Autumn, the season of sweaters and cups of tea, approaches. Twee and Shoegaze, the genre that many accused The Pains of Being Pure of Heart of trying to revive when they debuted, was never a summertime thing. It’s tender nature pairs better with a bit of chill and gloom. There’s nothing like the warm rush of hanging with a lover or group of friends on a chill day. Similarly, The Pains of Being Pure of Heart are back to give us more familiar comforts on their new album The Echo of Pleasure, despite continuing lineup changes and a fresh digital polish.
When 2014’s The Days of Abandon came out Kurt Feldman, the band’s original drummer, was still part of the lineup even though Peggy Wang and Alex Nadius had dipped. With this release, Kip Berman, the only remaining original member, is still churning out shimmery pillows of heartfelt sentiments with a rotating cast of pals to fill in the gaps. The Pains of Being Pure of Heart is now his solo project, although he now claims “it’s always been my band.” While mildly obnoxious, it is true that if I hadn’t gotten the press release telling me of the other band member’s departure I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Yes, it’s a bit shady that Berman replaced the band members wholesale and is continuing without them, but shoegaze and twee have never been about the performers. It’s creating an aesthetic and dishing it out, over and over. Fans of Berman’s past work won’t find any surprises on this album, but no one is really expecting any.
Despite its familiarity, there’s still some fun to be had. The ending of the title track builds nicely, and “Falling Apart So Slow” sounds appropriately caught up in the magic of melodrama. “Anymore” is the kind of bleeding heart anthem that encourages me to message all my matches on Tinder asking why they haven’t responded. Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow) steals the show in “So True” one of the better songs on the album. To his credit, Berman does his best to make this The Pain of Being Pure at Heart’s poppiest moment yet, piling on keyboards and even penning a (regrettable) song about dancing with hiccuping vocal samples to match. It’s a move classic acts have tried, most notably Jesus and Mary Chain. It results in the biggest sound of Berman’s past records, and I’d be interested to see if he could make The Pains of Being Pure of Heart something more akin to The Gorillaz and use it’s shifting lineups to further push his song’s limits. For now, we have a poppy shoegaze record to ring in fall with.