The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Bowery Ballroom, Tuesday May 12.
Cumbersome name aside, there’s nothing entirely virginal about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a band whose hybridized mash of indie fuzz, twee, and shoegaze owes more than a little to long messy nights spent listening to Sarah Records, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. The Brooklyn band’s debut album for Slumberland–a once-great label, recently resuscitated–is enticingly crisp, poppy, and playful, the kind of thing which will indelibly mark a spring or a summer, depending on when you begin listening to it.
About to embark on a pretty serious European vacation, the Pains lined the front of the Bowery stage with four of five members, aligned at precisely the same latitude, for a warm up. This band does have singles–“Young Adult Friction” got up-front middle citizens jumping and dancing–but, mostly, it has fuzz: a swarm of guitars, bass, and keys drowning both percussion and vocals, a cloud of sound drifting off into the crowd. On record, Kip Berman’s voice–soft but consistently and pleasantly always there–tends to stand out more, especially when ornamented by his backup mate, Peggy Wang. Without their ethereal presence, the music at times had difficulty standing alone; Bermand and Wang, it turns out, are the thing that leads this band’s whispy sound this way and that. Without it, the songs tend to fold in on each other. The quintet didn’t help matters by nervously running one song into the next during the set.
There is always a charge in seeing a band in their nascent popularity, their newness and freshness a spectacle unto itself. And, at Bowery, there were couples posing for photos with the stage and band as background, multiple exposures, edging for scene credentials down the road. It was hard to tell if everyone was listening. The studio recordings will hold us through summer; here’s hoping that the band returns from Europe with more sonic discernment and/or separation than they had when they left.
In 140 characters or less: Summertime band plays springtime show, with all the awkwardness that entails–maybe next time?