Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Echo of Pleasure

By on Friday, 1st September 2017 at 12:00 pm

Pains TEOP coverThe upcoming fourth studio album from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, titled ‘The Echo of Pleasure’, finds frontman and songwriter Kip Berman coming to terms with reality. It’s been a bit of a process for Berman, going back to Pains’ excellent previous LP. “On ‘Days of Abandon’‘, I was on my own. There was no one in the room making decisions with me. It felt strange experiencing that isolation while trying to make sense of it through writing,” Berman admits in the press release for the new LP. “With this [new] record, I’ve made peace with the fact I am Pains. It’s always been my band, but I haven’t been super comfortable saying that, partly because I’ve enjoyed working with so many talented friends, and also because the songs I wrote seemed to mean more than anything my actual life could live up to.”

Berman hasn’t entirely given up on collaborating with his network of friends. ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ finds him working again with producer Andy Savours, vocalist Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow), and multi-instrumentalist Kelly Pratt on brass. But “actual life”, which for Berman now includes a wife and child, is the clear thematic focus on ‘The Echo of Pleasure’. He’s moved beyond the coming-of-age growing pains of his younger days, concentrating instead on the more subtle realities of mature and lasting love.

Opening track and recent single ‘My Only’ immediately “makes the matter plain”, as Berman puts it in the verse lyrics. The song’s synth melody and the echoing backing vocals are light and instantly catchy, but there’s a sense of anxiety in the bass line, underlying the rather uneasy resolution in the chorus lines “now that I’ve said it / don’t you forget / you’re my only”.

The musical and dramatic tension are heightened on early single ‘Anymore’, as Berman sings, “I couldn’t take anymore / I wanted to die with you”, and ‘The Garret’, where he intones “when I leave you / I can’t leave you / part of me remains”. ‘When I Dance With You’ takes a markedly lighter tone with a trippy dance beat and bright synth sounds under the lines “when I dance with you / I feel okay / ‘cos I know just what to do”.

Sharp and synthy title track ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ cuts to the heart of the matter, lyrically exploring the unbreakable bond between two lovers. Its edgy guitar lines and propulsive rhythm provide a feeling of musical and emotional depth under the simple, repeating chorus. ‘Falling Apart So Slow’ is lyrically wistful and nostalgic but musically cool and detached, with Kelly Pratt’s yearning brass in the bridge section making a clever, though subtle, emotional connection between music and words. Jen Goma’s bright, clear vocals are featured on the upbeat and infectiously singable ‘So True’, whose pop-flavoured musical setting once again belies the depth of meaning in Berman’s poetry.

Penultimate track ‘The Cure for Death’ brings a sense of resolute determination to the end of the album, emphasising a propulsive and persistent drumbeat under the repeated plea “don’t die away”. Album closer ‘Stay’ closes the proceedings with a gently orchestrated, softly-harmonised ballad pledging eternal togetherness.

As always with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, ‘The Echo of Pleasure’ is melodic, deftly textured, and supremely listenable. The overall sound is certainly a little edgier than what we’ve heard from Kip Berman and company in the past. But its underlying anxiety ultimately finds a sweet sense of resolution, both musically and emotionally, as Berman makes peace with who he is as a songwriter and where he now finds himself in life.


‘The Echo of Pleasure’ is out today on Painbow Records. You can find TGTF’s previous coverage of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart right back here.

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