The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart don’t have a long career but with one album, few singles and an upcoming EP gathered such a vast following that is pushing hard to surface from the underground.

How many of you were caught by the name? I was, definitely. Let’s start from here, then.
Thankfully in 2009 to get the answer there’s no need to search for an issue of a xerox-copied fanzine at the door of your local record shop. Actually, it is likely the local record shop is a mobile-phones franchise now.

Sad I know, bonus being that from asking the question to having the answer it took me 0.24 sec. Is it just me or you too belong to the group of people that doesn’t care how long Google takes to do a search? I mean, is it relevant to anyone if it is 0.12 or 0.35 sec?

Scrolling the list of hits I got, I realize I am not the only curious. I read any sort of comment from “they are just as sweet as their name” to “fucking emo name”.
The answer by the way, is on Wikipedia:
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart comes “…from an unpublished children’s story that Charles Augustus Steen III, a friend of singer Kip Berman, wrote of the same title”.
I am satisfied, even curious to read the story. Let’s move one.

Cover art. Lovely ain’t it? I like the black and white. They mean it. It is just black and white. No tones of grey. Very effective.
Photoshop and a simple photo and it is straightforward to transform a picture in some “cult” design.

The cover depicts very well what’s inside, with a surprise. If you buy the vinyl, you will be pleased to see it is as white as milk. Beautiful.

These guys know how indie-marketing works, don’t they? It goes without saying that singles have same logo in white+different colors and the T-shirts are on the brightest colours still with the same design. Seducing.

So what about the music?
First. They are not “fucking emo”, otherwise I wouldn’t be shooting them, films are quite expensive nowadays.
If you scroll the press online (you can start from their myspace, they put together an exhaustive list) reviewers find any possible reference belonging to the noisy darkness of late-eighties which was spreading in the underground clubs both sides of the Atlantic.

I would extend it. (There are links to youtube click for a multimedia experience)

The Tenure Itch singing reminds me of Nico circa 1967 when she was supported by a band called the Velvet Underground. They are not such a band (no one is) and Kip (the singer) is not as enchanting as Nico. Still the song keeps its fascination.

Young Adult Friction, their second single, has a bass line that goes straight to The Cure eighties albums, with a positive feel. The advantage of not having Robert Smith in a band goes beyond the interest of lipstick producers.

The Side B of the single, Ramona, is worth a listening, not only because it is not on their album, but because it would fit on Jesus and Mary Chain‘s Darklands. It’s a quite a flattering remark for a B-side, isn’t it?
I get this chance to discredit a music myth: being unoriginal doesn’t mean you can’t still write a great song.

A Teenager in Love put things back to the future. It has the classic opening, drums intro – bass riff – open guitar chord, everyone has been expecting from The Strokes but getting from everywhere else. “Someday” maybe. (the adverb and the song, just compare them)!
The difference is that is possible to replicate a sound, impossible to imitate Casablanca. Kip Berman voice is not Nico and not even Julian‘s. That’s nature not skills, not his fault.

All said (and listened), The Pains of Being Pure at Heart self titled album is noise-pop at its perfection. The magic of hanging around Brooklyn these days.
Things are happening right there, right now. It is unbelievable how effervescent the NYC scene is. Countless number of bands spanning a variety of offer that few years ago needed a 5 continents journey to put together. Today everyone is in the Big Apple and everything happens here.

From Brooklyn, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart came to play in a small venue in Cambridge, UK a couple of months ago.
These pictures are from there, I didn’t have the space to publish them but the occasion comes perfect now to celebrate their headline gig at the London Garage.

It also fits with my plan to use August on liveon35mm as a place to suggest some “new” music. To see which are the trends that will indicate the directions to enter the next decade.

Despite the 45 minutes set, limited to the one album (covers, chats and solos are not in fashion in the indie scene), and the acoustic of the place, just limited, the concert was very good.

Live TPOBPAH (uff!) sound more genuine and solid. The several influences mix into one fresh sound. One ghost (appropriate) is still evident, It made me travel back in time.

I was in Rome. An early June night of 1989. The Cure materialized on the stage of Rome sport arena to play one of the most exciting concerts I ever attended.
At the peak of their career, touring what is now considered their masterpiece, Disintegration, Robert Smith and friends blew the place away with a 3 hours+ set. Three endless encores to close with a version of A Forest that still has that bouncing bass pulsing into my stomach.

For some reason, twenty years and 4 days later, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart revived in me those memories with their sound, the same sheer passion (and the crap acoustic).

Peggy Wang keyboards cleverly decorate the songs with a more up-to-date vibe to fit today electro-pop trend.
The bass lines even if not as powerful as Simon Gallup recall those 80s and The Cure of those 80s where one of top five bands.
Stay Alive is one of their signature track and it wouldn’t have existed without Disintegration.

Kip Berman guitars adds the biggest contribution to Robert Smith heritage, those bouncing strings bring back to life the attitude of composing simple, few notes melodies.
To spice up the experience the other guitarist put on layers of noise borrowed tonight more from Kevin Shield than from the Reid brothers.

That I am not a fan of Kip Berman timbre may have already become obvious. His voice is not very deep and a bit too nasal for these tunes. Just an opinion.

Photographing a gig is not always ideal for listening to it. Sitting, kneeling, standing on a leg, moving among the squeezed guys on the front row to take pictures, the only voice I could hear was his.
Only when I stepped back after few songs to enjoy the rest of the show I could hear that Peggy was singing as well. Her vocal parts are quite interesting and her voice is lovely. She should have more singing space.

About 50 minutes and pretty much the entire album later, the gig ends.
The sensation that it was too short has to be seen in a positive way: “I enjoyed it and wanted more”.
I am pleased to know that an EP, Higher Than The Stars, containing four brand new songs is going to be out in September.
It would give them enough original material to play for over a hour, it’ll give us a taste of where their music is heading with the second albums. Judging from the title, the guys show ambitions. Let’s hope Peggy Wang managed to get some lead vocals. A female vocalist is trendy at present times.

In the meanwhile know more about The Pains of Being Pure At Heart on their [myspace] and [website].

Unfortunately the album is not on Spotify, but you could make an effort and buy a copy of it, to keep music alive and to enrich your collection with a gorgeous white vinyl.


Photo tip

Easy ain’t it?

No, this photo tip is not for photographers but against photographers, for a change.

This is a reply from the band’s management.
He praised and showed interest to my pictures. After a quick e-mail exchange, I received this short message:

“Hi Valerio,

They’re really nice but we won’t be using them for anything, i was joking about the box set. we have plenty of photos we can use for free. thanks for sharing them with us though.”

A very small word in it makes it very sad: free.

No, I am not accusing the band manager. His job is to achieve the best within the budget, his work is to save money whenever possible.

When record companies try to grab photographers rights asking to sign ridiculous contracts, you will always find me front row standing against them, but if they are offered photos for free, by photographers, it’s not their fault. It’s our!

I am pointing my finger to all those photographers that give “plenty of photos to use for free” to bands, labels, whoever in the business.

I know you exist. I know you read me but I am not sure you know this is not helping but killing even your concert photography career. It’s a suicidal approach.

Everyone of us have given some pictures for free at some point. I do this too. Many different reasons: to get some visibility, credits, build up a CV and a portfolio. It is reciprocal self promotion.

There must be a no trespass zone, though. Mine is to limit this only to the ones that are not making a profit out of my work. Simple.

Giving free rights to use your pictures to someone who is going to get money out of them is a totally different issue and it is a multi-damage process. See why.

It devaluates your job. You are basically telling your client you are worth nothing. Remember, if they chose your photos they have a value. Give it away for free, you cancel that value. Forever.

It guarantees you will never ever be paid for an image in the future. Why someone should start paying you at a certain point? What has to happen to change the conditions? They will always refer to the free pictures to ask for more free pictures.

It damages the work of any other serious photographer that is likely to receive an answer like this, so please read it again:

If I haven’t convinced you, see if Harlan Ellison does in this brilliant video, many thanks to James for posting it to the comments.

Do think twice, it’s not alright!!!

~ by Valerio on August 9, 2009.

8 Responses to “The Pains of Being Pure at Heart”


  1. Harlan Ellison puts it so well.
    I think every creative professional should watch this clip at least once a week.

  2. This is fantastic James, thanks a lot… I’ll link it to the main article.

  3. I found this great video on just this http://tinyurl.com/pwkyno as a beginner I really do need to learn about this kind of thing!

  4. Thanks Tracy, this video is great!!

  5. that’s funny, because it happens exactly the same in my field (translation)… there are lots of “amateurs” (as the guy says in the video) who give away their work for nothing and make it really tough for professionals (and I mean people who have *invested* time and money in this profession, money for getting degrees and masters, for buying dictionaries, software, courses, basically for keeping up with the market’s requirements). A few days ago I sent a quotation for a job and I got a reply from the customer saying that my rate was too high for their budget, even though it was my rock-bottom rate (it was an Italian customer and rates in Italy are notoriously lower than everywhere else in Europe) and it was in € (rather than in £, so even cheaper for them and not so good for me)… These things happen everyday but we don’t realise it because we don’t always get replies like the one you got (or the one I got). It really pisses me off sometimes but I’m still confident that quality and professionalism will pay off in the end. I need to believe it or I might as well give up right now.

  6. Great idea, thanks for this tip!

  7. thnksss

  8. gerçekten saglamlar .www.rockemo.net

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