The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong

So far we’ve received Under The Influence playlists from Wild Beasts and three very different metal bands. This time we asked Pains Of Being Pure At Heart to discuss sounds that influenced their most recent collection, the Flood-produced/Alan Moulder-mixed Belong. “Smashing Pumpkins” is a name that pops-up when folks describe the album’s bigger guitars: It turns out the ’90s alt stars were on the Pains’ production-room boombox, not just their producer’s resume. Frontman Kip Berman had this to say about James Iha’s axe as well as some other things that found their way onto his band’s sophomore record.

01 Adorable – “Homeboy”
While most of their British contemporaries were busy layering guitars with innumerable effects, perfecting gentle falsettos and otherwise causing the word “ethereal” to be one of the great cliche adjectives in music journalism, this English band seemed to draw (some) inspiration from the rugged dynamics and vulnerable howls of The Pixies. I can see merit in both schools of thought, but this song is pretty undeniable. Bonus points for the least appropriate appropriation of the term “homeboy.” Also, this track was mixed by Alan Moulder – nice!

02 My Teenage Stride – “Theme from Teenage Suicide”
To be fair, My Teenage Stride had a more direct influence/copyright claim on our earlier song “Higher than the Stars” (which was originally titled “Shitfaced” and generally referred to among ourselves as “The My Teenage Stridy Song”) because we liked the idea of using 16th notes on the high hat like they used on this track, among others. We also liked the idea of the first lyric being “Shitfaced.”

Oh, how did it influence Belong? Well, I played Jed an early demo of “The Body” when we were trying to record our “Kurt Cobain’s Cardigan” 7″ with him (actually, mostly just getting Shitfaced) and he really liked it. So yeah, In Jed We Trust. Check out “Ears Like Golden Bats” too, it’s a great record from start to finish.

03 The House of Love – “Destroy The Heart”
This is another dubious Creation Records band, but at least early on,they were incredible. “Christine” and “Shine On” are hits, sure, but “Destroy the Heart” is probably an accidental influence on any good song we ever wrote (if there are any). It’s weird to cite them as an influence, as they were super hyped and tore up the indie charts, then tried to be the next U2 and made a series of disastrous decisions that found themselves critically and commercially obsolete faster than you can say, “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.”

Oh well, we don’t reside on a mountain made of Class A narcotics and take limos on the label’s dime to the recording studio/corner store/everywhere. We should be ok, right?

04 The Associates – “Party Fears Two”
This is a weird one because Billy Mackenzie is probably one of the greatest singers of his generation, and I am one of the worst (but as another Berman [David, of The Silver Jews] once said, “All My Favorite Singers Couldn’t Sing”).

We are all really big fans of this Glaswegian pop band and when we found out Flood produced their records, we were floored. Flood somehow suggested that this song should inspire our recording process for “My Terrible Friend,” but again, that’s just batshit crazy, because “My Terrible Friend,” though graced with some hedonistic come-ons and a hook that gets Robert Smith’s lawyer on the phone, could never equal the genius of Billy Mackenzie’s (f)operatic vocal performance and genuinely decadent recording process. Supposedly he’d disappear from the studio for an hour or two, cruise, and then come back and do the vocal take – at least according to Simon Reynolds’ must read post punk bible, Rip it Up and Start Again.

05 Ash – “Angel interceptor”
To me, Ash’s 1977 was nearly as good as Weezer’s Blue Album and Supergrass’ I Should Coco in terms of early 90s big guitar pop debuts. I always say “Girl From Mars” is possibly my favorite song, but I’m tired of saying that because it discredits just how good “Angel Interceptor” is. So, here it is – rocking + feelings – what more could you want?

06 Manhattan Love Suicides – “Skulls”
We played our very first show with these guys (and Titus Andronicus) and we’ve gone on to be wonderful friends. Peggy and I originally bonded over a shared love of their debut (and only) LP (there’s also an awesome 27 track singles/rarities collection). It reminded both of us, who had sort of fallen away from indiepop orthodoxy, that there’s a whole world where you can make indiepop that’s noisy and perverse. The Jesus and Mary Chain and Meat Whiplash were on the c86 tape and Orange Juice formed over a shared love of The Velvet Underground and Soul. Admittedly, I also like a lot of wussy stuff too (it’s subversive in its own way). But yeah, songs about SKULLS are cool.

07 O.M.D. – “Enola Gay”
I can’t think of a song that has such a huge extreme of utter, unabashed pop with some of the darkest, most horrifying reference points imaginable. If Taylor Swift collaborates with Tough Alliance and has a global megahit about Sept. 11, don’t get offended.

08 The Smashing Pumpkins – “Mayonnaise”
I think James Iha actually wrote this song. It’s probably my favorite track on my favorite album of theirs. We actually recorded Belong in the studio James Iha owns (he’s nice, has a sweet dog and let me borrow his Smashing Pumpkins guitar with heart stickers on it  to record some of our tracks).

09 The Prids – “Love Zero”
This song is so lyrically direct and musically simple, and that’s what makes it so affecting. There are countless “underrated” bands out there and I know everyone has a desire for justice to be done – i.e. famous bands should be less famous and the bands that were overlooked should be more famous. But I don’t want to tear anyone down to celebrate The Prids – they’ve simply made 3 unrelentingly beautiful LPs (Love Zero, …Until The World is Beautiful, Chronosynclastic) and people really out to check ’em out.

Most Honorable Omission from the Playlist: Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus’ entire approach to their second album was deeply inspiring to me. No, we didn’t write a concept record filled with 8 minute “singles” using the American Civil War as an extended metaphor for the social and political divides we face in contemporary life. But they looked deeper into themselves and found the thing that made them Titus Andronicus and focused on that — all the ramshackle mess of hyper expressionism, uncommonly vivid poetry and a righteous aesthetic that is tempered by a willingness to look inward before casting any first stones.

So what’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s equivalent? Perhaps someone might suggest, “you sucked and now you suck even more.” And that’s a valid point of view, at least not one I’d ever argue against.

To me, Belong is equal parts ridiculous, ambitious (bad word, right?), cringe inducingly sincere and defiantly outside of time. It exists in that weird wasteland where impossible pop songs that aren’t actually popular play on an imaginary radio or a mythical mix in a desperate friend’s car that’s driving wherever. It’s delusional,  sure – maybe “pretentious” is a word that you could throw at us too. It’s ok. I’ve always loved bands that were near unattainable ideals first – The Exploding Hearts, The Ramones, My Favorite, New York Dolls, Belle and Sebastian, The (Fabulous) Stains, The Make Up, Wyld Stallyns, Sonic Youth, Orange Juice, Comet Gain, Huggy Bear and Felt.

I don’t know if this record will mean anything to anyone in 10 years, I don’t know if means anything to anyone now. Luckily, the beauty of pop is that it doesn’t matter what I think anymore – the truth of the songs is what you think of them. Again, “now you suck even more” is a wholly valid response.

//

And here’s POBPAH’s own video for “The Body“:

Comments (39)
  1. Wait… what?

  2. This is really awesome and thoughtful and thought provoking.

  3. Wow. Kip and I have incredibly similar taste in music. No wonder I find The Pains so immediately likable.

  4. Wow I heard the smashin pumpkins influence but I didn’t know they recorded in Iha’s studio and with his guitar no less…interesting stuff.

    • Technically, it’s not Iha’s studio alone. He owns it (Stratosphere Sound in NY) with Fountains of Wayne/Ivy/Tinted Windows member Adam Schlesinger and Ivy/Brookville member Andy Chase.

  5. are you insane??? james iha didn’t write mayonaise … get your facts straight!

  6. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  7. By the way, I don’t know if they still do, but at one time this band even had the nerve to list mbv’s Ecstasy and Wine-era songs as an “influence” on their MySpace profile.

    • Dude, seriously, who cares. You’re talking about an album from what, almost 25 years ago? You don’t have any grasp of what plagiarism is and are coming off on this board like a crackpot aging fanboy.

      • Why does it matter how old the songs are? A lifted tune is a lifted tune, and no amount of rationalization about bands “emulating” (a word which is ordinarily understood to refer to stylistic similarities) other bands can change that. Saying “who cares” is just a feeble attempt to dismiss what is obvious to anyone who actually sits down and compares the songs. I can sit here and play Thorn and comfortably sing the vocal line from Everything With You along with it because the chords played are the same. And if 31 is considered “aging,” then the average life expectancy of a human being has suddenly been drastically reduced and I apparently have a lot of things I need to get done in a very short amount of time. Oh wait, I see, you think because I know and care about a band that released stuff a long time ago that I had to be an elderly person. Yes, only old people (or possibly also people who aren’t totally ignorant and apathetic) care about things that didn’t happen yesterday…

        • I meant “aging” in this sense: When you’re ranting on a message board about something that LITERALLY no one else cares about, it suggests that apparently you’re unaware that 31 is far too old for such behavior. Not to mention that you’re far too old for such an absurd definition of plagiarism.

          • Oh, you meant “mature.” I should be mature like you, someone who doesn’t care about a topic but keeps talking about it along with other people who don’t care, one of whom is a member of the band in question. But how can I be mature and win your approval? By mindlessly accepting that playing the same music as someone else and calling it your own is not plagiarism? Okay, but then we have to agree that plagiarism does not exist. But we still need to call it something. I mean if 2+2 does not equal something we can call “four” because we don’t like the word “four” we’ve got to call it something we do like. I know! Sampling! Here comes another twenty-year-old reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAJ0dIImKBU Head to the 50-second mark to hear what you sound like. And just so you know, artists still have to pay for samples, and that guy and his line of thinking is the reason for it. You’ve been hilarious, but this is too easy.

  8. Decent people think that stealing is wrong and frown upon it. That’s why if you go out and rob a convenience store and you get caught, there are laws in place that say you will spend some time in prison. They have undeservedly gained critical acclaim and at least some money from an album’s worth of music that they had little to do with. There are laws against that and artists have successfully taken other artists to court and held them responsible for plagiarism, so if you don’t care you are obviously in the minority. It makes no sense to invest any money on their debut album when the songs have been done before and better by better people, and if people buy their second album with that knowledge, then I guess they really don’t care where their money goes or about originality, which is really sad because I would think that one of the reasons one gravitates toward indie rock in the first place is because they s/he is looking for original ideas and care at least a little bit about artistic integrity.

    • can you please explain?

    • You must hate The Beatles “Come Together”, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, Early- Led Zeppelin and countless other bands/songs that are heralded as “classics”. Why listen to any modern music since in reality it “has all been done before”. I could give you pages and pages of songs, that you probably love, that knowingly, and unknowingly, ripped off what came before.

      You also must despise Kurt Cobain, as a singer, since it’s obvious he just copied Scratch Acid-era David Yow and Black Francis.

      You must also think that the original Star Wars trilogy is worthless, because it essentially is just Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” set to moving pictures. Also several shots, and I mean several, are direct lifts from movies that came before.

      Your logic is flawed.

      • Well Chad, the thing is that George Harrison’s “plagiarism” with “My Sweet Lord” was accidental and he ended up paying royalties to the songwriter who originated that melody. He even apologized and seemed embarrassed about it. Led Zeppelin’s, however, if you look into it, seems a bit underhanded. They knew what they were doing with Whole Lotta Love and just thought they could get away with it without having to pay some old blues guy. They were wrong. Thank goodness I am not a Led Zeppelin fan so I don’t have to try to decide whether Jimmy Page is too much of a jerk for having done that…although they never ripped off an album’s worth of songs a la Pains and I think their large body of innovative original work justifies their status as pioneering artists. And by the way, I believe Kurt probably owed the most to John Fogerty vocally. In fact, the first band he and Krist formed was a Creedence cover band. I don’t know enough about the Star Wars thing to really comment, but I do think there is more leeway with movies. Anyway, I don’t care at all if one band’s basic sound is like another’s or if one vocalist sounds like another. I neither expect nor want every band to reinvent the wheel. What I do want is for every band to make honest, sincere attempts at creating original melodies. If someone accidentally uses someone else’s melody, well okay. These things can happen, but don’t repeat the mistake. Also, see that the royalties go to the right people. But when a band has already said they are influenced by a particular era of another band and then it becomes clear that a high percentage of their melodies are the same as the songs from that era, well, that is deliberate theft and quite obviously wrong. I find it hard to believe that I need to explain this to you. I really think my posts on here sufficiently convey my viewpoint, and I think deep down, in many situations, people already know when a set of actions is wrong. I don’t think I have said anything mindblowing or amazing on here. The people who have engaged me in a dialogue on here have only done so because that is easier than having an honest dialgoue with themselves about what they already know.

        • Let me begin by saying that paragraphs are your friend. They separate different points in an argument and improve readability.

          There are too many unknowns in the Harrison case to really know how innocent Harrison was. Personally, I’ve always believed it to be the same as you seem to do. Of course, Zeppelin was underhanded. I don’t see how anyone could argue otherwise. What do you think of early White Stripes?

          Kurt’s top 50 albums of all time list included Pixies Surfer Rosa (#2) and Scratch Acid’s first EP (#8). Nowhere in the top 50 does he mention Creedence. Listen to Pixies “Tame” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BLtLRTFimA) and to Scratch Acid’s “Cannibal” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imwAdN53H40), for what seems, to me, to be the obvious examples.

          Great portions of Incesticide sound eerily like the Scratch Acid EP. I mean, listen to the opening of “She Said” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqWwB1M3J7k) and tell me that Nirvana weren’t as guilty of what you’re accusing Pains of being.

          What about the Beach Boys? Don’t a lot of their earlier, and more popular, output sound like doo-wop rip-offs?

          If you’re not using a Xerox PC, you’re basically supporting rip-off artists.

          You say that the “art” of movie-making has more leeway to appropriate existing art than music does. IMO, that argument is crap. Art is art and rip-offs are rip-offs. Putting qualifications on one art form to be more “pure” than another is just silly.

          You say “a high percentage of their melodies are the same as the songs from that era”, well please give us examples. (i.e. this Pains song rips off the melody of this song…etc). Since it’s “a high percentage” several references would make your argument more credible than one or two.

        • Let me begin by saying that paragraphs are your friend. They separate different points in an argument and improve readability.

          There are too many unknowns in the Harrison case to really know how innocent Harrison was. Personally, I’ve always believed it to be the same as you seem to do. Of course, Zeppelin was underhanded. I don’t see how anyone could argue otherwise. What do you think of early White Stripes?

          Kurt’s top 50 albums of all time list included Pixies Surfer Rosa (#2) and Scratch Acid’s first EP (#8). Nowhere in the top 50 does he mention Creedence. Listen to Pixies “Tame” and to Scratch Acid’s “Cannibal”, for what seems, to me, to be the obvious examples.

          Great portions of Incesticide sound eerily like the Scratch Acid EP. I mean, listen to the opening of “She Said” and tell me that Nirvana weren’t as guilty of what you’re accusing Pains of being.

          What about the Beach Boys? Don’t a lot of their earlier, and more popular, output sound like doo-wop rip-offs?

          If you’re not using a Xerox PC, you’re basically supporting rip-off artists.

          You say that the “art” of movie-making has more leeway to appropriate existing art than music does. IMO, that argument is crap. Art is art and rip-offs are rip-offs. Putting qualifications on one art form to be more “pure” than another is just silly.

          You say “a high percentage of their melodies are the same as the songs from that era”, well please give us examples. (i.e. this Pains song rips off the melody of this song…etc). Since it’s “a high percentage” several references would make your argument more credible than one or two.

  9. Smashing Pumpkins were a solid 20 years ahead of their time and it is a sham that Melon Collie does not make top 100 album lists more often…I’m looking at you Rolling Stone.

    Long live the Stripes!!!

    If you are looking for more indie music, check out my new album, “You might not be ready but your kids are going to love it.” We sound as if Bruno Mars went on a three day bender with Charlie Sheen and recorded a dozen songs with Passion Pit, MGMT, and One Republic before passing out in a Hard Rock Hotel bathroom. You can listen to the entire album for free here:

    http://www.myspace.com/repertoire/music/albums/you-might-not-be-ready-but-your-kids-are-going-to-love-it-17594565

    Support fellow indies!

  10. On a personal note, if you’re not a totally ungrateful person, you would care about mbv getting screwed even if you’re not a fan of their albums. I looked at the bands you list on your Facebook, and most of them would sound very different or not exist without mbv’s influence. Indie rock exists because the mainstream has proven to be a hostile and predatory environment for a lot of artists. Indie rockers and their fans have always operated as a community; that’s a big part of why underground music has been able to persevere against often overwhelming odds, so it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see instances of opportunism and a lack of respect for others’ efforts.

    • Look, I love My Bloody Valentine. They are my favorite band. No matter how many other albums I hear, Loveless will always remain number one. BUT, I don’t think what the Pains were doing is plagiarism. They were/are a bunch of kids still in search of their sound. They leaned heavily on their influences to record their first album, as most young bands are wont to do. This is nothing new. My Bloody Valentine’s first album, This is Your Bloody Valentine, leaned heavily on The Birthday Party to such an extent that one could say they were “stealing” from Nick Cave and his band. What happened with each successive album they released? They grew into their own sound, which is what the Pains are doing right now. So please be careful before you start claiming theft.

    • Mhann24.

      We’ve never been shy about acknowledging the musical inspiration of MBV’s Sunny Sundae Smile EP, especially on our earliest recordings (our 2007 s/t EP, subsequent “Come Saturday” split 7″ on Slumberland). We mentioned it countless times in past interviews, listed “paint a rainbow” as an influence on our myspace (audacity!) and were always eager for people to discover some of the earlier, less famous recordings of that iconic band. We were extremely honored that MBV invited us to play the All Tomorrow’s Parties they curated in 2009 and getting to perform and then watch them immediately afterwards was a very once-in-a-lifetime kind of thrill.

      On a more general note, all bands grow up emulating other bands and ideas. You can trace the routs of any artist (even the most “original”) to bands that came before them – insofar as that act of imitation fails, creativity is born. Music – or at least the last 50 years of western pop – is a great continuum where even the most iconoclastic, idiosyncratic and revolutionary bands are connected to that which comes before and that which will come after. I think that’s a really cool thing; that Animal Collective is part of the Beach Boys and the beginning of something totally different, that The Ramones were part The Stooges, the young adult classic, “The Outsiders,” and a Spector-esque vision of 60s rock and roll and yet such a thorough and arresting break from it as well. Nirvana somehow found inspiration in the immediacy of K Records cassette culture, as well as the ferocity of The Pixies and Melvins. To argue for any kind of “golden age” of absolute truth and absolute originality is a form of fundamentalism that is antithetical to our optimistic view of pop – that it can get better and more interesting over time, while acknowledging the brilliance of those visionaries who came before.

      • Thank you. I think you more clearly said what I was trying to get across.

        • rskva, I think the proper response is – SORRY.
          KIP – “You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong.” And before you accuse me of plagiarism, that’s a quote from “Annie Hall.”

      • “all bands grow up emulating other bands and ideas.”
        Not true, speak for yourself…all bands may appreciate and absord other bands’ ideas to form their own but emulating other bands’ ideas is for shitty, unoriginal bands. sorry, the truth hurts sometimes.

  11. I’d be curious to know when Kip thinks the House of Love went off the rails. For me it was somewhere in the middle of Babe Rainbow. Up through the “butterfly” album they were firing on all cylinders. I even love the Spy in the House of Love b-sides/throwaways collection.

    • I actually like most of “Babe Rainbow”, too. I find the album after it mostly unlistenable. Heck, they even recycled a pretty lousy b-side for inclusion on that album, it just shows they were scraping the bottom of the barrel. Nearly all HoL up through and including “Babe Rainbow” is pretty necessary. Who doesn’t get chills listening to “Beatles & The Stones” or “Philly Phile”? But yeah, the first two albums and the self-titled “Spy In The House Of Love” collection are where the heart of the genius lies. One last note: there are a handful of great and mostly-unheard b-sides from that early era, too, most worth hearing.

      Oh, and I heartily second The Prids. Always fantastic, always genuine music that is a vessel for passion and intensity with nary a drop of irony to occlude the lens.

      And to the MBV-obsessed fellow up there: you clearly don’t understand how music evolves. Stop being a horsefly.

  12. Great idea for a column. I like when music geeks geek out.
    So much music coverage is about what’s new this week. This is a nice balance of what’s new and what was good way back (or just, y’know, back) that you probably missed. Well done.

  13. I fucking hate this band. I want all hipsters to DIE.

    • Not everyone who listens to this band is a “hipster,” “hipster” hate is extremely old and played out, and if you want other people to die over differing tastes in music/culture, you might be better off compromising and just killing yourself instead.

    • I fucking hate bananas. I want all banana eaters to DIE. See how stupid we look?

  14. Cool article, specially the closing paragraphs… And the comments section’s discussion about plagiarism is priceless (even Kip Berman showed up!).
    How many times have we argued about this? I have to agree with both points of view. There’s nothing new under the Sun… I don’t care if a new band relies a little too much on their influences as long as they prove themselves cool over time and evolve into something of their own.

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