Sach O occasionally listens to music that isn’t by Raekwon the Chef. And writes about it.
I don’t go to many independent rock-n-roll concerts despite living in a city overflowing with them. This isn’t out of caustic misanthropy*: I actually find most small indie shows to be enjoyable environments. Give me the slightly nerdy crowd and cheap beer of The Sala Rosa over the ice grills and FAPE of your average Montreal rap extravaganza any day of the week. No, I don’t go to indie shows because I just don’t enjoy that many bands. The late 00’s hype cycle hasn’t done emcees many favors but it’s been an absolute disaster for rock. With the attention span of tastemakers dwindling faster than my bank account, the promotion of new rock bands has been reduced to a never-ending search for the next fad, a strategy that’s given us The Black Kids, Wavves and “lo-fi revival” and “glo fi” as two separate genre tags in my iTunes.
Which brings me to the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Say what you want about their debt to the late 80’s, The Pains have something that precious few bands of their generation even pretend to bother with: melody and song-craft. Though their earnestness can be cloying to those who rate music with a scorecard, the band’s lack of pretention and universal subject matter is a major relief at a time when every other act is determined to sound “original” at the expense of listenability. That they piece together MBV, The Jesus and Mary Chain, New Order and the Field Mice at this point in their career isn’t problematic so much as indicative of good taste and potential greatness: they’re a young band that know their limitations but also their potential.
On stage, this manifests itself in a lean set that’s positively punk rock in efficiency though perhaps still a little slight by professional standards. The band’s songs take on a spikier, rougher quality removed from the shiny gauze of their album’s production but they remain dreamy pop songs about love and loss: the kind of music to soundtrack an indie film to and the kind of music that cynics consign to teenage rebellion as if the band’s 20-something fan base wasn’t identifying with every minute.
That arrested-development bedroom aesthetic could have been lost on stage but thankfully, the Pains don’t overthink things, reproducing their guitar music sans-fanfare and reminding the crowd that at its heart, rock music is hyped up blues played on electric guitars. Though their set could have been padded with a few covers or b-sides and singer Kip Berman’s debt to the Stuart Murdoch school so lackadaisical crowd interaction felt lazy, the Pains ultimately left a good impression proving, ironically enough, that contemporary guitar music needn’t be painful to be exciting.
*In fact, Sach O Enterprises (a division of Starks Enterprises) is currently looking for an associate/partner-in-crime to cover future Montreal indie shows with. Must supply own tickets and beer. All applicants will be considered but cute indie chicks that laugh at my jokes will be given priority. Rap fans need not apply, my whole damned social circle is currently debating the second Purple Tape.