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Friday, April 1, 2011

"Belong", The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and all the bands we love

Belong- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Before starting this review, let's admit something. One can't be fair judging the Pains. They are called "indie pop revivalists" and they might be right. Because "Belong" is an ode to early Smashing Pumpkins, "The Body" sounds indeed like New Order, "My Terrible Friend" steals a dream melody from The Cure, or "Strange" blissfully evokes My Bloody Valentine. But wait a second: these are all bands we love (or that we use to love). So, for starters, if The Pains can be accused of mimicking other indie bands, at least give them the credit for the damn fine taste they have.

A lot has been said about the fact of superproducers Flood and Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, U2, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails) teaming with the band on their sophomore effort. But let all the "polished/bigger/selling out vs. low-fi/honesty/indie attitude" discussion apart. "Belong" sounds terrific. So when the tune is good, the improvement in sounding propulses the songs to new levels for the band, in particular for lead singer Kip Berman, now much higher in the mix.

And for the majority of the record, it does it, indeed. The first trio of tracks, "Belong", "Heaven's Gonna Happen Now", and "Heart in Your Heartbreak" are enough to justify buying the album. Dream pop full of hooks and perfect choruses, melancholy and lyrics about coming of age are again trademarks of the band, as it was their debut. But the new album also presents a louder, edgier sound, and a more diverse approach to the songs, giving the impression the album is less immediate, or that is not the exuberant collection of songs the first one was. But tracks like "Too Tough" or "Girls Of 100 Dreams" are livelier than anything they recorded before, and reverb brings you the feeling you are listening to a wonderful hidden track from one of your favourite bands of the early 90s. So "Belong" could be a brave step towards a more defined and confident band.

Lets face it. Loving The Pains of Being Pure at Heart might be a guilty pleasure. But also a very logical one. At the end, what matters is if a song sticks with you. And The Pains are masters in that genre.

SCORE: 7,25/10

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