Music Reviews

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart Belong

(Slumberland) Rating - 8/10

When contemplating an album that could be considered a worthy successor to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut, a few things will seem vital in our desires: It should be energetic, emotional, and it certainly should have a good deal of texture.

Wouldn’t you just know it, Belong has those things in droves. Droves! But gone are the refrains, the pop-laden outbursts (there’s nothing really akin to "This love is fucking right!” here) — those defining bits that made the band’s self-titled first burst at the seams with youthful vigour.

But there’s no mistaking it. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the same lovable band, but they’ve grown with their sound. Belong is big, bombastic, excited — this is a band that has hit a rich vein of form, and when everything comes together properly, it’s stellar.

It won’t make waves like the first album. This culls more from a history of shoegazing and dream pop. It’s more instinctive. It’s bolder, braver, bigger, and it doesn’t apologize for a thing. When everything’s said and done, The Pains have no reason to apologize.

When they kicked a bit of their acclaimed sound to the side and pumped the guitar volume, they avoided that sophomoric slip (you know, that one you always read about but seldom find as such) and freshened up a bit before going out.

The vocals are incredibly wispy — almost erotic, as those in Loveless are — and the guitars clang away, distortion pedals leading the way. Each element, one could argue, is gold medal winning stuff. The melodies, harmonies, rhythm — it all comes together in this beautiful mess of noise.

But Belong is a bit an album crafted of some real homogeneous stuff: Most pieces, I think, could fit elsewhere in the album without much trouble. We’ll find our biggest complaints there. A successful song will make a listener gasp, wondering why that just happened: That contemplative moment is the moment when an album hits its most staggering heights. Belong has only a few of those, but it’s not without strong individual moments — Heart in Your Heartbreak stands out for all the right reasons, and The Body features as strong an opening as you could hope for.

When it counts, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart deliver, but it’s when they don’t think it counts that this loses its way a bit. That element of surprise would go a long way to boosting this from something moderately evocative to some really very good.

Belong is solid. Nobody, I think, will dispute that. But it’s not the album it could have been. It is, though, efficient and effective, and it’s never a throwaway. It’s not even really disappointing on first listen — but it’s after that fourth or fifth that you really wonder, “Was I really listening to a new Pains album?”

That relative disbelief will have you put the record on again, hoping to uncover some hidden bit that makes this the intensely revolutionary act instantiated through music, but in that, it falls a little flat. Most albums do. This, however, only falls flat when you want more — and that aside, Belong really is a good album.