The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Echo of Pleasure
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart carved out their niche very early into their career and have managed to stay neatly within it for all of this decade so far. While early EP Higher Than the Stars and their self-titled debut album highlighted their knack for catchy melodies wrapped in fuzzy layers of feedback. It was with their second album, Belong, that they found their sound – a more polished finish, but still retaining a predilection for sounds copped mainly from C86 and John Hughes films.
The Echo of Pleasure continues in this vein, adding a worthy and relatively slight collection of songs to their gradually swelling canon. This album doesn't alter the Pains sound so much as it doubles down on exactly what the band is all about: Kip Berman's gently lulling voice, swooping synths and layers of feedback that ever so slightly distort what would otherwise be fairly run-of-the-mill pop/rock music.
The first half of the album strikes with a precision that is clearly designed to capture attention, with Anymore and When I Dance With You being two of the catchiest songs in the whole Pains collection, while The Garret and the title track provide upbeat bursts of saccharine synth to ensure that the peppiness never falters.
'Couldn't take anymore/ I wanted to die with you', Kip croons on Anymore, before declaring 'I feel okay' about a million times towards the end of When I Dance With You. Intentional Smithsian contradiction or evidence of a schizophrenic songwriting style? One thing that has been sacrified in the quest for sheen is the fascinating and beautifully direct lyricism that their first couple of releases demonstrated.
The last few tracks are nice enough, but are of the somewhat 'filler' variety and typically gentle closer Stay rounds off an album that isn't overly ambitious, but provides a good ratio of peaks to counterpoint the relative troughs. It's a low-key record for a certain type of listener – this isn't a band clamouring for arena-rock status, just one that is happy making good music and having fun doing it.
Listen to: Anymore, When I Dance With You