Lovers Lane
In The Flesh

Electro Pure, eh?

| April 25, 2011

Don’t try to make sense of why some bands become critical darlings and others are denounced as namby-pamby trash. You’ll make neither heads nor tails of it, and everyone will still laugh at you.

If you consider yourself in any way to be manly or tough, liking The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart will go against every fiber of your being. Like Belle & Sebastian or The Smiths before them, the vain among us struggle to reconcile a fondness for pure pop sweetness with the image of fey, mopey academics. Belle & Sebastian once sang, “We all know you’re soft ‘cos we’ve all seen you dancing/we all know you’re hard ‘cos we’ve all seen you drinking,” only the stakes have been raised in the Pains era, because not only are we confronted with how to dance to such New Order-derived power pop, but what to do if someone films and e-mails the act?

What then?

It’s a scenario that repeats itself across genres – metalheads who battle Muse addictions, for instance – but it never gets easier. The band’s latest album, Belong, tricks you with cankle-thick distortion into thinking you could maybe air-guitar your way through. The title track/opener pulsates, marrying early Weezer (later they sing “even in dreams!”) to dance-lite Madchester, a scheme that works throughout the record to great effect. All the self-effacement in the world can’t hide the sincerity, as if every line was written while the other hand propped up the chin unable to vocalize the thoughts, probably while the eyes stared blankly at a gray sky. (Look at that photo, for godsakes!) Why, oh why, does it have to sound so good? (Wednesday and Thursday@Lincoln Hall with Twin Shadow and Weakness.)

Why are Pains ascendent, while poor James Blunt continues his downturn? Credit Blunt for balls at least; he had to know that for every 10 girls belting their heart out to “You’re Beautiful” there was one man spitting epithets through clenched teeth and writhing lips. His latest attempt, Some Kind Of Trouble (Atlantic), features more of the same, only without any melodies you’ll begrudge him. His Chicago date has already been downgraded a venue, so you can bet he’ll be extra flattering to those who do show. (Thursday@Vic Theatre with Christina Perri.)

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