The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have the kind of band name that breeds skepticism. It’s long-winded and melodramatic, augmented, possibly, by the fact that the members are totally adorable. But the fact that they are well aware of these proposed adversities and still don’t particularly care goes a long way in making them endearing. It’s as if their name is a faint and literal cry for help, certain that their honest simplicity will have them torn apart in the process.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a glaringly obvious homage of an album that wears its noise-pop tendencies on every line of its face — and really feels OK about that. Possessing the sonic dexterity of Loveless with the adolescent heart wrenching of Disintegration, the album’s fuzzed-up loudness underscores the unbridled emotion with a surprisingly subtle dab of refinement. There is something distinctly perfect about the naivety that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem to effortlessly inject into every bouncy ballad of young love and young living that makes their self-titled debut not only a welcome throwback but a much needed vacation from over-calculation.
“I never thought I would come of age,” sings Kip (the members seem to prefer first names only) on “Young Adult Friction,” about a passionate tryst between two teens in a library. The track starts with a typical 4/4 percussion before a lilting explosion of keyboards gives way to muted guitars and crooning vocals, building upon the track until it’s a shining example of pop goodness that has the angst of a 14-year-old but the wisdom of the heartbroken. And it’s this simple little method that the Pains of Being Pure at Heart use time and time again through out the album.
Perfect for headphones, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is repetitive, but only to a point of recognition. It is far too short to wear out its welcome, and the same can be said about each individual track. All that its familiar methods really do is provide the album with an identity — which is unexpected, since the band is working with such a plethora of influences — and an utterly consistent tone. Bookends “Contender” and “Gentle Sons” have a kinship in mentality that works the like the start of glorious day leading to an exhausted head upon a pillow. Romantic while only grasping its ever-fleeting nature, this record is not so much about sadness as it is about the privilege of feeling such craving — and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart don’t mind how schmaltzy that may seem. They embrace it because it gives them range and insight. It gives them heart.