June 10, 2010

Sach O will probably write about rock again when of Montreal drop their new LP.

A quick look at iTunes suggests that I’ve absorbed a single new rock LP this year and that was probably because Geoff Barrow produced it. Our man in Seattle Douglas Martin insists that there’s plenty of good noisy lo-fi garage rock out there and fans of the scene would do well to heed his wise words. Still, I remain steadfastly resistant to most of it, preferring my fidelity high and bass subterranean. It’s probably for the best: you guys get quality rock reviews from a guy who knows what he’s talking about and I get to avoid music by people with haircuts I dislike.

Maybe that explains why I ride so hard for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (no, not their haircuts): scratch underneath the surface and they really fly against a lot of the current trends in their subgenre. Yes, there’s the obligatory late 80’s 4AD fetishism, but compared to the vast majority of bands attempting the same, they sound like they were recorded by Phil Spector on an OCD day rather than “the guy who pressed play on the tape deck.” Any resulting feedback or fuzz feels like the natural result of high-octane guitars rather than a purposeful recording technique. Likewise, they’re lyrics are hardly obtuse or arty: we’re talking about the same basic themes of love and loss that have made for good guitar tunes since the 50’s. My dad might like them, which is usually damning praise but hey… In the wake of orchestral indie, it’s nice to have straight up guitar-pop but it’s also nice to see a band brave enough to let their songwriting stand on its own two sans layer upon layer of dirt.

Recent single “Say no to love” encapsulates all of these qualities: it’s punchy, direct, features no glockenspiel or other obtuse instruments but doesn’t sound like it was recorded on a fisher-price tape deck in someone’s outhouse either. Wisely pushing towards the Belle and Sebastian axis of indie songwriting and punk axis of instrumentation, the Pains aim for pop and hit a bull’s eye. It sounds obvious, but in an era of bands that pride themselves on either being high-concept or low-fidelity, hitting the center is anything but middle of the road.  No, they probably won’t change the world and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were dumped on the side of the road by the very critics that elevated them to buzz band status once their term expires, but as of yet, they’ve released nothing but good pop songs and that’s good enough for me.

Download:
MP3: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Say no to Love (LQ)