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Album review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's 'Belong'

March 29, 2011 |  7:21 am

Pains_being_pure_heart_240_ On its 2009 debut, this blog-beloved Brooklyn combo paid overt homage to a bunch of indie-pop bands many of its college-age fans were too young to experience firsthand: the Field Mice, Velocity Girl, the Jesus and Mary Chain. That vintage inspiration still looms throughout “Belong,” the Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s sophomore disc; you can hear it in the way frontman Kip Berman elongates his breathy vocal melodies and in his passive-aggressive attitude toward grown-up romance.

Yet with its pulsating rhythms and swirling guitars, “Belong” also updates the Pains’ sound with (slightly) fresher flavors: “Heavens Gonna Happen Now” shimmers like Bob Mould’s early-’90s group Sugar, while the title track wouldn’t sound more like the Smashing Pumpkins if it came from L.A.’s Silversun Pickups. Some of the credit for this unexpected expansion should probably go to the band’s production team of Flood and Alan Moulder, who’ve made their names working on high-end records by Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and — oh, yeah — the Smashing Pumpkins.

But Berman and his bandmates also play more purposefully here than they did on their debut, as though the bigger arrangements finally provided the shy-guy contrast they’d been looking for. Their move toward muscle feels genuine.

—Mikael Wood

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Two and a half stars (Out of four)