The (Finally) PopNarcotic Top 20 Of 2009 (Cont.)

February 16, 2010 at 7:35 am (Uncategorized)

14. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, S/T

Indulge me in a reminiscence for a second, willya? It’s the fall of 1987, I’m bussing tables at a local restaurant while attending college part time and feeling almost completely, incomprehensibly lost in life. Oh, I’m putting up a brave front for friends and family and girlfriend…but I’m feeling like doubt and malaise are tearing me apart inside. There’s going to be no Journalism School for me; I’ve discovered I cannot write up against deadline anyway, so probably that’s for the best. I’m completely at sea treading water, probably on the cusp of ending up heading down a path as one of those college town 50-year olds with scraggly hair collecting aluminum cans for the deposit money for a living.

And then some co-workers at the restaurant I’m working at are talking music to me, and introducing me to friends, and finding out how much I’m loving this Scottish band called The Pastels and then I’m up in Robb and Matt and Stephanie’s apartment house and they’re spinning records by The Flatmates and the Shop Assistants and the first My Bloody Valentine singles comp and I’m literally feeling an almost amphetamine rush from discovering an entire group of people with whom I share a music taste and who seem to have Plenty More Where That Came From, as it were. Those heady, wonderful, wonderful days at university were where I started to get it sorted, life-wise. I may not have marked a clear path on the map, but from that time forward I knew I wanted to keep hearing music that made me feel the way that music did, and life suddenly had some purpose and got a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable.

And so here we are in 2009 and I’m hearing a New York band called The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart for the first time and I’m thinking “This is the band I’ve been hearing since back then at school.” I mean, I don’t have the foggiest idea how a group of NYC youngsters can hook into a sound as obscure as the C86 indie pop movement that came and went with alarming quickness in the middle 1980’s, but there you go.

The description of TPOBPAH’s music isn’t gonna do it justice, but I’ll try anyway–you take ridiculously fuzzed-out guitars, strum them earnestly, and sing in mostly on-key vocals (thick with British, or in this case faux-Brit accents) and then write one doe-eyed love song dripping with teen angst after another. What that description of the music fails to capture is the exuberance and innocence and naivete required to get this right (and it is perhaps the neatest trick that The Pains turn that they manage to sound incredibly unprepossessing while basically aping a music style that may pre-date the births of the members of the band).

Emo as a movement never really worked because anyone who’s ever felt all wrung-out with angst knows that you can’t really get to those deepest-valleys without also hitting a lot of amazing, glorious peaks of discovery and joy in life. What makes the twee fuzz indiepop of The Pains work so much better than that genre is that they aren’t afraid to express the joys and wide-eyed true belief of young-adulthood (and sadness is just another interesting and unique discovery here). Their ability to transmit that simple feeling of exuberant wonder at all things boy/girl/relationship casts a spell that will make your heart feel 20 again. Hopefully you’ll be transported to airy college apartments, sitting on dusty hardwood floors drinking cheap beer and listening to records with friends…and wanting nothing more than that in life.

“This Love Is Fucking Right”
“Everything With You”
“Stay Alive”

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