In the space of barely a decade Kip Berman has refined the approach behind his band, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, and gone from the wilds of twee-pop to a more polished space, one accented by keyboard fills and sharper production methods. If The Pains were once a charming group of kids balancing on a fence, slightly shoegaze-y and slightly C86-ish, then the new iteration of the band is a slick beast, one that produces numbers far closer to those of New Order, for example, than those ever cranked out by My Bloody Valentine. If there's a certain regret in my words, it's tempered with pleasure as a listener (and fan) as the band have continued to polish their alt-rock attack to marvelous effect so that the results of this metamorphosis have been good ones.
The new album from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Echo Of Pleasure, is out on Friday and while the cuts here are a long way from the perky-and-perfect jangle-noise of something like "Everything With You" from the first album, they are fine examples of expertly-produced and performed alt-rock of the sort that modern listeners are usually in dire need of. Produced by Andy Savours, The Echo Of Pleasure is a shiny package, full of sharp numbers that retain the sort of bright sheen that makes them sound notably different than those earlier, more carefree offerings. Opener "My Only" unfurls with a deliberate pop sense around a swirling organ figure, while the delightful and catchy "Anymore" is peppier, all mid-Eighties-style stabs at the sort of buoyant alt-rock that The Cure perfected in the Reagan years. If "The Garret" nods in the direction of New Order, as so many of the recent Pains tracks do, then the superb "When I Dance With You" attempts to meld a few disparate influences in the service of a truly excellent melody, Berman at ease leading this one into the stratosphere. Elsewhere, the title cut takes a few cues from O.M.D., while the sublime "So True" succeeds largely thanks to the guest vocals from Jen Goma of Another Sunny Day In Glasgow. Here, on this track, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart sound rejuvenated and a listener could almost wish that Goma was on more cuts on The Echo Of Pleasure as, here at least, the band seems to have found a way to corral all the influences that one can hear frequently in their music in the service of a truly wonderful pop single. The downbeat "Stay" is less successful but the oddly-titled "The Cure For Death" is a bit better, patches of easy brightness found in Berman's vocal-lines atop a few modest hooks.
The Echo Of Pleasure is a fine record if one can accept that Kip Berman has progressed from the rougher charms of the band's first record. And if some of that Slumberland Records-style charm is gone, it's been replaced by other pleasures, ones that bear favorable comparisons to late Eighties New Order and Cure tracks. And, as I can attest having seen the band in concert recently, the group has benefited immensely from the addition of the Hochheim brothers from Ablebody to the line-up for live appearances. Berman, like those guys from that band, has now sort of mastered a more keyboard-based sound that results in the sort of sleek New Wave-y alt-rock that should reward fans of multiple genres.
The Echo Of Pleasure is out on Friday and you can get more details on the record and the band by visiting the official website of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart.
[Photo: Ebru Yildiz]