The new Pains of Being Pure at Heart album, Belong, is a pretty audacious leap for the band--recruiting mega-producer Flood (U2, the Smashing Pumpkins) to buff up their previously slouchy twee-pop sound to something more closely resembling the radio-friendly alt-'90s--and it's already earning them their share of detractors. No surprise, given how shamelessly their debut courted fans of the C86-via-Slumberland indie-pop aesthetic, and how cloistered and fiercely devoted said fans can be. But some criticism has raised other issues, if not outright conspiracy theories.
On a post on former Stranger music editor (tough break) Everett True's latest publishing venture Collapse Board, entitled Pen Tip Rips, a defaced Pains of Being Pure at Heart poster attributed to "Sleevie Nicks" proclaims, among other things: "Why do you hate music market tested so much?" [sic?] and "I think there might be some indie washing going on here. Follow the cash." A link on the same page directs readers to an essay that blames Pitchfork for everything from the supposed blanding of indie rock to the loss of an easy-to-navigate mainstream/alternative dichotomy to changing attitudes about song licensing to Vampire Weekend's alleged insensitivity to sweatshop labor.
It's a little ironic that claims of market-testing and Pitchfork-manufactured consent are being promoted by True, most famous for having been flown to Seattle on Sub Pop's dime to break "grunge" to the hype-making British music press. Maybe when you've been complicit in such schemes, you start to see target marketing everywhere?
(More after the jump . . . )
Occam's razor and all, but the far more likely explanation is that the Pains are just approaching another sound from their youth, the alt-'90s, with the same studiousness they did the twee '80s. Before the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, frontman Kip Berman was a pretty sharp music intern at Portland Mercury, and he clearly takes his influences seriously.
And conspiracy or not, the results on Belong are sweet, nowhere more so than on the above song, the simply catchy, over-the-top swooning "Heart in Your Heartbreak" (I mean, "She was the heart in your heartbreak/She was the miss in your mistake"? C'MON!) I for one welcome our new, Pitchfork-created overlords.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart play the Crocodile 4/22 with Twin Shadow.