Sexless, meek and flaccid, the New York tweesters offer up a record that’s wetter than a fumble in a puddle
When they first emerged in a whimper of pin badges and cardigan fray, [a]The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart[/a] managed to make [a]Los Campesinos![/a] look as sordid and intimidating as the Mohocks, an 18th-century gang of anonymous aristocratic ne’er-do-wells who rampaged through London deranged by drugs, slicing off people’s noses and rolling old ladies down hills in barrels. Their love of music from this side of the pond was clear, but the Brooklyn quartet’s repackaging of [a]My Bloody Valentine[/a] et al seemed to miss the point; it was curiously neutered, sexless and danger-less, like earnest, scented fan letters about [a]Morrissey[/a] lyrics that fail to realise that they were supposed to be funny. For [b]‘Belong’[/b], though, with Flood and Alan Moulder at the controls, we were promised a sea change.
Perhaps the producers are behind the passable attempts at the [a]Smashing Pumpkins[/a] in the title track and [b]‘Even In Dreams’[/b] or [b]‘Too Tough’[/b]. But even mad bald Billy and his merry band had a hint of dangerous eroticism about them. When TPOBPAH gingerly approach the subject of sex, it’s with an embarrassed grin and to your disappointment. Take [b]‘The Body’[/b]: “[i]Tell me again what your body’s for[/i]”, Kip Berman pleads, in a song that’s like something flaccid flapping about down below, never quite getting in there. [b]‘My Terrible Friend’[/b] is a Wendy house dry-hump between [a]The Cure[/a] and [a]The Only Ones[/a], with choice lyric, “[i]Everyone is pretty and fun/Everyone is lovely and young[/i]”.
Awwww. [b]‘Girl Of 1,000 Dreams’[/b], meanwhile, has lines about “[i]waking up at your parents’ place[/i]”, which just makes these anorak boys and girl sound creepy – and not in a good way. Prematurely ejaculated lyrics, and their appalling delivery, are the weakest link in an already strained daisy chain. Whereas the shoegazers who are so clearly an influence on Pains embraced a batty psychedelic tradition and treated the voice as a texture, Berman sounds like he’s meekly bleating “thanks” to his English auntie for sending an Oxfam-sourced school tie.
It’s this signal getting lost in the mid-Atlantic trench that’s at the core of most of TPOBPAH’s flaws. In America there are umpteen bands of Anglophiles self-consciously scribbling on a notepad at their coffee-shop job (that imploring request for a tip finished off with a cutesy smile) not understanding the situation that inspired the original music: cuts, right-wing, out-of-touch government, drizzle, but laughing and fucking in the face of adversity – you know the drill.
They might claim that it’s all harmless, that it’s just fun, but in 2011, it’s simply not good enough: you deserve better than this smug and joyless (accidental) masterclass in all that is so frequently terrible about indie, made by people who never really got it in the first place. Undersexed and over here, let’s send them back to where they, indeed, belong.