Currently the “Best Band With The Worst Name” title holder, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart debuted in 2009 as a twee indie-rock act whose sound owed more than a little to Belle And Sebastian. But Pains showed a stronger propensity for rock, which explains the band’s choice of producer Flood (U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails) and mixer Alan Moulder (The Jesus And Mary Chain, Ride, My Bloody Valentine) for the new Belong.
Those guys specialize in big rock sounds, and that’s exactly what Belong delivers in its opening track, “Belong,” which resembles the Pumpkins’ “Today” in its guitar dynamics. The guitars are also gloriously huge on “Even In Dreams,” and “Girl Of 1,000 Dreams” has a Jesus And Mary Chain ferocity, but Belong still has plenty of nuance. Flood also worked with Erasure quite a bit, so synthesizer-heavy songs like “The Body” and “My Terrible Friend”—which would have fit on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack—don’t feel out of place. Those songs, as well as the atmospheric “Anne With An E,” actually suit guitarist-vocalist Kip Berman’s breathy voice better than their more rocking siblings. “Heart In Your Heartbreak,” a perfect example of Pains as a more rocking Belle And Sebastian, hits Berman’s sweet spot vocally.
More than anything, Belong shows ambition, with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart clearly aiming for something bigger—a bigger sound, maybe a bigger audience. It nailed the sound part. A larger audience seems inevitable.