It is my considered opinion that 2009 will come to be known as a year that music progressed more than it did in other years, largely by virtue of the release of one or two paradigm-changing monoliths. Neither of those paradigm-changing monoliths are by the Pains of Being Pure At Heart.
I think when I first came across this album, it was as one of those anonymous downloads, a link someone had dumped in a chat window or a message or on a forum that I clicked without looking up any biography or even checking what it sounded like. For this reason, I presumed they were Scottish for at least two months. Call it musical profiling, but the hallmarks are all there. Reverb on everything. Jangly guitars. Dual gender unison harmonies on important lines. A certain, mostly affected naivety. This band should be from Glasgow, and they should be from the past.
They’re not, though. They’re from Brooklyn, they’re from now, and they’ve made an album that plays better start to finish than most 80s indie pop best-ofs. And it really does play like a singles compilation. Every song carries its weight. They’re not the kind of band who ever lay off the gas a little with slow songs or instrumentals and then bring it back up with a stormer. Every song could be the song that gets you into the POBPAH.
My favourite, the one that walked me from place to place the most this year, is Come Saturday. With a hook that’s 6.5 Abbas on the catchiness scale and enough energy to catapult a human to Mars, it’s easily one of the songs of the year. But it’s also (and get used to this sort of thing) about NOT going out. “Who cares if there’s a party somewhere? We’re gonna stay in!”. There’s something very appealing about this projection of being sad in the northeast Atlantic, anorak sense (rather than the universal, unhappy sense). POBPAH aren’t the first to do it, but they’re close to the best.
I’m sure for every Pains of Being Pure At Heart fan, there’s a different stand out song. The obligatory One With The Drumbeat From Just Like Honey, maybe. Or the weird one ostensibly about loving your sister. And I’d bet the strange teenage loyalty to that song is the same. POBPAH make you want to write their name on your pencil case. They make you want to buy pencils and a pencil case to hold them, just to write their name on it. They’re a pop band out of synch with their time, and all the more brilliant for it.
Hated critical hegemon site has you covered with content on this band, as usual.