handful of singles on classy labels like Slumberland, Fortuna POP!, Atomic Beat and Cloudberry, each one issued to greater anticipation and even wilder reception. Critical acclaim has come from such varied quarters as NME, The Guardian, Pitchfork, The Times, Mojo, Drowned In Sound, Indie-MP3, Clash Magazine and uncountable others.
Following up the band’s ace "Everything With You" single and whirlwind Swedish tour, we are delighted to bring you their self-titled debut album. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart is an instant classic, packed with brilliantly-executed pop gems that blend the rush of youthful enthusiasm with crafty arrangements, well-honed tunes and buckets of guitar racket. Drawing on the sparkling legacy of the best of 80s and 90s pop, POBPAH update the timeless noisy pop template with a thoroughly modern viewpoint and a very distinctive, playful personality. There is something instantly identifiable about a Pains tune, and it is the essential “rightness” of their records that has captured the attention of pop fans around the world and raised anticipation levels for this album to a near-fever pitch.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart delivers on this promise with perfect assurance. Smashing tunes like “Come Saturday” and “Young Adult Friction” are classic three minute masterpieces that simply beg the be played on repeat. “Stay Alive” and “Gentle Sons” show the band can slow it down and still rock it, and “Hey Paul” is as brash a slice of noise-blast guitar pop as you’ll hear all year. Weighing in at a flawlessly-conceived ten songs, this is all the album that Pains fans had hoped for. Handily transcending easy pigeonholes like “indie pop” and “indie rock,” it is just a great album that shows a smart young band fulfilling their potential and crafting a very convincing statement of purpose.
"Like plenty of other bands in the internet era, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem poised to attract an audience that will far outstrip that of their easily identifiable precedents-- in their case, groups like Rocketship or Shop Assistants, each obscure these days even by Approved Indie Influence standards. A few other twee/noise-pop revivalists arguably pulled off that same trick last year, but Pains of Being Pure at Heart are likely to appeal to listeners beyond online name-droppers and Brooklyn scenesters.
That these second-wavers are getting first-rate attention shouldn't be a worry unless you're into dick-measuring contests about the late-1980s (but I was there) or still holding a grudge against Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. Despite being such a streamlined listen, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart acts as something of an indie Rorschach: Once our staff got a hold of the fuzzy, major-chord fizz of "Come Saturday" or "Stay Alive", it raised comparisons to everything from Sleepyhead to Black Tambourine to even Peter Bjorn and John (at their most shoegazy) and Ride (at their most heavy-lidded). In other words, you'll dig this record as long as you're a fan of trebly, melancholy pop music. Which is quite a lot of people reading this review.
What distinguishes POBPAH from the rest of their modern peers is a sense of craft located in the sweet spot between wilfull amateurism masking incompetence and not gumming things up with bells and whistles. It's immediate and substantial, but initially, it can seem distracting that the band is built more for speed than muscle. Yet these aren't songs that need anchors-- as much as Alex Naidus' bass plays an integral role in pushing everything forward, he's more likely to contribute melodic counterpoint than low end. Kip Berman's voice is appropriately unaffected, working in melodies that almost feel like 45-degree angles-- exact, acute, and just right. Keyboardist Peggy Wang-East doesn't harmonize in a traditional sense with Berman very often, but particularly on "Young Adult Friction", her vocals are a hook in themselves, taking an already strong chorus to a higher plateau.
So yeah, they've got the sound figured out, but what ensures that this will be something that'll make it past the point where the indie cycle of life goes on and bands are inevitably starting to cop the sounds of, say, Archers of Loaf? Regardless of the b&w cover art, there's more gray matter than initially appears. The title alone of "This Love Is Fucking Right!" is enough to set off the sugar shock factor (it's a nod to the Field Mice), and that's before the chorus which renders the f-bomb "feckin!," but the invocation of "you're my sister" before the title is as dark as you want it to be.
"Stay Alive" is the record's centerpiece, boasting the most anthemic chorus; initially, it could pass for cloyingly optimistic, with bell-like keyboard pinches accenting thumbs-up signifiers like "shoot at the sky" and "you'll stay alive." But once again, after closer listens it takes a darker tone, possibly talking down a suicidal friend. Most tellingly, "Come Saturday" sets the stage for the rest of the record with a promise of ignoring parties for a summer wasting and spent indoors. It's every bit as heartfelt as the later lyrical nod to Another Sunny Day.
But then again, sincerity never made me turn up the volume. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart simply made a slyly confident debut that mixes sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad bastard mopery, and you're just being a dick if you think the past has some kind of patent on that. That's just the way good pop music works. (8.4, Best New Music)"
(Ian Cohen, Pitchfork)
"In terms of pop, one rarely finds that true bubbly loveliness that teleports to summer. Teleports and instantly heats, warmth stretching the corners of your mouth into a comfortable grin. Teeth or no teeth, this is the kind of pop that really kicks ass. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are true to the core of this very definition.
Hailing from Brooklyn, this lot are taking it back to the early nineties; but instead of making drones, noise, etc. they're putting out the kinda stuff you'd expect on the soundtrack to 'She's All That'. Freddie Prince Jr. would have lapped that shit up. The sunshine bubblegum vocals alternate boy-girl. The cuteness is, it's got to be said, accentuated by the singers' names: Kip and Peggy. Awww, awesome! Their soft voices play nicely alongside the hard hitting drums and work perfectly with their choice in production style. Track 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' hits all the right spots: what a great song name. Saying that aloud feels fucking great! And the sound mirrors this feeling exactly.
The riff echoes the bright green of an east coast college campus. Yet the lyrics are pretty bleak: “Can you go home and look your best friend in the eye? / No you can't go home, after where you slept last night”.
'Cos that's just it: something right is always wrong on the other side. And that is what The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart capture so wonderfully; that everything can be great and lovely and shiny if you just stop giving a shit about the rest. So fuck it, let's make sweet sweet pop. (9/10)"
(Lucy Tesco, This Is Fake DIY)
"Really, what can you say about a great pop record? You can break it down into mechanical details, figure out why it works, compare it to older bands from which it takes influence, chronicle how it rights the wrongs of past efforts, or builds upon an existing sound for the benefit of those who can experience it. Or you can let it speak for itself, obviating the need for a formal review. Since the former has been done to death, and the latter not only doesn’t help matters on your end, but puts me out of work, I’m going to talk about some other aspect about and around the debut album by the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. This is an important record for these times, a game changer, and in surfacing now, it illustrates a few points of interest with regards to how and why it was made.
Once the great alternarock cycles of the ‘90s shuddered to a halt, a lot of its players on both the artistic and managerial side of the fence were left stranded. Slumberland Records, one of the defining imprints of the indie pop faction of the times, never officially shut down as much as it slowed down. They’d brought us debut releases by Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine, the Swirlies, the Lilys and Small Factory, as well as Stereolab’s singles compilation Switched On. By the end of the era, they were releasing oddball records by non-traditional pop bands like Hood, and carried a torch for its remaining artists like Henry’s Dress, Rocketship, and the Aislers Set. 2002 saw no formal Slumberland releases; neither did 2004 or 2005. One of the label’s two efforts of 2003 was a 3.5” floppy disk by San Francisco garage-pop group the Crabapples, surely the sign of a business experiencing a downturn. That a handful of latter-day bands informed by the label’s earlier successes – Cause Co-Motion! and Crystal Stilts among them – elected to return to this dormant imprint is a telling sign of respect; that their records have become critical triumphs speaks to another play. It is not difficult to interpret that the contraction of the label’s operations helped to slow the growth of the very indie pop music on which Slumberland built its reputation.
The activity of indie pop hasn’t necessarily died down, it’s just been scaled down. Without an industry to play to, and with the face of music changing so rapidly from the end of the ’90s to present times, true believers woodshedded into privacy. Pop festivals in major cities were not an uncommon occurrence, but were hardly publicized outside of the scene’s constituency. Ideas became factions, the need to grow outwards no longer a priority. Compartmentalization was the next logical step, as those who participated worked hard to rehab their music into something bigger than it was (e.g., Mahogany), while others puttered off into a dashed future (see Graham Smith, a/k/a Kleenex Girl Wonder, and the tens of people for whom he’s still making double CDs). Label kingpins like Skippy (c’mon, you know Skippy) have retreated to local operations, booking tiny venues in Brooklyn and restricting access to the first 75 people who can drift away from their office jobs to click on the “Order Tickets” button.
When you hear a band like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, with this knowledge in tow, you wonder if the efforts to corral the genre of indie pop weren’t some example of a master plan unfolding before you, some major corrective bestowed upon music. Here is a band that makes no mistakes, has a strong head for songwriting (if not innovation) on its shoulders, and fits all of the other bills – fey vocals, clean production, a blast of volume that settles on bright but borders on heavy, a cute and well-groomed co-ed look. They are textbook indie pop, but have the foresight to revise that book for our benefit. Working in a scene that is just beginning to resurface, Pains eschew any one approach for all of them, and it’s to their credit that they could make a record like this debut, or the micro-pressing singles that came before it.
If you’ve ever listened to any shoegaze bands that veered away from the sweater’d idealism of ’90s Dinosaur Jr, or if you were familiar with Britpop and the college radio charts of the ’80s, then you are already familiar with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Guitarist/vocalist Kip, keyboardist/vocalist Peggy, bassist Alex and drummer Kurt (no last names for these folks) recall dozens of bands in each song, from Belle & Sebastian to the Housemartins to the Ocean Blue to Ride to the whole of the Slumberland catalog, but have found ways to make those sounds belong to them. They’re simply better songwriters than many others in the field, and their ability to recontextualize these sounds into something so subsequently fresh and familiar is a stunning achievement. Songs like “Young Adult Friction” and the chaste “A Teenager in Love” pull back before the onset of cuteness overload, unlike many of their predecessors. They start quietly, with winning jangler “Contender,” coming off like a Wedding Present song in its demo stages. They finish with the massive “Gentle Sons,” finally letting go of restraint and playing as heavily as their template will allow. In between, we find joy, not only in the music they present, but with a newfound appreciation of the sounds they excavate. We’re free of the baggage of the era gone by, and can rebuild on an effort as solid as this.
This music comes at a much-needed time, as the modern day outlook of life before recovery crushes down on us like some sort of booby trapped room filling rapidly with sand, or water, or spike-laden walls push closer towards us. Can we take a lesson from Slumberland, then, by slowing down while we retool? Can we wait for life to save us in the ways that a band like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are saving indie pop? It seems unlikely, but this record is inspiring enough to influence the change we voted for, a sunny stimulus package designed to inform how we can proceed in the ways of the days when we were most comfortable, without destroying our lives and those of the generations to follow."
(Doug Mosurock, Dusted Magazine)
"Oh, sweet joy! The Pains of Being Pure at Heart—one of several surprise hit makers to round out the incoming class of 2K8 with its Everything With You 7"—has finally graced us with this prize of a full-length debut and I'm loving every second of it. With their boy/girl bright-eyed vocals and bursts of jangly guitars, "Contender" and "Come Saturday" resuscitate the spirit of late-'80s noisy dream-pop from pre-Creation MBV, Pale Saints, and Chapterhouse. Other songs like "Stay Alive" and "Hey Paul" teem with warm, fuzzy melodies throughout. This album is hopefully just the beginning of many more pop gems to come from this adorable bunch."
(Chris Sabbath, XLR8R)
"What a difference a couple of years can make. If The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart had released this record back then, you could almost guarantee that it would have slipped by concertedly unnoticed. Indeed, one look at the artists name and it's fair to say a host of potential suitors would have switched off immediately, no doubt nonplussed by the moniker's emo connotations.
Thankfully, its not always the wisest of moves to judge every book by the cover, and even though The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, all dressed in its monochrome photo negative-style format doesn't exactly fit any pre-conceived stereotypes, there is something quite striking about its unpretentious, slightly understated demeanour.
There is also something quite self-explanatory about the whole packaging; The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart don't need any kind of market-researched slick aesthetic to bury what they're about. Forget the obvious reference points - pre-Creation My Bloody Valentine, Sarah Records, The Pastels and Black Tambourine - as this is an ambitious collection of songs that deserves to be recognised on its own merits rather than those that may have inspired it.
Lead singer and main songwriter Kip Berman has an uncanny knack when it comes to penning lyrics that perhaps don't fit the "oh-so-twee" vein his band look set to find themselves lumbered with. Take 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' for example, one of three songs re-recorded here from earlier releases (in this case their also self-titled debut EP). Its subject matter takes on something of an ambiguous turn when Berman announces "You're my sister...and this love is fucking right!" in quite startling fashion. For the most part, Berman seems to be dealing with much much darker issues than the fizzy pop that juxtaposedly underscores his words. He tackles what appears to be suicide ('Stay Alive'), heroin addiction ('A Teenager In Love'), and various relationship mishaps ('Contender', 'Hey Paul', 'Everything With You').
It probably wouldn't come as such a surprise if it weren't for the almost incessantly happy-go-lucky crescendo of the music itself, from keyboard player Peggy Wong's radiant "la la/ooh ooh" backing interludes to the upbeat rhythm section that makes this record almost impossible to sit still to, let alone concentrate at times on Berman's implausibly sensitive musings. Or maybe that was the intention?
Whatever their game plan may be, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have crafted an impeccable debut way beyond their years, and any misconceptions about them being mere revivalists of a scene only their elders could recall at first hand will surely be diminished instantaneously upon hearing this most accomplished of long players. As for those of you still unconvinced, remember how long it took the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine to get from their starting point to the 'Lazy'-era TPOBPAH seem to have drawn inspiration from so comfortably; bearing that in mind, the prospects as to what this band may achieve in the future is incredibly exciting to say the least..."
(Dom Gourlay, Drowned In Sound)
"Take one part Belle and Sebastian, two parts the Jesus and Mary Chain, and just a splash of modern indie rockers like the Shins, and you come close to getting the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The NYC. band borrows stylistically from others on their self-titled debut-particularly the oft-overlooked shoegaze genre, with its fuzzed-out guitars and "what-the-fuck-is-that-guy-singing?" vocals-yet manages to produce a sound that is refreshingly unique. The tunes are upbeat, even-dare we say it?-sunny, with sweet harmonizing between vocalists Kip and Peggy. But lest the songs be too saccharine, lines like "Can't you see his arms are a hell/And you won't ever leave?" on "Stay Alive/ and allusions to heartbreak in songs like "Young Adult Friction" (which wins in the "awesomesong-title" contest), undercut the sweet with just the right amount of bitterness."
(Amy Plitt, Bust)
"When a band lists only their first names in the liner notes of an album, it can only mean two thoroughly disdainful things. One: they’re too cool for rock stardom, or at least, they think it’s fashionable to give the impression that they’re above it all. Two: they’ll be needing that anonymity after wasting their listeners’ time and money by subjecting them to a LP’s worth of garbage. Combined with one of the most pretentious band names in recent history and instantly blasphemous comparisons to early My Blood Valentine, this “creative decision” did not exactly make me look forward to listening to the eponymous debut album of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Thankfully though, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a fine, fully enjoyable exception to the rule. The shimmering dream pop of the band’s debut is surprisingly accomplished and self-assured, a rare shoegaze-styled album that isn’t hellbent on aping the genre’s luminaries. The record can certainly fit within a category with other releases that unsuccessfully try to recreate the magic from that bygone era, but it doesn’t suffer from the anxieties of attempting to fill a void that clearly does not need to be filled. These songs sound organically conceived, free of the intention of imitating something that died with the early 90’s. Overdriven guitars, simultaneously warm and spiky, and spastic, punk-inspired drumming dominate the sonic palette of the Pains’ sound, but they sound much more motivated by the prospect of writing great pop songs than of being hailed as shoegaze revivalists. “Everything With You” captures the starry-eyed naivety and utter bleakness that comes with young adulthood, while “A Teenager in Love” sounds like what the Strokes’ “Someday” would have sounded like if Morrissey had remixed it. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have crafted a debut album that is better than any word of mouth that it could receive, since practically any description of their music would just force potential listeners to jump to conclusions and run for the hills. You’re just going to have to listen for yourself. Oh, and they actually do sort of sound like early My Bloody Valentine."
(Amorn Bholsangngam, Urb Magazine)
"Two or three years ago it was near impossible to step out your front door for bands referencing scratchy early 80s post-punks like Gang Of Four, Wire and Joy Division. Flash forward to present day: the inevitable cyclical progression of time rolls on. A new retrospective glance to the mid-Eighties, and the likes of Jesus and the Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen and other Postcard-era underground types are fast becoming the new folks parenting the sound of newbies on both sides of the pond.
Whereas chart-bothering Scots Glasvegas have taken some of the ideas of The 'Mary Chain and polished them up for the masses, the wonderfully named The Pains of Being Pure at Heart also use this intensely euphoric formula of big block waves of guitars and pummelling drums. But instead of blasting it from football terraces, The Pains are throwing it back down to the chequered-shirt wearing, vegan-cooking, mitten-wearing indie-pop underground.
This band's self-titled debut hits you like a warm rush up the spine, or like kissing someone you really like but also know really well. There’s a sense of comfort there, but still tons of excitement too. It's a feeling similar to listening to a Wedding Present album (a band they’ve recently toured with) or the early sound of My Bloody Valentine when they were still very much part of the C86 pack.
Songs like 'Come Saturday,' 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' and 'Hey Paul' are all particular stand-outs on an album that never veers far away from muffled sounding pop songs full of side-to-side head swinging smiley faces all round. It's a lot cooler than that sounds, and these folks are some of the fine and dandiest in Brooklyn town. It isn't some twee heart on the sleeve mess-around (though the band do embrace the increasing use of the word 'tweamo' about themsleves) – it's definitely the case that these songs have legs, and absolutely killer hooks to boot.
Bar the slightly misfiring glitzy synth pop of 'A Teenager in Love,' the record's only real downfall is a quite insistent stubbornness to ever do anything different from the central idea of fantastic indie-pop songs. No huge issue when the songs are as good as these. Personal favourite 'The Tenure Itch' does manage to mix things up with a bit of an almost Simple Minds like ambiance – perhaps hinting at a direction the band could take in future. We'll admit that it's only March and we shouldn't get too carried away, but if this isn't on our top albums list come December we'd well be pretty surprised – it's a marvellous debut finding itself very hard to be removed from the office stereo. (4/5)"
(Dan Monsell, Rockfeedback)
"It's been a long time since a band first attracted me with their name. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart speaks directly to how being true to the core can also be a pain in the ass. When I came upon the band's self-titled debut, I thought to myself, "This is either going to be really awesome, or really awful." Later I found out the band got the name from a title of an unpublished children's book that one of their friends wrote, where the moral of the story was that the most important thing is being with your friends and having fun when you're young and enjoying and celebrating that time of your life. For the band, that translates into writing infectious, loud, and somewhat distorted noise pop songs that are fueled by themes that are emotionally genuine and good. The cynic in me treads quite lightly here, however, it seems like I too am ready for a dose of this sweet and sincere stuff they speak of.
All of this is sounding perhaps a little too saccharine, right? But the truth is, this four-piece indie pop band who, undoubtedly will be everyone's new favorite band after this week (if they aren't already), is comfort food for those fans of bands in the same vein as My Bloody Valentine, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Teenage Fanclub, and even Galaxie 500. They aren't reinventing the wheel in this respect, per se. Yet they do lean less on walls of distortion and lunge more of their weight towards hyper-melodies centered on boy/girl harmonies and somewhat torrid, driving drums.
Which is to say there's enough street-wise grit and style in their modern take on this sound, saving the band from appearing too naïve and callow, like so many indie pop bands before them. And maybe no song title on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart can sum up what I'm talking about better than "This Love Is Fucking Right." Also, the band apparently doesn't have one bad song in them—even if they all kind of sound like the same blissed-out pop song, it doesn't bother me one bit. It's the sound of riding a bike in the warm sun, of taking a long drive alone, of walking down a street serenely drunk with a group of friends, of shutting down your computer and leaving work to be with someone you love. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are participating in the grand tradition of shoegaze and jangle pop bands so clearly influenced by '50s rock that have been around for a long time, and yet hearing this record is wholly refreshing, perhaps in that they are so deliciously consistent and assured in their sound. So many bands today want to muck up their music with every influence under the sun… it gets to be too much.
"Young Adult Friction" takes me all the way back to high school, and I pretty much hated high school, but this song takes me back to the parts I enjoyed… like skipping out of class to smoke cigarettes in the school parking lot, along with (many) other acts of rebellious camaraderie that made the rest of coming into our own selves tolerable.
"Everything With You" is the single of this record, the one with the video of two girls sporting enviable bangs running around one gray day in the city to have a little fun. The song's blistering, shimmering guitars are totally reminiscent of Darklands… maybe even a song like "Happy When It Rains"? Who knows, but there are many similarities to be drawn between this self-titled debut and the sophomore release from the Jesus & Mary Chain. "The Tenure Itch" is another good example of this. Either way, each song will have something about it that you recognize if you are a fan of noise pop… or even, like, the Cure. You'll both get and love it.
Anyway, consider me on the bandwagon, a beastly mechanism I spend a large part of my life trying to steer clear of. But this time it's useless. Like bacon and beer, this music is too good to ignore. There's no reason to not enjoy music that's simply enjoyable, and the Pains at Being Pure at Heart deliver by pumping new life into a genre of music that already maintained a good, credible name for itself."
(Jocelyn Hoppa, Crawdaddy)
"By channeling a very particular brand of musical nostalgia, Brooklyn's The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have achieved an end product that'll appeal both to scene-active youths with money to burn on fashion following and old-timers who had the time of their life when the '80s became the '90s.
Cast your mind back to the time when 'proper' indie ruled the best pages of the weekly music magazines (well, papers at the time): it's this era that 'The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart' revisits, its noise-soaked melodies a flashback to Dinosaur Jr in their prime, and the J&MC in terms of the skull-rattling fuzz that fills one's listening gear. That's not us saying this is a tinnitus-inducing listen; it's just that tracks like 'Come Saturday' and 'Stay Alive' possess a roundness that separates them from Teenage Fanclub-like jangle-pop.
The album begins in tone-setting form, 'Contender' flashing substantial guitar savageness beneath a veil of laid-on-thick feedback; all the while, the vocals are delivered with clarity unbecoming of acts pursuing instrumental raucous avenues. Every song here could (and most probably will) be a great live sing-along. 'Young Adult Friction' takes a turn for the introspective after a couple of out-the-blocks belters, but never does the accessibility falter.
After a while a degree of repetition does creep into the equation – it's evident that TPOBPAH have a set-in-stone formula that they're unlikely to stray from. But such is the joy exuded across these ten tracks, which fly by in no time at all, that such a criticism can't quite stick. After all, if it clearly isn't broke...
'A Teenager In Love' taps into The Cure; elsewhere there are shades of early-doors Valentine, and even The Field Mice. So it's not to the present this foursome are looking to for inspiration, and such an approach serves them well at the moment. But where they go next is a definite question which isn't answered here – how does an act so rooted in the past actively progress come album two?
Ah, who cares for the meantime. Switch on, turn up, enjoy - if you're not beaming two minutes in, you've got the wrong record on."
(Mike Diver, Clash Magazine)
So let’s summarise. Your band sounds like a million other bands, and not just because of the feel of it, but because actual, practical, musical reasons. Your boy-girl vocals are octave spaced and reasonably low in the mix, your guitars are overdriven to the point of near-oblivion, and your songs are about boys and girls messing things up and annoying each other and growing up and stuff. The guitars don’t so much glide like Kevin Shields as they bound like The Soup Dragons, and the vocals don’t so much coo like The Pastels as much as they do snarl like Bizarro-era Gedge, but the rough tenets of shoegaze and C-86 are monstrously present throughout. For your band, it’s essential to either update or substantially rejuvenate these old tenets to succeed.
What’s different about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, then? All these tedious soundalike issues exist, but what if the band allows us to ignore them? Innate sing-along charm, for one. Fucking sensible and functional songs, for another. Their sound oozes an ease and elegance that can only come with unstudied glory and their considerable inexperience. Take single ‘Come Saturday’. It’s just the simplest song you could write, but the band’s brilliant energy turns it into a shining, bold and attractive collection of well-balanced melodies and louche heartbreak. Gentle tweaks to the formula such as ebullient overdrive and the sudden emergence of fuzzy bass in the second verse ensure total freshness for the duration, but it’s the verve you’ll remember more than anything else.
Elsewhere, there are any number of simple pleasures that do the exact same thing. The staccato homophony of high register guitar chords and thumping toms on ‘Young Adult Friction’ are utter exhilaration, the gentleness of the guitar strokes on the righteous ‘This Love Is Fucking Right!’, there’s plenty to rave about. While the buoyancy and the energy doesn’t extend to every single second (how could it?), The ‘Pains prove that their youth and simultaneous knowledge of their ancestry are enough to make the most straight-forward and digestible of pop records. Not a note is wasted, not a tune possessing more ennui than it should by rights be milked for. Pure economy. Perhaps the only worry is that a second album will jade them, rob them of their spirit, but that’s not for now.
So your band, then. It sounds like a million other bands. But so do those million other bands. Count yourselves among their ranks and continue on."
(Daniel Ross, The Quietus)
"What makes a great pop album? Catchy riffs, sweet melodies, hooks to dance to, simple yet meaningful lyrics? If that’s your definition of a memorable pop album then the self titled debut from the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is one of those. And you won’t even have to feel guilty because there are no “La, la la”s or “Na, na, na”s. OK, there are some “Oo, oo, oo”s but there are in albums by Pavement and the Arcade Fire and they still kicked ass.
Listening to this album is like rifling through your cute 80s music collection; some tracks will evoke the Smiths and others My Bloody Valentine. In other words, the New York quartet’s self titled bridges the gap between C86, shoegaze and the noise pop from the same decade; this is where they meet and also where they play with the tenderness and the pop sensitivity of Belle And Sebastian.
Most songs will have a wall of pleasant noise in the background but each song has a very specific sound; for instance the opener Contender is blissful and really dreamy whereas Come Saturday is what shoegaze would sound like with its chin up. The song comes with a louder wall of noise quite reminiscent of early My Bloody Valentine though with a lot more melody and the indispensable “Oo, oo, oo”, urgent drums and boy/girl vocals, resulting in damn catchy song. The lyricism is effortless and straightforward: they tell us tales of encounters of friends and lovers; with love and affection being ubiquitous across the album but not in the way you’re thinking.
This Love Is Fucking Right! is a fucking great pop song: the guitars are a bit fuzzy, keeping the ambience and the riffs will make you want to pick a guitar up. The word “love” is even present in the title but instead of boring us with hackneyed sentimental bullshit, the Pains say things like “can you go / and lick your best friend in the eye?” How long have we waited for someone to say that in a song?
I could go on describing how remarkably addictive every single track in the album is but instead I’ll just mention how they masterfully replicate C86 in The Tenure Itch. Only very few modern bands have crafted such tracks and I’d unashamedly insert it in a playlist including tracks from the Dentists, the Hit Parade or early Primal Scream.
In case I wasn’t clear enough this album is for those who think that Glasvegas smell of cheese and are a Raveonettes rip off or for those who think A Place To Bury Strangers reek of testosterone. To put it simply, this is for those who love noise pop with substance. (8/10)"
(Will Furtado, The Music Magazine)
"In a very short space of time The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have gone from being an act who do a passable impression of The Vaselines to a one band tribute to everything that was fantastic about indie music pre-Oasis and the Britpop 'renaissance'. Everyone from The Cure, My Bloody Valentine, The Stone Roses and Lush to early Charlatans, Teenage Fanclub and even Elastica and Kingmaker help make up a small part of the overall sound of TPOBPAH. The most striking thing of all, however, is that while that long list of acts are all from this side of the Atlantic, The Pains hail from New York. But, putting their unlikely geography aside, it's quite possible they've made the best album since the days those bands were in their hey-day.
In fact, I'll get my only quibble out of the way right now. What on earth possessed them not to start the album with 'Come Saturday'? It's a buzzing, electric mix of Joy Division's 'Disorder' with the drone pop of Ride and the harmonies of the Boo Radleys and has one hundred times the opening potential of 'Contender'.
From there we have a series of delightfully retro-facing nuggets of shoegazing and organ-driven indie from the Bob Mould sounds of 'This Love is Fucking Right!' to the Tim Burgess swirl of 'The Tenure Itch'. Then there's the My Bloody Valentine with melody (!) life-affirming chords of 'Stay Alive' and gorgeous recent single 'Everything With You' which reminds you of how even simple guitar solos used to illicit the biggest grins. It's the unwashed, pot-smoking little brother of The Rembrandts' polished and proper theme to 'Friends' - brilliant without the need for tacky handclaps.
In 'A Teenager In Love' with its simple Cure-like rhythm and 80's keyboards we now have a ready-made replacement for Modern English's 'Melt With You' in soundtracking precisely the subject it deals with (well, at least celluloid love between two twentysomethings trying hard to convincingly portray students struggling with double English when all they want to do is stick their tongues down each other's throats).
Of course, then it strikes. 'Gentle Sons' - an epic finish to an epic album which all but rips off both 'Just Like Honey' by the Jesus and Mary Chain and combines it with 'Sally Cinnamon' by The Stone Roses. Here, any doubt is cast aside that this is the best debut album in eons. If you like the idea of finding a mixtape of some of the finest music from 1988 - 1992 and then realising that every song on it one you've not heard before then this album is your next essential purchase. (10/10)"
(Richard Brown, Culturedeluxe)
"Everything points back to the mid-1980s here, from the stark, black-and-white cover art, to the fuzz-filled caverns of guitar and bass, to the intoxicating indistinctness of the girl-boy singing. A reverb-heavy haze layers over insinuating, narcotic hooks that pull you in and wrap you in gauze. Sweetness disintegrates from the inside out, riven by a squealing squall, punctured by a pounding bass line, and yet these songs are, above all buoyed by melody. Think Jesus & Mary Chain, not the pop-song-hitting-a-buzz saw of "Upside Down" but the damaged mellifluence of "Just Like Honey."
The NYC foursome's first full-length is nearly a wall-to-wall success, slipping gemlike melodies into "Contender", "Come Saturday," and library-sex song "This Love is Fucking Right." Later in the disc, "Teen Ager In Love" flirts with Spector-esque production, but finishes a hair too clean and precise. (If I say it reminds me of Phil Collins' "You Can't Hurry Love", bear in mind that I am inexplicably fond of that cover.) A strong finish ensues immediately after, in the soaring chorus of "Hey Paul," and the slow, distortion-pounded gloriousness of "Gentle Sons." For those who missed the Creation years the first time around -- or who just miss them now -- this is the good stuff."
(Jennifer Williams, Blurt)
"So...here it comes, one of the anticipated releases on the indie underground. After an EP and a handful of singles over the course of more than a year, the debut LP from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, How does it measure up?
The first thing to say is that this album is a wonderful mix of contrasts that, somehow, come together rather wonderfully. It's no exaggeration to say that it's part of an 'alternative' pop trajectory that begins with the Velvet Underground's first album and continues through seminal debuts by The Pastels, The Wedding Present and the Jesus and Mary Chain, on through Nirvana and then Belle and Sebastian. Yet it also sounds as fresh as a daisy, as oppposed to tired 'heard it all before riffs and beats.' And if you thought after last single 'Everything With You' that it was My Bloody Valentine guitars all the way, then 'A Teenager in Love' has echoes of eighties synthpop, and as we all know by now, there ain't no sound more 2009 than 1982.
The band hail from New York City but this is an album that feels like it's spiritual home is Glasgow. Does this not compute at all? Well, there are few albums that evoke New York more than Lou Reed's Transformer and that was recorded in London. It just sums it all up the contrasts…yet what cannot be disputed is that this is an album that you cannot fail to fall in love with. There's guitar fuzz, drums that echo Bobby Gillespie and Mo Tucker and vocals that remind you of summer days and feeling like anything is possible.
Finally, it remains inevitable that it will be loved across the blogosphere, the hip record shops and the indier-than-thou fanzines - but wouldn't it be great if it became the commercial breakthorugh that it deserves to be. (4.5/5)"
(Ed Jupp, Is This Music?)
"Given enough time, and bands, every genre expands and stretches to the point of faceless variegation. That new musicians still describe themselves as alternative rock seems like a bad joke (or worse, further donations toward the Billy Corgan Continuing Relevance Fund)—and indie rock, for better or worse, is likely heading in the same direction.
Indie pop, or twee, had such identity issues from the start: the U.K. scene codified by the NME's 1986 C86 tape and labels such as Sarah Records in the '80s was, sonically, a largely different animal than its early '90s American cousin, which centered on noisier recordings and a less aloof approach. A decade or so later, extending the genre from the Field Mice to Belle & Sebastian to, well, Los Campesinos! makes for a knotty family tree.
Yet it's the shared influence of this muddied bloodline that makes the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut album so definitively indie pop—it's an album that could be called little else. And though it carries the domestic cred of a release on Slumberland Records—the newly resurgent Northern California label whose lofty, four-tracked catalog includes seminal releases by Velocity Girl, the Softies, and Rocketship—the band cribs plenty from its foreign forebears as well. With a voice that instantly recalls the Field Mices' Robert Wratten, frontman Kip Berman sings with a detached, affected British accent that oozes calm and cool even as treble-heavy guitar chords jangle nervously, relentlessly, underneath him. (And of course as he sings about the trademark Euro-twee topics of books, film, wasted summers, and third-person teenage love—but not his own).
It's a classic Sarah Records device: divorce the singer from the emotions, even as the music gives in wholeheartedly to unrequited longing. The lyrics take a similar tack. In "Young Adult Friction," the best song about library-related public lovemaking since the Clientele's "Bookstore Casanova," Kip deadpans, "I never thought I would come of age / Let alone on a moldy page." It's a funny line but he plays it without melodrama, which—no offense to Morrissey—is for the better. There's the occasional collegiate pun ("Tenure Itch" can only be aimed at corduroy-jacketed men with elbow patches; Stuart Murdoch is currently cursing himself over being beat to it), even at their most jaunty, as on the Cure-like "Teenager In Love," the band's concerns tend toward serious narratives: the teenager loves Christ and heroin. The writing is more observational than deeply felt, eschewing the Pacific Northwest twee's diary-page missives in favor of a British stiff upper lip.
While these traits and tracks like "Come Saturday" and "A Teenager In Love" belie the band's U.S. origins, where Pains captures that American gusto is in their boundless energy. Through the album's first half the songs burst forward like preschool kids running for recess, or Tiger Trap circa 1993. The pace is a little exhausting, especially given the engine beneath the insistent tempos; most of the songs hinge on a bricklike electric guitar that chugs, almost tunelessly, under the chiming chords of the less-distorted axes. The underlying noise grounds the album in the Jesus and Mary Chain's proto-shoegaze, even as it nods toward the fuzzy discographies of bands like Tiger Trap and Rocketship, and it's an effective move—when noise drops out, as it does in the verses of "This Love is Fucking Right," or entirely in "A Teenager in Love," it's as powerfully felt as when it barrels in on "Young Adult Friction."
One can't fault a band for writing rock songs, but even over ten tracks the upbeat onslaught begins to blend a bit—another ballad in the third or fourth spot would've served the album well. Still, from song to song, the band's attention to craft never falters. There's not a sloppy moment in the blisteringly paced "This Love Is Fucking Right," even as the searing guitars threaten to explode through their amps. One can only hope it's as simultaneously refined and face-melting live.
It bears mentioning that the band hails from the decidedly un-twee Brooklyn and arrives on an awkward hype train conducted by the borough's bloggerati (a certain New York-dwelling website editor-in-chief infamously described them as "lo-fi" in a surreal recent ABC News guest-segment; a spin on decent speakers reveals exceedingly well-recorded, softly reverb-dabbed production and some very distorted amplifiers). But the album's accompanying trappings do little to dull its impressiveness or the band's command of its lineage. While recent acts such as Vivian Girls have tugged at the coattails of indie pop past, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem to be true students of the genre's best moments from both sides of the Atlantic. There may be more for them to learn, but on this first test, they pass with flying colors."
(Coke Machine Glow)
"As far as classic first albums go, this new 10-track S/T release by NYC band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, is near to tipping that scale. With all of the spirit of every memorable element of NYC grit and swagger found in each song, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart or POBPAH, as they’re being referred to has crafted a spectacular album. Every great album from NYC is filled with excitement, and remembered for decades later due to its beauty, and this album is a part of that.
The songs of this album have an underground feel to them that make up the classic structures of The Velvet Underground albums, as well as works by many of the great ‘70s bar bands. This album starts off with "Contender,” an entrancing lead-in to the power of the second tune, the power-punk of “Come Saturday.” To hear that guitar in “Young Adult Friction,” well…folks, it is perfectly rock ‘n’ roll. The years of the past are all rolled into this freshness, so much so that a sincere aficionado of rock and roll will adore this album for years to come.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is one of the more stunning debuts we have heard in years. Simple, pure, and gritty, this album is absolutely necessary to any collection. And we mean that in the sincerest of ways. Besides, how much perfection comes your way? (4.5/5)"
(Matt Rowe, MusicTap)
"Like time travellers straight off a C86 cassette, this self-proclaimed “tweemo” outfit from New York have seemingly ignored every musical influence since about 1992 and yet delivered one of the freshest new sounds for 2009.
The influences are all here by the bucketload, packaged like a time capsule of pre-grunge indie-pop sensibilities: the album cover looks like an early Ride single, the sound is shoegaze and Isn’t Anything-era My Bloody Valentine fuzed with The Primitives, The Wedding Present or even Field Mice.
The guitars either jangle or fuzz with feedback but crash at a tempo all of their own regardless of the pace of the blissful boy-girl vocals that sway over the top and for all the typical angst of the songs, there’s a sensation that these songs are never anything less than hugely enjoyable.
There are potential singles aplenty here amid the 10 tracks on offer – Young Adult Friction is a crystal-clear pop song with sharp edges, This Love Is Fucking Right has a predictably singalong anthemic quality, Stay Alive boasts an unashamedly saccharine Eighties leaning and a chorus like an angry Pale Saints while A Teenager In Love sounds like Belle & Sebastian if they’d been in ABC.
More sombre efforts such as Contender and Come Saturday hardly spoil the mood on an album that could already be – before 2008 is even done with - one of the best of 2009."
(Ed Miller, Music Week)
"For the last 18 months Fortuna Pop! seem to have been right on the money with their releases, so when I got two singles through the post last year from a relatively unknown band called The Pains Of being Pure At Heart I didn’t take much persuading to give them a spin and subsequently review them.
Even loving those two singles (both of which feature on the album) I wasn’t ready for this. I know the hype has been building steadily around them for the last three months, but even I wasn’t expecting the debut album to be so frankly brilliant.
The two singles gave me an idea of what to expect sure, shoegazing 80’s indie with a huge fight between My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain thrown into the mix, along with a heavy dose of extremely catchy melody (a-la Teenage Fanclub) and some jangly guitar (think The Wedding Present), but doing that on a couple of singles is one thing, making a full album is quite another.
They have though, it’s easily the best thing i’ve heard this year so far and I don’t care if anyone dismisses it as being slightly caught in a time warp, who is bothered about that really when it sounds so bloody good. Am I getting carried away? Possibly yes as it does play to my ears, being as the influences coming out here are all from a time when I was just getting into this sort of music myself, but even in that context i’m confident it is something that will stand up well on it’s rights with most people who like their indie a little more underground than Kaiser Chiefs and Keane.
So pick some highlights on this ten tracker? No not really, thats the beauty of it it's all equal. The jangly guitar of Young Adult Friction is just as good as the crashing drums inspired This Love Is Fucking Right! and equally as impressive as the male and female vocal combination on A Teenager In Love. Come Saturday and Everything With You were both singles but in all honesty it could have been any one of the ten.
Album of the year? Too early to say of course but it’s a very strong contender and has put down a real marker to beat it. (9/10)"
(Kev, The Beat Surrender)
"It's no insult, and not much hyperbole, to call The Pains of Being Pure at Heart the first debut in years that takes an uncomplicated stance on being young. Youth feels great, and more than that, it matters. Totaling less than 35 minutes, the album's ten tracks float by with the same butterfly anticipation that fills the last day of school before summer break.
These are tight, classic pop songs, their craftsmanship less a product of music-geek encyclopedism than a basic this-sounds-right instinct. The opening bars of "Young Adult Friction" recalls "Love Vigilantes," that terrifically atypical New Order track from 1985's Low-Life; lyrically and musically, "Come Saturday" suggests an improbable double-time mash-up of two Cure staples: "I can't stand to see your picture / On the dresser where I left you / You're 80 miles away, Tuesday / But come Saturday, you'll come to stay." (ie: "Pictures of You" and "Friday I'm in Love.")
Incandescent and twinkling, "A Teenager in Love" is the John Hughes/Gossip Girl sound of coming-of-age America, even if what the chorus actually says is, "But you don't need a friend when you're / A teenager in love with Christ and heroin." That "Heroin" sounds like "heaven" in that last line is a result of The Pains' most obvious aesthetic distinction: a fuzzed-out, reverb-heavy sound that swaddles the vocals in a velveteen blanket of noise. Pop this dedicated to youthful exuberance must be delivered in the native tongue: a dazed mumble.
What's most refreshing about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is its refusal to speak as metaphor or microcosm for something grander, more adult. The line "Strange teenager, waiting for death at 19," is about exactly that: one strange teenager, not Mortality, or Anomie, or, for that matter, Global Warming or the War in Iraq. That The Pains so gleefully find adolescence beautiful and fraught in itself doesn't mean their LP's all prom dates and locker-bound addictions; even the grad-school crowd can't help chasing the painful purity of "Young Adult Friction": "Between the stacks in the library / Not like anyone stopped to see / We came, they went, our bodies spent / Among the dust and microfiche." So discover the young at decade's end: We are the ones we have been waiting for."
(Jonathan Liu, eMusic)
"Music critics spend a lot of time hemming and hawing over the idea of 'unique' bands versus those simply channeling something familiar. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, overly wrought name and all, will have people howling about the latter - much in the same way they did over Interpol's first album. The touchstones are obvious - Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain, Felt, C-86 bands, Velocity Girl, etc. - but it's been a hot mess of minutes since anyone has channeled these sounds in this effective a way.
The album opens with "Contender," a light-percussive haze of melody that cloaks the classicist pop singing that adorns the entire record. It's a warm and familiar opening that is the perfect gateway into the world that the album presents. "Come Saturday" then tears off at a breakneck pace, all 'oohs' and foot tapping - the guitars rioting, the vague memory of keyboard melodies punching through at odd points, fighting against the tide of fuzz.
Though the pace slackens a bit - they become more standard tempo pop songs for the vast majority of the rest of the record - the songs are perfect distillations of the sound they harness. "Young Adult Friction" takes its bounding bass line and duels the crystalline keyboards in an aching testament to adolescence. "Stay Alive" holds the lilting purity of some of shoegaze's finest moments as a frame. Simple riffs that are at times clean, at times eradicated by treatment, great harmonies and vocals.
While it's easy to imagine The Pains of Being Pure at Heart feeling right at home in the mid-to-late 80s, their sound is much more joyous in the surroundings of 2009. And in the midst of the deathly cold of winter, this is a slice of summertime that is badly needed."
(J Neas, Aquarium Drunkard)
"I’ve been listening to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart constantly since their self-titled debut album unceremoniously landed on my desk. Some days it’s the only album I listen to. I know about judging books by their covers and how you’re not supposed to do that, but this is an album that defies the music reviewer’s sixth sense on what will be good and what won’t. On first inspection it doesn’t look like much - an almost-indigestible band name and a dreadful cover that resembles a Belle & Sebastian album with the contrast levels turned up in Photoshop. Even now, I know almost nothing about this band. I still couldn’t name a single member, or what part of America they are from. But despite little or no expectations The Pains of Being Pure at Heart has quietly worked its way towards being an early contender for album of the year.
Cheaply-recorded guitar-and-bass debut albums arrive at the Bollinger offices every day, and there are depressingly few I listen to again once my assignment is finished. So what makes this one special? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart seemed doomed to shelf-dwelling status but have etched their way into regular rotation with their feelings of nostalgia and infectious melodies. Sonically, they draw influence from the shoegazing days of the eighties and early nineties. Bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine can be heard all over this album and it urges you to dust off Psychocandy and Loveless too. But rather than simply pinching elements from that era, this is an album that actually sounds like a lost gem from 1989.
The album begins in a haze of feedback before the drumless, dreamlike ‘Contender’ flickers on, setting the tone. It’s one of the best openers recent memory, its melody skipping alongside the guitars with ease and grace. The production is flawlessly fuzzy and the highlights come thick and fast. ‘Come Saturday’ and ‘Young Adult Friction’ really get things going, resembling a couple of genuinely impressive A-sides from yesteryear, while the excellent closer ‘Gentle Sons’ even pilfers the distinctive drum beat from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s classic ‘Honey’. In fact, so many of these tracks could qualify as classics of the genre, and had they been released on 7” they may well have been regarded as such. But the real showpiece is ‘Stay Alive’, which bustles along like a Smiths single before making way for more rusty guitars.
So there we have it; lots of enjoyable melodies and taut guitar and drum lines. But what does it all mean? How do I feel about this band? Perhaps being clueless to their roots has helped me accept this album as a gem from the era that influenced it, except it’s not. So where does that leave The Pains of Being Pure at Heart? Do they move forward like the bands that influenced them by cutting a grunge record, or move into a more commercial indie sound? As it stands, as a fan of infectious, fuzzed up indie pop, I’d happily take another three of these."
(Dean Van Nguyen, Wireless Bollinger)
"Like many artists that get tagged as “dream-pop,” “shoegaze” or any other myriad other genre tags used to describe groups that specialize in thick waves of lush melodic noise and gossamer, not-quite-there vocals, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Kip Berman, co-singer for Brooklyn-based quarter The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, is singing about half of the time. But though his and co-singer Peggy Wang’s voices are often soaked in reverb and mixed well below the layers of shimmering keyboards and guitars, the sweetness of their melodies and the group’s forceful oomph certainly make tracks like “Come Saturday” sound like a mix of joy and longing that feels both fresh and nostalgic at the same time."
(Michael Tedder, CMJ)
"Eponymous debut from promising Brooklyn four-piece, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart peddle a giddily breathless rush of noise pop that slides along with all the laconic grace of The Wedding Present tottering about in a new pair 6-inch slingbacks. Opener 'Contender' and highlight 'This Love Is Fucking Right!' pack a ton shimmery Cure-type goodness that gleam as cheekily as a polished love egg, charming you into a gurgling pool of slack-jawed catatonia in absolutely no time at all.
'Come Saturday' is a bubblegum blast of harmony wrapped up in a driving blend of widescreen sentiment and epic melancholia that segues beautifully into the misty-eyed magnitude of the fantastic 'Young Adult Friction', a joyfully wistful bounce held aloft by the canoodling boy/girl vocals of Kip and Peggy. First single 'Everything With You', a soulful Smithsian ditty all tucked up in insouciant shoegaze fuzz, is simply brilliant whilst slowburner 'Stay Alive' and the perky jitter of 'Hey Paul' ride in towards the end with the resounding triumph of a band that know they are getting it exactly right.
All of which amounts to a sharp and assured debut that suggests 2009 could see The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart setting up some big things for themselves. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But very, very soon."
(Oli Simpson, Bearded)
"The first great record of 2009 in comes from an unlikely source. New York’s The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have created a record that is soaked in the soul of shoegazing but still sounding fresh and invigorating. The record starts off with a giant roar of “The Cotender.” Kip and Peggy sing a lovely harmony together but the song is really a set up piece for the rest of the record. “Come Saturday” follows next and the song immediately is louder and catchy right from the start. The song blitzes in with that one hanging riff that leads into the furious track. This is a track that really shows off the bands skills the most. It is just so loud, catchy and fun and that is really all you could ask for. “Young Adult Friction” showcases Peggy’s vocals a little more and she has a wonderful croon for these lush sounds.
“Everything With You” is such a beautiful and mind numbing escape of a track that I could just leave it on repeat all day. The Pains are already getting a lot of buzz off their debut single and this record will lead them to be one of the more talked about acts of the year. There are a lot of obvious influences of the band but it does not get in the way of enjoying the album or do you think about them during the listen. The tracks sound fresh and exciting."
(John Sewicki, Comfort Comes)
"I am totally psyched to see one of the definitive indie-rock labels, Slumberland Records, back in the game and better than fucking ever! Mike Slumberland has put out a rash of terrific singles and cds lately, my favorite of which happens to be this full length from Brooklyn's newest stars, the Pains… This record is pure Slumberland – a perfect mix of shimmering & scratchy guitars and reverb-y boy/girl vocals with melodies that are sweet and catchy. Immediate comparisons include: Velocity Girl (this record was mixed by Archie Moore!), Jane Pow, Henry's Dress, Black Tamborine, Lorelie, early Lilys, J&M Chain, Heavenly, Tiger Trap, Dressy Bessy etc. A great slab from front to back – bravo!"
(Jeremy Grites, Dagger)
"For a band moniker, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart may be a mouthful, but these New Yorkers pack an earful of well-crafted pop songs. The captivating vocal harmonies of Kip Berman and Peggy Wang drift above the billowing reverb-washed guitars, drenching the album in dreamy, blissful overtones. This collection is best absorbed from start to finish, as the tracks lead the listener through highs and lows in excellent cadence. Beginning with the sparse instrumentation and undeniably catchy lyricism of "Contender," the band continues on with more rocking tracks like "Come Saturday" and "Everything With You," to leave us finally with the rousing, drum-heavy "Gentle Sons." Fans of dreamy noise-pop take heed; The Pains of Being Pure at Heart won’t fail you."
(Wes Jensen, Synthesis)
"Listening to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's self-titled debut, that name begins to sound like an apology, For all the good intentions the name broadcasts, the hearts of these four New Yorkers are anything but pure. In fact, they've got musical crushes on a whole slew of cardigan-clad and bookish pop references: jangling guitars compete with shoegaze fuzz, as lead singer Kip Berman slips more than a few cheeky puns into the teen dramas he narrates. But to be fair, nobody's making breezily infectious pop anthems like "Young Adult Friction" and lead single "Everywhere With You" these days. When the band makes like The Jesus and Mary Chain and cranks the distortion on "Hey Paul" and "Gentle Sons," there's no shortage of syrupy sweet melody, either. In short, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart cannibalize a canon of effete and literate pop, from The Smiths and The Cure to The Magnetic Fields and Belle and Sebastian. With so many references worn on their sleeves, it's hard to take the Pains as anything other than paint-by-numbers indie pop. But with such impeccable taste, it's just as hard to ignore what an irresistible cocktail it is."
(John Motley, Under The Radar)
"YOU MAY WANT to double-check the date printed on the Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut album just to confirm that it really did come out this year. Despite its very emo-sounding name, this New York quartet has a sound that's reminiscent of the twee and shoegaze bands of the early 1990s. From that era, local twee/indie-pop band Black Tambourine is an obvious touchstone because of its sonic similarities and airy female vocals, and because both bands are based on Slumberland Records (which began in Washington but has since moved to Oakland, Calif.).
Slumberland isn't the band's only tie to this area; Archie Moore (of Velocity Girl and Black Tambourine) mixed the Pains' album, and his previous bands' sounds are certainly apparent here. But the Pains bear an even stronger resemblance to the shimmering pop of the bands on Sarah Records: The male-female vocals on "Everything With You" and the jangling chords of "A Teenager in Love" both sound like long-lost recordings of the Field Mice. The Pains' music may be a bit derivative, but their ability to capture the dreamy and carefree sounds of the twee-gaze era is nostalgia at its finest."
(Catherine P Lewis, Washingtonpost.com)
"Most new bands initially base their sound around elements of their favourite music, but try to create something new and innovative at the same time - it's how the vast majority of music comes to fruition. Not New York's The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Despite hailing from The Big Apple, this quartet sound like they spent their youth hanging around Jesus and Mary Chain soundchecks in Rotherham, or huddled around a cheap Walkman by the bike sheds, listening to their C-86 tape until the batteries ran out. Realising that they'd hit upon the 'perfect' sound, they appear loathe to tamper with it here.
Even when they're not harking back to British bands of yesteryear, they're looting the vaults of newer acts like Belle and Sebastian. It may sound like an odd combination, but the pop factor of this debut can't be discounted, and lead singer Kip Berman's sprightly, Stuart Murdoch-esque vocals (on the excellent Come Saturday, or Everything With You, both boosted by Peggy Wang's gentle voice) create a gorgeous contrast with the heavier, feedback-drenched numbers on display (Contender, Hey Paul).
There's enough bounce, gloom, drone, jangle and buzz to satiate anyone with a love for '80s guitar pop or '90s shoegaze, particularly the glistening dancefloor brilliance of Teenager In Love. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is the most plagiaristic album you'll have heard in ages, but it's still bloody brilliant. (4/5)"
(Lauren Murphy, Entertainment.ie)
"The New York indie pop quartet the Pains of Being Pure at Heart built up a pretty rabid fan base in the indie pop community prior to the release of their self-titled debut record in early 2009. For this, they could thank a string of excellent singles and EPs that began in 2007 (songs from which appear on the album) but more than that they can put it down to the fact that their sound melds together the trademarked sounds of many beloved indie and noise pop bands into one shiny ball of sound and melancholy. Mixed in skillfully are the sonic assaults of early My Bloody Valentine, the hazy sweetness of Ride, the introspective and usually morose lyrical approach perfected by the Field Mice, the sensitive and tender vocals purveyed by most Sarah records bands, and the rhythmic drive of early-'90s Amer-Indie bands the likes of which more often than not found themselves on Slumberland (Lilys, the Ropers, Velocity Girl -- whose Archie Moore ably mixes the album).
It all could come off like a pastiche with little more than nostalgic value but the band acts as if it were the first time anyone ever captured this kind of sound, never sitting back and aping the past but instead giving it a healthy boost. Plus, they write some very good songs. "Come Saturday," "This Love Is Fucking Right!" (their answer to the Field Mice's "This Love Is Not Wrong"), or "Young Adult Friction" all would have been in serious rotation on a hip college radio station in 1992. Best of all is the amazingly hooky "Everything with You," which stands as the equal of anything the shoegaze poppers or pop losers cranked out back in the day. If you had gone out and bought the 7," after one play you would have tacked the sleeve up on your wall and played the record until the grooves wore out. It's that good. It lifts the album from pretty good to almost great. A little more variation from song to song, a little more of their own sound, or another song or two as compelling as the best stuff here and the POBPAH's debut would have been classic. Settling for impressive is fair enough and good enough for fans of loud, fuzzy, and heartfelt indie noise pop."
(Tim Sendra, Allmusic.com)
"My first reaction to this delightful band is "what a long name, and depressing, I bet they'll be awful." Oh ho ho, how wrong was I. Ok, so the band is more than a mouthful but, The Pains – as I will now refer to them – are not depressing or awful. They are, in fact, very uplifting with their boy/girl vocals and spangly guitars and are, quite clearly, just having some noise-pop fun. The Pains… originally formed to play a gig in a warehouse for Peggy Wang's (keyboard, vocals) birthday where they played, and I quote, "five songs with four chords in ten minutes." Seemingly, they enjoyed it so much they decided to stay with it, and I for one am very thankful that they did. Their self titled debut is more akin to English and Scottish noise-pop than the super-cool New York scene – they are far too happy sounding and nowhere near pretentious enough for that."
(Sara Curtis, Subba Cultcha)
"A really great album of twee indie-pop will convince you, for half an hour, that somehow it's actually better to be wistful and lovelorn than to be happy (or to get laid, ever). This is one of those albums: perfect C86 melodies sprinkled with lots of shoegaze icing sugar, it's like ten years of John Peel shows on one disc."
(Dazed & Confused)
"There’s something to be said for short and sweet albums. At 35 minutes - a level which a nascent Cure favoured - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have got a fine eponymous debut album nailed.
Those who missed out on capering about sticky indie disco floors in the cardigan-flaunting fey 80s can currently enjoy a resurgence, with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart as part of the charge. Back then, ‘indie’ was for outsiders and was shorthand for ‘awkward’, ‘shy’, ‘geeky’, in the Morrisseyan sense of not being able to get a girlfriend, and dressing like a librarian was for the dejected, whereas now indie - the uncool - has become cool, and dressing twee and shy has become quite a fashion and cause for celebration.
But this isn’t about cutesy hairclips, a token Pastels badge, and sherbet dib-dab. There’s a real driving force behind The Pains’ music that goes beyond notions of twee. The drums thunder along with the freneticism of The Wedding Present (whom The Pains supported on tour recently, to the envy of all their friends back home in Brooklyn), and the band are a real robust live act, worshipping at the helm of My Bloody Valentine rather than Talulah Gosh. Twinkles of Just Like Heaven era Cure keyboards ice layers of buzz saw guitar in an at odds perfect blend not seen since 90s shoe gaze band Lush.
There are shoe gaze daydreams that swirl and glide/grind along (Stay Alive, and last year’s single Come Saturday) and heavenly pop anthems such as the giddily delicious (my favourite - also the jangliest formation here). It’s all rather sweet - albeit bittersweet. Song titles recall Sarah Records bands’ efforts in their lovelorn or celebratory tone - Contender, This Love is Fucking Right!, and The Tenure Itch, and I think of The Field Mice in particular fondly - but there’s more kick and spike to the music of The Pains, and less of the soppy sensitive and sinewy self-pity.
I must say, it’s a shame that the album closes with a song that raids the top drawer of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s unlocked treasure chest, it’s a 3/1 drumbeat that’s become hackneyed amidst C86 revivalists and just too obvious a steal (do some of these bands not listen to any other albums?). But as the last guitar howls into a feedback screaming scree, the album comes to a stop with the perfect finality, and it all felt like - if not a first rate debut album - a cracking, smart exemplar of achingly pretty things to come from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
(Miss Fliss, God Is In The TV)