Though half the band has decamped to Los Angeles, when The Pains of Being Pure At Heart rolled up to the Teragram Ballroom last week, it still felt like a visit from a friend who moved away a few years ago. The nominally New York-based indie rock outfit hit Los Angeles amid their west coast tour supporting the band’s newest full-length album, The Echo of Pleasure, the group’s fourth LP and one that firmly pivots the group’s status from “emergent/resurgent” to “careerist” and I’d be surprised to find any argument from frontman Kip Berman on that front. It’s amazing to see just what the group is capable of now that the hype and expectations surrounding past releases has melted away, and on The Echo of Pleasure, it’s easy to fall for the kind of enjoyable, C86-inspired tunes The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are capable of.
But that’s not to say there aren’t expectations of hearing the five-piece perform live in LA for the first time in several years. And it’s there that I’m glad to report that they didn’t disappoint.
The band delighted attendees with a strong selection of songs, featuring singles and hits from their self-titled debut (“Come Saturday,” “Young Adult Friction”), their ambitious follow-up Belong (“Heart In Your Heartbreak,” the self-titled single), and 2014’s understated Days of Abandon (“Eurydice”) while also finding time to fit in some of their newest work. The five piece was methodical in terms of how lock-step their live sound was, as the slick and sweet dream pop-y guitar work never once felt overpowering.
For the encore, Kip emerged solo to thank the fans before kicking into a surprising cover of Lorde’s “Liability”. For a moment I was struck by how odd this was, but then it became clear to me: I had just experienced The Pains of Being Pure At Heart run the gamut of their best work, a testament to a career of making pop (guitar-driven pop is pop nevertheless) music. That cover, as almost overexposed for a pop song cover as it admittedly may be, made absolute sense for this band at this point in their career (it’s a very Built to Spill-esque move). I mean, we’re talking about The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, here. Only the stoniest of stone hearts could listen to their work and not find themselves even the slightest bit more vulnerable; it’s music that encourages you to revel in that vulnerability.
Finishing things up with a rousing rendition of “This Love Is Fucking Right!,” the quintet made their way off-stage, supremely confident in having left a lasting impression on the crowd and this writer in particular.
Check out the band’s website for information on ordering The Echo of Pleasure and their forthcoming tour dates in Spain!
Photos and words by Lee Bedrouni