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Album Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Hell EP

By on Wednesday, 18th November 2015 at 12:00 pm

Pains Hell EPI’ve never imagined hell as being a warm and sunny place, but in the hands of Kip Berman and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it becomes pleasantly balmy and inviting, if only for a very brief time. The band’s concise new EP ‘Hell’ takes its title from its only original tune, which Berman says is “about how insufferable performances of sensitivity are when there’s a good song playing and someone you want to dance with.” The song ‘Hell’ is pure ephemeral pop, with a peppy beat and a jaunty guitar riff under Berman’s nonchalant vocals. His breezy, disaffected delivery of the chorus line “now we’re going to hell, oh well’ effectively sums up his stated meaning without too much further elaboration.

‘Ballad of the Band’ is equally sunny and upbeat, bathing itself in the ’80s-style irony of setting wryly self-conscious lyrics to cleanly melodic and engagingly jaunty music. The Pains’ cover isn’t vastly different to the original by Birmingham alt-pop band Felt, the main change being a subtle shift in the instrumentation, minimizing the carnival style keyboards and instead putting emphasis on the guitar melody.

The final track on the EP is another cover, again not particularly experimental, but this one more overtly bitter and mildly punk rock in its styling. Vocals for ‘Laid’ (originally by Manchester rock band James) are here provided by Jen Goma, lead singer for A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who also sang some of the most memorable moments on the Pains’ last full length album ‘Days of Abandon’.  Her delivery here is grittier and more forceful than what I’ve heard from her in the past, omitting the James version’s falsetto vocal melisma on the repeated word “pretty” and opting instead for a low growl that seems somehow appropriate for a cover that takes quite literally the song’s lyric about “messing around with gender roles.” Before you dive into the new version, you can have a listen to the original just below.


The ‘Hell’ EP was released in conjunction with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s November live dates, which included a show in London earlier this month before the band headed around the globe to Asia. They’ve just wrapped up a pair of shows in Japan and will play the Clockenflap Festival in Hong Kong and the Neon Lights Festival in Singapore at the end of the month. The digital-only ‘Hell’ EP is available now via the band’s one-off label Painbow.

If the brevity of the new EP leaves you wanting more from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, you can check out our archive of coverage on the band right back here.


Video of the Moment #527: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

By on Tuesday, 19th July 2011 at 6:00 pm

Here’s the new promo vid for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s song ‘The Body’. It’s a delightfully sunny video with just a twinge of the angst of…growing up. And oh, those kids they chose to be the kid versions of themselves are adorable.



Video of the Moment #475: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

By on Tuesday, 10th May 2011 at 6:00 pm

New York’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart seem to pride themselves on being misfits. Take for example the video for ‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’. But misfits always get their way. Eventually. Watch (and laugh) below.



Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Twin Shadow at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 1st April 2011

By on Monday, 4th April 2011 at 2:00 pm

I can’t believe it has been 2 years since the first time I saw the Pains of Being Pure at Heart live, from an obstructed balcony view at their Nottingham Trent Student Union at Dot to Dot in 2009. Even from so far away, I could see the kids below moving and grooving to their music. Since then I’ve managed to see the band three more times, all in Washington, including last Friday’s appearance at the Black Cat. The show was sold out, much to the chagrin to the folks who shuffled up the night of the show to buy tickets and were turned away. Frontman Kip Berman told me after the show that they felt whenever they came to DC, it was as comfortable as playing at home. (I did hint him that they should just get it over with and move down here…)

The opening act was Twin Shadow (George Lewis Jr. and backing band), who I gather is becoming increasingly big in Britain and selling out his own headlining shows across the pond. I was curious but also skeptical. He and his band played eight songs, and it wasn’t until song #6 ,’Slow’, that I thought the set finally turned the corner. As its name suggests, it starts slow, but then really lays into you with heavy guitars. They play passable, pleasing rock with synths but I personally didn’t see anything spectacular that would warrant venues selling out as a headliner. I guess he’s part of the new new wave movement, and for the most part, I prefer the ‘original’ new wave of the ’80s. ‘Castles in the Snow’, with its tribal beats, was another song that stood out from the others.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart just released their second full length album, ‘Belong’, last week on Fortuna Pop in the UK, and the new material still sounds like the Pains, but with a slightly different bent. The title track sounds very Stone Roses, with the shoegazey guitars thrashing about harder than I remembered from their self-titled debut. But the overall sound is unmistakably them, with Kip Berman’s gentle yet emotive singing style and Peggy Wang’s ethereal backing vocals. ‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’, probably the best song from ‘Belong’, also was my favourite song of the night. The words in the chorus, “she was the heart in your heartbreak / she was the miss in your mistake / no matter what you take / you’re never gonna forget”, are delivered so winsomely but are achingly (and fittingly) heartbreaking. This, along with other new tracks like ‘Too Tough’ (before which Berman made a joke that “it is about the Washington Redskins – I’m very sorry about Dan Snyder”, our beleaguered football team that never wins and its Svengali owner) and ‘Strange’ sounded great live. So did the now Pains classics ‘This Love is Fucking Right!’, ‘Everything With You’ and ‘Young Adult Friction’.

I had a chat with a friend and fellow fan at the show and we talked about how the band’s profile has gone up considerably – I attribute this to them featuring a lot recently on Pitchfork. Hopefully this attention by the indie mainstream will help them gain fans. Certainly, both times I’d seen them before they had not sold out the venue, but maybe this time was because of the opener. (Who knows really.) While it was disappointing that people weren’t really dancing down the front, one particularly bothersome teenage girl kept bothering Kip, at one point shouting that she had made cupcakes but security did not let her bring them upstairs. He joked back that it was probably because they contained drugs. (Laughter ensued.) After further reflection and a song later, he quipped, “I am sure those cupcakes were made with love. Because we all know love is the drug’. Or so says a wise man named Bryan Ferry”. Disappointedly, I think I was one of five people there that night who got the joke.

It was great to see them have 2 albums’ worth of material to tour with now, as they can choose the best from both to play, but I was sad not to hear anything from the Higher Than the Stars EP of 2009, which I thought was brilliant. Oh well. I know they’ll be back. And I will be there, down the front, shaking a tail feather like I always do.

More photos and set list after the cut.
Continue reading Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Twin Shadow at Black Cat, Washington, DC – 1st April 2011


Single Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart in Your Heartbreak

By on Wednesday, 17th November 2010 at 12:00 pm

The new single from New York’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart is called ‘Heart in Your Heartbreak’, which frankly is more than a bit redundant. Because we all know the Pains are all about heartbreaks, mistakes and everything in between. And personally, Kip Berman’s voice augmented by Peggy Wang’s harmonies are so angelic, they make everything better. Even heartbreaks.

This track is more poppy and less honey oozy than the tracks on the band’s debut released early 2009. It is a definite step in maturity, sounding less like that album and more like the ‘Higher Than the Stars’ EP released autumn 2009 (I reviewed this on TGTF last year shortly after I saw the band for the first time). Smartly, the beats are highlighted more, and the bridge features those start and stop ‘pauses’ of guitars in action that are actually harder to make sound good on rock recordings than you might think. Good stuff. Am I excited about their sophomore album release in 2011? A resounding yes.

‘The Heart in Your Heartbreak’ 7″ vinyl will be released on 14 December and can be pre-ordered from Insound.


Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010

By on Monday, 21st June 2010 at 2:00 pm

Pop music doesn’t have to be complicated. New York City’s the Pains of Being Pure at Heart are a great example of this. They write songs that have guitars, keyboards and drums going at it harmoniously with emotional lyrics. Yet when you hear them play live, it all looks effortless. Last Wednesday they played a sold-out show at Washington’s Black Cat, the last date on a 2-week tour of America.

The first of two opening acts, Hooray for Earth, are a fellow NYC band (by way of Cambridge, Massachusetts). A really eclectic sounding band, at one point, I thought they sounded like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (a real solid-sounding guitar band). But Tom Petty never has synths on stage with him, or multiple percussionists: a regular drummer and another bloke who stands in front of a whole selection things to bang on. I commented to a friend that I would love to have that job, because you have the most fun, beating on things like there’s no tomorrow. (We talked to said bloke after the gig and he explained, “I have the best job in the business!” And even more funny, there was a similar guy in the next support band, Surfer Blood.) The addition of extra percussive elements made other songs sound like ’80s tunes ramped up, and I definitely liked that. Fun stuff.

So Surfer Blood was next. I’m sure you’ve heard their debut single ‘Swim (To Reach the End)’, it was on everyone’s lips last year. Even Keith Murray of We Are Scientists conceded to me in January that this band from West Palm Beach, Florida, were the talk of the town. Like the Morning Benders I had seen the previous week, they looked really, really young. But they can rock out and have serious guitar-playing chops. In addition to bringing the house down with ‘Swim’, they handily delved into emo territory with the darker ‘Harmonix’. In all the hype surrounding the Drums, Surfer Blood has been criminally overlooked, judging from audience reaction. Have a listen to their debut album ‘Astro Coast’ and see what you think. But what really made the crowd love them was their raucous rendition of Weezer‘s ‘Undone – the Sweater Song’, featuring keyboardist Peggy Wang of the Pains filling in for lead singer J.P. Pitts’ guitar playing. Two uni kids next to us in town for summer internships couldn’t believe their ears and absolutely loved it.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are not a pretentious band. Lead singer/guitarist Kip Berman is the guy next door, so white bread and sincere that just you know if you took him home to meet mum and dad, they’d love him instantly. And that’s a good reason why he and his band can win over crowd easily. There’s nothing fake about this band; they’re in it because they love making music and they love entertaining people with their music. Their brand of guitar pop is romantic and emotive, not threatening at all, and I think that’s the secret of their success. Listen to their music and your day gets brighter instantly. I liken the live experience to swallowing sunshine and having a warm, fuzzy feeling going through your whole body.

Their latest single in America, ‘Say No to Love’, continues the formula that made their debut album a success in the UK last year. (The single won’t be officially released in the UK until next month.) I’d heard the single online but wow, it’s incredible live. Along with gems from the debut album like ‘Young Adult Friction’ and ‘Everything with You’, this was as close to a perfect gig as you can get. It was also a mass farewell between the bands, and it was evident from the hugs all around that these three bands had gotten very close over the 2-week tour. So much that they joined together for a spirited rendition of the Ronettes’s ‘Be My Baby’. After the show another friend of mine (one I couldn’t find in the mess of people stuffed into the club during the show) Tweeted to me, ‘that closing singalong was INCREDIBLE‘. ’nuff said.

After the cut: more photos and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart set list.

Continue reading Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with Hooray for Earth and Surfer Blood at Black Cat, Washington DC – 16 June 2010


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

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