|The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Full Moon Fever (2018)
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Full Moon Fever (2018)≈≠↓ Brooklyn shoegaze combo with one foot on a micro~indie label and one foot on an arena stage.
Location: New York
Genre: Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Shoegaze
Album release: September 1st, 2018
Record Label: Painbow
01 Free Fallin’
02 I Won’t Back Down
03 Love Is A Long Road
04 A Face In The Crowd
05 Runnin’ Down A Dream
06 I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better
07 Yer So Bad
08 Depending On You
09 The Apartment Song
10 Alright For Now
11 A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own
12 Zombie Zoo
↓ Peggy Wang (keyboards, vocals),
↓ Kip Berman (guitar, vocals),
↓ Kurt Feldman (drums),
↓ Alex Naidus (bass).
MATTHEW HICKEY MUSIC, MUSIC FEATURES, SOUNDS DELICIOUS OCT 2, 2018
✹ Today marks the one~year anniversary of Tom Petty’s death. I consider Petty one of my favorite artists of all time so this announcement is certainly a little bittersweet.
✹ Indeed, singles like You Don’t Know How It Feels and Mary Jane’s Last Dance soundtracked those balmy teenage summers cruising around Ohio in beat up cars, getting up to no good with my friends and just having a good time. Tracks like Free Fallin’ and I Won’t Back Down felt ubiquitous in film, television, radio and, of course, simply playing in the background in public places, the same way the Beatles or The Rolling Stones might. In fact, his music was so ubiquitous that at some point around college, I think I decided it wasn’t cool anymore. Naturally, that didn’t last.
✹ It was maybe 6~7 years ago now that I found myself in a shuttle bus in Austin and the driver was listening to a Tom Petty Greatest Hits collection. I was in town for SXSW and the bands I was most excited for included The War on Drugs, Mikal Cronin, Lower Dens, and so forth. All bands I realized, as I sat in that van, that owed a debt (directly or indirectly) to Tom Petty. More importantly, I just realized that these were damn good songs. That was how it started.
✹ After the trip, I sourced first pressings of Into The Great Wide Open, Wildflowers, and (of course) Full Moon Fever on vinyl. I was well along the path towards full blown Tom Petty fandom, although it wasn’t until I saw him perform live for the first time, at Outside Lands Festival in 2014, that it really, really clicked.
✹ Before he took the stage, I was tired, probably more than a little dehydrated (they offer free beer in the press tent), and very ready to get home. I wouldn’t have missed his set entirely but I was willing to leave early. I told myself I’d stay for the first part of his set and then eventually leave when he played a song I didn’t love.
✹ The problem? He never played a song I didn’t love. In retrospect, that makes sense. I mean, take Full Moon Fever as an example. It was Petty’s solo debut record and it is absolutely packed with hits. No less than 5 tracks charted on the Billboard Top 100: Free Fallin’, I Won’t Back Down, Runnin’ Down a Dream, Yer So Bad, and A Face in the Crowd. But even the tracks that didn’t chart could have been hits: Love Is A Long Road, Depending On You, A Mind With a Heart of its Own. The same could be said for so many of his albums. This dude’s catalog is deep.
✹ So it’s with pride that today we’re announcing the release of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s full album cover of Full Moon Fever. We talked about this one way back when we initially launched our Kickstarter so it’s with a little extra satisfaction that we’re finally able to share it with you all.
✹ Here’s what Kip Berman from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart had to say about the album:
✹ “I grew up loving Tom Petty — thanks to my step dad who played him nearly constantly and scoffed at the ‘grunge’ era of bands that didn’t share Petty’s classicist reverence for the history of rock music. I’ve long identified with Petty’s celebration of songwriting and his general disregard for most everything else. Yet, he was often seen as a second fiddle to Dylan, Neil Young, Springsteen, Stevie Nix, The Byrds, George Harrison, and more. But as far as I can tell, all these people (not sure about Springsteen) actually revered Petty — and genuinely liked his company. His greatness was that he didn’t seem to be too bothered if people thought he was great or not. What mattered to him was being part of a lineage of timeless rock songwriting.
✹ Is it cheesy to say “Tom Petty was all about the music, man?” Maybe. But he wrote so many iconic songs — and is remembered for little else — that it seems apt. There are no lurid Tom Petty scandals, car crashes, stints in jail, public meltdowns or things he had to walk back and make us cringe today (well, maybe ‘Zombie Zoo’). His legacy is just DECADES of iconic songs. He was an unconventional conventional rock star — his charisma subtle, his voice nasal but effective, and his appearance was — at best — a bit avian. He was probably the least technically gifted performer to ever headline the Super Bowl Halftime show. He wasn’t a dancer, guitar virtuoso, crooner or sex symbol — he just got there by wring a lot of great songs that everyone loved.
✹ Tom Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever (which featured almost all of his actual band members, cameos from Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Del Shannon, and was produced by ELO’s Geoff Lynn), coincided with an era that was especially inspiring to my own music in The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Released in 1989, it was weirdly aligned with a lot of the ideas that attracted me to bands like The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, R.E.M., The Replacements, or Jesus and Mary Chain — jangling guitars, sweet harmonies, classic songwriting (verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, chorus chorus) and lyrics that captured a very specific point of view. But unlike those bands, Petty was an arena act, at home and enabled by large record labels and big budget videos, and (by this era at least) had about zero reputation as ‘cool.’ So I thought it would be a great tribute to one of my heroes to re~imagine his music in the context of my own — to wonder what it would be like if the songs he wrote sounded a bit more like the artists that were working in the underground at the time he was making this iconic record.”
✹ Like the artwork for our last three releases, that beautiful cover art is designed by Seattle~based illustrator Teresa Grasseschi.
✹ The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s version of Full Moon Fever is only available by subscribing to SOUNDS DELICIOUS. In addition to a deluxe edition for our Kickstarter supporters, it’s available on gold colored vinyl for recurring subscribers and gift orders of 6~months or more (while supplies last) and on black vinyl for all other orders. As always, each copies comes packaged with a digital download of the album. As always, it’s limited edition — so act fast! This officially drops on October 26th and we expect to begin shipping around that date.
≈≠↓ Do The Pains of Being Pure At Heart belong? After garnering widespread acclaim from the likes of The New York Times, Pitchfork and NME to countless indiepop forums, blogs and even Live Journals for their out~of~nowhere s/t 2009 Slumberland debut, have The Pains made the kind of record that will matter to the kind of people to whom records still matter?
≈≠↓ From the opening explosions of electric guitar on “Belong” (“We don’t”) and the sumptuously synthetic dance pop perfection of “The Body” to the prom~in~heaven chorus of “Even in Dreams” and the closing moments of the uncommonly sincere and affecting “Strange” (“...and dreams can still come true”) the answer is an unqualified, resounding (and damn good sounding) “Yes.”
≈≠↓ Having moved beyond mimicking, albeit exquisitely, their impressive record collections, this album is a celebration of the possibilities of pop from New York City’s pre~eminent indiepop believers. It is as much an affirmative answer to “can they” (rise above their influences? Capture the magic of their debut without repeating it? Use color on their album sleeves?) as it opens the door to the more difficult question of “how do they?”
≈≠↓ Or more precisely, how do they make such affecting, yet unaffected pop music? How do they sound at once confidently vulnerable and carelessly thoughtful? How does a band on Slumberland make a record with two of the most recognized producers in the world and come out the other end sounding even more like themselves than before? The dichotomies are daunting, but their resolution on Belong is nothing short of stunning.
≈≠↓ Recorded with the production and mixing team of Flood (Depeche Mode, U2) and Alan Moulder (Smashing Pumpkins, Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride), Belong unleashes added power, while retaining all the sweet sweet melodies that still hit that pop spot.
≈≠↓ “I definitely see this album as keeping with what we started doing at the beginning, only more,” says singer/guitarist Kip Berman. “More immediate, more noisy, more beautiful. We never stopped believing in noise and pop, but now we’ve pushed both further. Compared to the last record, It’s far more visceral, more vital, more of the body. It’s about feeling, not feelings.”
≈≠↓ A continuation of what they started is a good thing, considering the loyal admirers and grass~roots support for what “could be the most promising indie pop group around” (Pitchfork). Never ones to get bogged down in self~seriousness, though, what we’ve got here is a band who tends to spend most interviews talking about how barely~remembered underground pop bands of the 80s and 90s are far superior to their own music, eats copious amounts of Haribo Gummi Candy and plays Boggle and Basketball on the road.
≈≠↓ “The whole experience has just been a lot of fun for us — and a huge learning process,” says singer/keyboardist Peggy Wang, “We’ve really always gone more on intuition than technique. We’ve always followed our heart. My favorite bands are the ones where you can tell the people are true friends and would be hanging out together even without playing music — or at least that’s what we are and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
≈≠↓ One can certainly feel the intuitiveness and immediacy in each of the album’s ten tracks. But where past offerings might’ve cocooned front man Kip Berman’s woozy tales and beckoning high tenor in layers of gauze, Belong bathes them in a cathedral~like stained~glass light, revealing the beauty and pop perfection that once hid beneath fuzz and reverb. Radiant and heavenly, the band exults in the freedom and possibilities of pushing their sound beyond simple fuzz pop motifs and, liberated from the burden of those fuzzy memories, elevates their songwriting to new heights.
≈≠↓ “Alan Moulder and Flood had a lot to do with helping us believe in ourselves, but they didn’t try to change the way we did things,” says Berman. “They just helped us focus on the things that made us ‘us,’ and allowed us to go all~in on the things we loved and strip away the things we didn’t. It was an amazingly validating experience to even get a chance to work with them, since they came into this because they saw something in our music, not because we were some kind of fat paycheck or will win them a Grammy.
≈≠↓ Perhaps not, but The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have come a long way since their beginnings as drum~machine equipped neophytes playing a legendary 5 song, ten~minute set at Peggy’s birthday party in March of 2007.
≈≠↓ Through a self~released EP in 2007 and a series of eagerly~received singles like 2008’s “Everything With You” and “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan” the band developed an intensely loyal underground following. Upon release of their self~titled debut album in 2009, that acclaim extended to well~respected cultural tastemakers like The New York Times (“sensitive and sublime, Best of 2009) Pitchfork (Best New Music, Best of 2009) Stereogum (“Addictive pop gold” Best of 2009) and The NME (“pure indiepop to hold close to your heart,” Best of 2009).
≈≠↓ Looking forward, Spin chose Belong as one of the upcoming “winter albums that matter most”, and Pitchfork gave the single “Heart in Your Heartbreak “Best New Music”, stating “It’s immediately appealing in the same way their debut was.”
≈≠↓ “At first, it kind of surprised me that anyone would really take notice at all,” recalls Berman. ≈≠↓ “We’re an indiepop band and so many of our heroes were pretty much ignored beyond really obsessive music nerds — people like us. So I never expected much more than about maybe 50 people (parents not included) to like us — but hopefully those people would like us a lot. At some point, it occurred to me that ‘hey, we’re not hitting a wall here, we’re actually doing things right and people that might not care about out of print Rocketship singles or Sonic Youth b~sides actually like this as pop music — which to me is even more cool. We’re always eager to tell people about bands that are way better than us and educate younger people about all the cool, under~appreciated music out there.”
≈≠↓ Belong’s strength is the quality of the songwriting and each songs ability to sound distinct from one another while still holding together as a unified record from start to finish. Some, like the fuzz~mad “Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now,” “Girl of 1,000 Dreams” and statuesque “Too Tough” wouldn’t sound out of place on their first LP, taking their cues from Berman’s plaintive voice and liberal use of fuzz guitar. Others, like “The Body” and “My Terrible Friend” derive their power from drummer Kurt Feldman’s pulsing rhythms and Peggy Wang’s more pronounced keyboard lines — a winning development that helps push the band beyond their comfort zones to great effect.
≈≠↓ One place they never deviate is in their connection with their fans. Like them, The Pains have an idealism that stems from a nearly unhealthy devotion to pop music. Talking to the members one needs to pull out their band~to~conversation calculator, as they are likely to go off about bands they love — from The Pastels, The Promise Ring and Black Tambourine to Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and O.M.D.
≈≠↓ “The whole idea of the album, for me, is about what it’s like to not belong,” says Berman. In part it’s like our band — we have all these amazing opportunities, but I feel constantly out of place. Not ungrateful — but like, undeserving. On the other side it’s the idea of not feeling a sense of belonging individually and how it’s so great to be able to find someone else who doesn’t belong so you can not belong together. That’s what this band has always been about — being on the outside looking in. We somehow snuck our way into the conversation of ‘real bands’ even though I still think don’t really belong.”
≈≠↓ Berman might want to rethink that statement — with Belong, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have created a piece of sonic bliss that fits — for the moment, and for the long~run.
|The Pains of Being Pure at Heart — Full Moon Fever (2018)