Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Whole Cool Band Thing: Pains of Being Pure At Heart

The fact that not more people know about the Pains of Being Pure At Heart is up there with one of the great tragedies of life (two others being that I have not yet hung out with Tavi Gevinson and that I am not married to Sirius Black. It's dark times, people, dark times.)

But the Pains of Being Pure At Heart are just so incredibly cool to listen to. I can't even describe their sound because it seems to change with each album (and each song.)

I first got into Pains of Being Pure At Heart when I was looking at Flavorwire back when they did playlists for book characters (something I am going to start doing because seriously, there could not be anything more fun than comparing scenes in Jane Eyre to Taylor Swift songs.) They recommended the song Young Adult Friction by Pains of Being Pure At Heart for one song. I listened and basically exploded with excitement and started typing all of their songs into Youtube.

 But one of the big ones that I literally fell head over heels for was Belong.

Oh my God, that song sounds like all the teenage years and first love being mixed with some Sofia Coppola film that sends your brain high. It's this geniusly dreamy song that sort of aches with teenage angst and yet kind of revels in it as well. It's that song to listen to when you're feeling gloriously angsty and like you're aching for your life to start and to be with the one you love but you're also kind of enjoying that feeling. It's sort of the song of the teenage years.

And then you get that music video and that's just brilliant in its' simplicity. It's just the band having a concert and everyone listening and joining in and those awesome giant stars dangling overhead (I want them for my bedroom) and then they're throwing toilet paper around. It's just kind of a nostalgic ode to the first time you saw your favourite band in concert and that first time you feel you've found a band that gets you, you know? It's that sort of inclusion everyone kind of longs for as a teenager and that's this song, which is about belonging and fitting in and the whole she-bang about finding a place for yourself with the people you love.

They've just got this awesome Smiths-like sound to them that kind of reminds me of Tigers Jaw in some ways (or Tigers Jaw reminds me of them, whichever came first.) Someone compared Belong to Smells Like Teen Spirit and it got me wondering whether the Pains of Being Pure At Heart are what would be produced if Morrissey and Kurt Cobain had a really angsty baby. Or something.

But anyway, I listened to Belong over and over and downloaded a few others (another one I loved is Everything With You. That is the ultimate Smiths-sounding song.) And then a few weeks ago, I got the idea to see if they'd released anything else since so I went and looked them up and downloaded their new album Days of Abandon and promptly forgot everything else I needed to do because I listened to Art Smock and thought I'd found the meaning of life.

OK, that might be overdramatic but that's just me.

But seriously, I clicked on Art Smock almost at random (I think I just thought the name sounded cool. And it does, don't deny it.) And I just got lost in this incredibly, achingly sad guitar chords song with these gentle lyrics that was just basically a story set over a few strums of the strings.

The sound was just so gently stripped down and so achingly sad with all these Nick Drake and Elliott Smith sounds. It kind of sounded like when someone's whispering a story to you in the dead of night when you're the only people around. That's what this song's like.

It's just this story about these two people who meet when they're young and they're together with no pretension or manipulation. They're just together because they love each other.

What you wanted I never knew
I was a mess but so were you-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

They swear they'll never fade out, they'll always matter and do things because they matter but as one of them grows more successful, they just grow apart. They move in different circles. The person that moved away becomes more superficial in the eyes of the one left behind-but we don't see their side of the story. Maybe they just wanted to better themselves and to them, this is a natural change.

You learned to mingle with a well-bred crowd
 Straightened your hair and forgot all about
Torn jeans and sweaters from the lost and found
Dropped some pounds and the people that you used to hang around-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

And that might be the saddest part-that it might be nobody's fault, their paths in life are just changing and they don't belong together anymore. And it's just one of those things that happens. I read an essay in Rookie magazine recently about break ups and there was this quote that just seemed to sum up this part of the song:

Your lives' paths intersected for a moment in time, then those paths diverged and that is beautiful and OK.-Meagan Fredette, Rookie Mag "Running Up That Hill".

But more than that, this song sums up that feeling when you know your paths have diverged, you know you're different people now, you know it doesn't feel right anymore-but you still want it to be the same as it was. And you keep hanging on even though you can feel the other person slipping through your fingers because to let go of something that you loved so much feels like the hardest thing in the world and as though you can never ever get this feeling again.

When I spent the night, it just felt wrong
Like a Felt song, I'm off the throne
And I need you here, and you're not around
To fall to pieces in my hands again
I'm broken where I stand again
I never learn this lesson right
But I want you here-The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

That bit at the end-when you want somebody to be who they used to be but they can't because they've changed and grown and maybe you have, too, and you're just not meant for each other anymore. But you desperately want to go back to the people that you used to be when everything was good and right and when you knew you were meant to be together.

That bit at the end-when he sings "But I want you here", as if all you have to do is want and it'll bring them back-always reminds me of someone lying alone in an apartment at night, with the summer dawn starting to come through the windows, thinking of someone far away, whom they spent their last night with a few days ago and who they know they're probably never going to see again. The words are just imbued with that kind of longing and sadness and not wanting to let go, even when you know you have to.

So, yeah. Um. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are really kind of magical.


  1. OMG!!! I found new music. I love your music taste. Btw, thanks for giving that lovely comment on my blog post. That meaned A LOT. Anyway, I'm following your blog because I'm excited to see more :)

    Stay happy, stay sassy



  2. Oh yeah, you should listen to "yellow lights" from this band called "Of monsters and men". I don't know if you would like it but I do :)