Bands, for time immemorial, have mined the emotions of youth, those headstrong, yet innocent days of adolescence before hearts were made hard and feelings became jaded by the harsh realities of the world. Sure, pop music has created a cottage industry around the writing single after single about the sad pangs of teenage heartbreak, but even then, those songs contained just enough youthful idealism to keep listeners tuning into the radio and purchasing those songs. On the flip side, there are plenty of folk ditties out there that discuss life and love as an adult (since hip moms have to play something in their cars as they drag their kids to the park and to Whole Foods).
There’s nothing wrong with this: music is supposed to speak to us where we are in life, or at least where we wish we could be. But why are there so few songs out there about college, that in-between time when we’re supposed to be growing up into adults? What if we’re tired of the boring platitudes that infect high school relationships, but we’re not ready for the tiresome clichés about growing old, growing up, and starting a family? Where should we go for such content?
Thankfully, the sprightly fuzz-pop quartet The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have provided us with a self-titled debut full-length record that is positively swimming with the energy, vitality, and frustrated sensuality of a quintessential college experience. This gorgeous, outstanding album is the epitome of a fun, smile inducing project that, when the seemingly innocent sheen is pulled back, causes the listener to cringe a bit in rueful memory. To be even more precise, these songs are about coping with the loss of one’s naïveté, all while playing on the quad and having fun at parties. This is about young love in bloom, young hearts broken, and the classic dichotomy of college: balancing responsibility with frivolity.
Musically, this is an album that the characters in John Hughes’ movies would have been listening to had we watched them go to college. The fuzz of early My Bloody Valentine meets with the pop of The Smiths – jangly guitars in a committed relationship with thick distortion – yet TPOBPAH come across as serious, dedicated students off music history, not lazy waifs cribbing notes from their friends and plagiarizing from encyclopedias to complete an end-of-semester paper.
The zeal of “Everything With You” sings of crashing stars and the promise enduring fidelity, “Stay Alive” communicates the urgency of leaving behind dead-end relationships and pursuing a full life, and “Come Saturday” is a blissful little song about two young lovers ignoring the struggles of a long-distance relationship and focusing upon what matters – being together whenever they can. There is simply not a dull note or a lackluster track on this record: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart honestly and frankly communicate the pains of being pure at heart.