The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Pure Abandon

Cult US indie/noise pop troupe return with third LP

Released May 11th, 2014 via Fierce Panda / By Erick Mertz
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Pure Abandon We all live such busy lives. There was a time, not so long ago, when I swore to myself that I would never allow such cliché to define my way of being. Alas, the world plays tricks with our expectations and we become that person. Eventually.

The act of listening to an album by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is, in part, a reminder that you made a vow to yourself. Everything from that moment forward was going to be original. Every meeting will be memorable. Every chance stare across the bus transforms into unforgettable catharsis.

Days of Abandon opens with the gentle “Art Smock” an absolutely perfect tone setting hymn to idyllic times, gazing longingly at your favorite band, thrift store mining, the preoccupations of the lighthearted. The acoustic song is blush-inducing, highlighting Kip Berman’s rare talent of placing the listener inside the rare moment. He makes the foreign or distant absolutely immediate and familiar. The track is already up near the top of my top-ten Pains list.

I might say the same for “Eurudice” a rare brash jewel built on revelatory guitars and starburst chorus that will have even the callous heart singing out lout. The band meanders lovingly across the six-minute “Beautiful You” (for anyone keeping track, the longest song in their catalog) and dally around wistfully on “Coral and Gold” a track that teases hot instrumental crescendo but never releases. Its like all the relationships Berman and Peggy Wang sing about.

All of this underlies the welcome reality that the Pains, even on their drab days, write a better song than your second favorite band. For the first time though, a few of the tracks come across as oddly threadbare. “Until The Sun Explodes” while delightfully titled, feels like the most obvious song ever, broadcasting an obvious Cure influence (see if you can identify the song). Although one can intuit the band’s Smiths fandom, they have never been quite so on the nose as on “Kelly” (OK, I’ll give you this, a handsome facsimile of “This Charming Man”.)

Any criticism of Days Of Abandon comes down to how it matches up to their previous work (I feel The Pains of Being Pure At Heart deserve that) and on that scale, it is, well, rather pale. It is that uncomfortably middling record, neither a blow out introduction like the self-titled first, nor an affirming nod to stardom like the second. While this will undoubtedly fall into a comfortable place in their catalog, I am left to wonder if the self-awareness sung about so blissfully is bleeding through elsewhere, like their songwriting. Insert sigh.

This meeting with Days Of Abandon was memorable, but an unforgettable catharsis? I’m given to hyperbole but that would be a stretch, even for my wit.
I’m not going to play the tired “I’d rather” game, but I’d rather be listening to this than most other things on my desk right now (more than most things in my collection as a matter of fact). What makes Days Of Abandon essentially different however is that I once needed to internalize whatever it was that The Pains of Being Pure At Heart placed in front of me. That didn’t quite happen this time.

Maybe they’ve changed. Perhaps I’m fundamentally different now. Most likely though, we have both gotten far too busy for reconciliation.