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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at La Sala Rossa

Posted by Christine / September 13, 2009

20090913-pains1.jpgSomeone once told me that I was pure at heart. At the time I was flattered, yet didn't know what it meant, and truthfully, short of the frightfully intense religious connotations the word suggests, I still don't understand the concept.

Academia is hard for me to shake, so bear with me while I look towards an authority on words and meanings; Merriam-Webster. Pure: free from what vitiates, weakens or pollutes. In this instance, the definition of heart would be: one's innermost, character, feelings or inclinations. So, being pure at heart would mean one's core self is free of emotional corruption, which might manifest as distrustfulness, contemptuousness, being manipulative, etc. Now that I've arrived at a clearer definition of pure at heart, it is time to explore the New York indie-rock group that uses these three powerful words in their name.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart is not only a mouthful, as far as band titles go, but also, as seen in my previous musings, a mouthful of meaning. What I've ultimately settled on is that this band name, apparently based on an unpublished children's story, can refer to a rather tired, yet relevant cliché: 'Nice guys finish last.' On a personal level, trite as it is, this cliché is vindicated by the fact that the very same person, who told me I was pure at heart, eventually broke it. Heartbroken: overcome by sorrow (thanks again Merriam-Webster). So why do nice guys finish last? Why is it painful to be pure at heart?

I had the lucky chance last Sunday to see The Pains of Being Pure at Heart address these questions at La Sala Rossa with their own twist on the indie-rock genre; harmoniously paired male and female vocals, 80's inspired guitars and keys, shoegaze vibe (reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine) and calm, straightforward vocals. The band's lyrics reflect the frustrating, sad nature of being pure at heart. Some examples: "Now that you feel, you say it's not real," "Your mister, he don't treat you the right way," "They suck you in, the black hole kids won't let you free again," and "Can't you see his arms are a hell and you won't ever leave?" Heavy.

The audience in attendance joyfully bounced along to the songs, and females swooned at the sight of singer Kip Berman. At first glance, Berman's attractiveness can be attributed to the usual lankiness and doe-eyes that many indie-rock frontmen possess. However, I quickly came to understand what all the fuss was about, and succumbed to a state of giddy fan-girldom I am not too proud to admit. Berman's allure is in the details; his head cocked gently to the side, a blank, almost frightened stare that falls just above the audience, and empathetic, slightly raised eyebrows. All of it adds to an air of innocence, which perfectly ties into the narrative his band title creates. In short, Berman becomes the pure at heart hero made flesh, hurt by the harsh cynicism of the world he lives in, and in need of nurturing. Trust me, it's totally Freudian, but this kind of thing drives girls nuts.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart played a set that featured a few new songs, as well as hits off their self-titled debut album, such as "Young Adult Fiction." A friend of mine described this album as her "summer album," and rightfully so; the bright, easy vibe of the songs are a perfect backdrop for summer flings, road trips, and lazy days lying in the sun.

Early arrivers were treated to two openers: Cymbals Eat Guitars and The Depreciation Guild (featuring two members of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart).

Cymbals Eat Guitars had an early 90's, almost emo sound to them. Their music featured delightfully self-indulgent guitar solos, quick switches between soft and hard, lightning speed strumming, and layered instrumentals, all with a slightly calmer, indie-rock style, which allowed the band to veer away from sounding too much like The Refused, and instead, closer to Built to Spill.

The Depreciation Guild played in front of a projection screen of squares changing colours, flickering along to the songs. Kurt Feldman steps out from behind the drums to play guitar and do vocals for this band, while twin brothers Christoph Hochheim and Anton Hochheim play guitar and drums respectively. Unfortunately, during the set, Feldman's low, seductive vocals were barely audible, and were helplessly buried under the 'wall of sound' instrumentals. While this might have been intentional, I believe it was pushed too far. The Depreciaiton Guild, with their droney electric sound and hushed vocals, is a throwback to 80's bands like The Cocteau Twins.

Image from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's MySpace page



Facts / September 14, 2009 at 11:30 pm
"Higher Than Stars" is from their new EP and NOT their debut album.
Christine / September 14, 2009 at 11:35 pm
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