The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: The Echo of Pleasure
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are back to show us that '80s alternative synthpop isn't dead, and it's perfectly fine to be mopey as long as there's a good beat.
While it may be inaccurate or even unfair to refer to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart as a “predictable” outfit, this much is true: they’re very good at what they do, and they follow a formula, albeit an intoxicating one that’s easy to love.
The band, in the studio, is essentially Kip Berman with a small circle of musical guests (and a full band on tour). While Berman is American born-and-raised, his musical influences are most definitely from across the pond: virtually all the songs on The Echo of Pleasure, the latest album from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, can be traced back to British ‘80s alternative rock. Songs thump along to big drums and keening keyboard hooks while Berman sings about love, death, and dancing, his painfully pure heart clearly on his sleeve. The melodic ennui of New Order is most definitely in the mix, but there’s also a bit of Cure-like mopey shoegaze. I’d wager good money that Low Life and Disintegration were in heavy rotation during recording sessions. Helping out with production duties is Andy Savours, whose previous work with My Bloody Valentine (as well as the Pains’ last album, Days of Abandon) brings plenty of experience to the proceedings.
The Echo of Pleasure is the Pains’ fourth full-length album, and Berman is ably assisted by Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) on vocals, Jacob Danish Sloan (Dream Diary) on bass, and Kelly Pratt (Beirut, David Byrne) on horns. Even with a relatively small amount of outside help, Berman’s songs are beefy, melodic throwbacks to college radio staples of decades past. “My Only” leaps out of the gate with a fairly standard pop chord progression and the layered keyboards, guitar, and front-of-the-mix drums give the composition plenty of heft. “Anymore” has an irresistibly funky backbeat that masks the lyrics’ mortal dread (“Anymore / I couldn’t take it anymore / I wanted to die with you”).