The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ the Biltmore Cabaret, 7/24/09

pains of being pure at heart
Five minutes before the Pains of Being Pure at Heart were due to go on stage, I walked past the merch table and saw singer Kip Berman passed out cold on the couch. I guess that might explain why the Brooklyn four-piece got off to a slightly slow start during last night’s show at the Biltmore. Opening with a new song (I had never heard it before, at least) the group was a little sloppy, Berman’s eyes staring blanky across the crowd. Next, they stumbled through “This Love Is Fucking Right!,” its chorus marred by off-key vocal harmonies.

Thankfully, the band found its legs with a searing version of the single “Young Adult Friction.” Unlike the sunny jangle of the studio version, the song was a blast of white hot distortion, its guitars soaked in shoegaze fuzz. The group had a second guitarist in tow, meaning that the band’s sound was even more muscular than usual. An amped-up take on “The Tenure Itch” incited a mosh pit near the front of the stage, and one fan attempted to crowd surf but wiped out badly.

The band debuted a new song, “Higher Than the Stars,” the title track of its upcoming EP. With dreamy synth pads and a blissful pop chorus, the song sounded a bit like a long lost anthem from an ’80s teen movie.

Unfortunately, drummer Kurt Feldman broke his snare drum, and since no one had a replacement, the set was cut short. During the final song, “A Teenager in Love,” the snare sounded like Feldman was hitting a torn piece of a loose leaf paper. Nevertheless, the group still managed to play most of its self-titled album, plus a handful of B-sides. The show was unlikely to convert any skeptics, but for fans of the album, it was an excellent showcase of the band’s songwriting chops.

The evening was opened by Girls, a San Francisco four-piece that, like Women, is entirely made up of men. Still, it was easy to see where the group got its name, since both of the guitarists had long, flowing locks of blond hair. Most of the group’s songs sounded like ’50s doo wop played with the dreamy jangle of I.R.S.-era R.E.M. Girls sounded best when they stretched into more ambitious territory, as on the epic singalong “Hellhole Ratrace.” The group’s first full-length is due out in September, and, based on last night’s performance, it could be one of the breakthrough albums of the fall.
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