The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Belong Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

A consistent second album of big choruses from the New Yorkers.

Lewis G. Parker 2011

As every sound from the past 50 years becomes reimagined by contemporary bands, it was only a matter of time before somebody decided to create an act that recreates the sound of the 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber. The soundtrack to the Farrelly brothers’ movie is a template which The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, from New York City, have absorbed; and seeing as the people who saw that film as kids are entering adulthood around now, they may not be the last.

In particular, late-80s/early-90s bands The Primitives and the Crash Test Dummies’ sunny pop sound is mined to the effect of creating records, like their 2009 self-titled debut, that are as nostalgic as an old college sweater. But where they stray ever so slightly from the honey-sweet sound, we get a taster of a band that sounds exciting, if not exactly revolutionary. On the title-track opener what sounds like a tribute to the gentle balladeers Keane gets ripped apart by a grungey guitar, which suggests that Pains… are 80s fans whose record collection extends beyond feel-good movie soundtracks.

But from the hushed, harmonic boy/girl vocals to the big choruses, their sophomore effort doesn’t stray beyond the college radio sound of their debut; in many ways, it has less variation in its template, with fewer experiments with heavy or distorted guitars. The difference, however, is that their debut seemed to be pinning all of its hopes on its singles – plus the band’s best song to date, Contender, which was mysteriously never released as a single – becoming a smash as big as The Primitives’ Crash or the Violent Femmes’ Blister in the Sun. But Belong, while certainly not having anything that sounds like it could be such a big hit, has the consistency to keep you interested after track number four due to the quality of songwriting, if not the variation in sound.

Who knows, maybe there is a film director working on a genre piece inspired by Dumb and Dumber, and is looking for a contemporary band to launch into the mainstream with their soundtrack. If they are, there is only one place to look.

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