Album review by KevW
This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com/
The 2009 debut from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart may not have been the most diverse or original album of the year, it was however, one of the strongest sets of jangly 80s influenced indie-pop we'd heard for a long time – hence being voted The Sound Of Confusion's album of the year.
How do you follow that? Repeating the exact same trick again could be seen as a formulaic cash-in on the word of mouth success they'd become. A complete change of direction to make that 'dark' or 'more experimental' second album could go either way. It worked for The Horrors, but when Arctic Monkeys changed their sound for 'Humbug' it alienated many fans. TPOBPAH took a different approach.
In interviews they'd suggested that they weren't happy about being labelled 'lo-fi', saying they wanted the album to sound as good as possible and preferring to use the term 'mid-fi'. This appears to be the route they chose on 'Belong', bringing in the dubious choice of uber-producer Flood (U2, The Killers, Smashing Pumpkins) to varnish over the fuzz and paper over the cracks – unfortunately it was these very cracks and that very fuzz that made their first album such an utter joy.
More polished as it is, thankfully Flood hasn't been overly heavy on the sheen, rather letting the songs speak for themselves. The C86 rush of the first album is evident in places (in particular 'Heaven's Gonna Happen Now', 'My Terrible Friend' and 'Girl Of 1000 Dreams') but much of this record seems to have jumped ahead five years, taking inspiration from the lighter end of the shoegaze scene of the early 90s (Galaxie 500, Slowdive, Chapterhouse etc.). It's a sound that suits them well, laid back yet still melodic. 'Even In Dreams', Anne With An E' and 'Strange' being particularly good examples.
So is 'Belong' as good as the debut? In short – no it's not. Purely and simply because the quality of songs doesn't quite match the euphoric buzz they created the first time round. The immediacy and initial excitement might be missing this time, but stick with this album and it will unravel itself to be another sterling effort.
Stream the whole album on soundcloud
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart website
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