I can’t lie, I will always love the bouncy, jangly sound of the happier songs from the Cure and the Smiths (full disclosure, an estimated ten percent of my iPod is still taken up by those two bands.) Maybe I’m biased, but that’s why I loved the latest release from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Days of Abandon. It’s a retro yet modern-enough take on synth pop and alternative rock that evolved out of cleaning up shoegaze. This is the third EP from the New York City-based band. The one constant in Pains is singer-songwriter-musician Kip Berman, who recruits others to work with him on the songs he writes. He’s actually the only member of the band listed on Pain’s Facebook page. He has collected a winning group of musicians for this album including some who were in previous incarnations of the group. The most notable contributor in my mind is Jen Goma (of A Sunny Day in Glasgow.) Goma’s clear vocals on “Kelly” and “Life After Life” fit so well that one has to hope she can tour with the group forever.
Days of Abandon abandons some of the noise of Pains’ previous work. Gone is distortion, almost gone is the powerful guitar and messy shoe gaze elements. They’ve been replaced with a synthesizer and jangly Johnny Marr guitar. In fact, “Kelly” sounds like she could be the lovechild of “This Charming Man;” “Masokissed” could be from the Smith’s Hatful of Hollow. “Simple and Sure” would fit in on a Cure album. All that’s missing is the melancholy lyrics. Sure, “Eurydice” isn’t the happiest song with lyrics like “I’ll never stop losing you,” but it still sounds so fun and bouncy that you won’t be left feeling down. If you needed The Cure and The Smiths during your mopey teenage years, this album might suit you better now that your hormones are in check.
The opening song, “Art Smock,” is a little underwhelming. The acoustic guitar and limited synth lack the energy that the rest of the album has and isn’t the best introduction to what is to come. Days ends on a much more fitting note. “The Asp at My Chest” is a little more dramatic than the other tracks, incorporating horns beautifully with the synthesizer and a slower beat. It’s a good closing song, it fits the sound of the rest of the album yet brings the energy back down, like the cool down after an aerobic work out routine (in case you can’t tell, this album sent my brain straight to the ‘80s and early ‘90s for all of its references.) Though the first song wasn’t so amazing, the album really picks up on the second song, “Simple and Sure,” which is packed with synthesizer and handclaps that invite you to bounce around. The lyrics are sweet and happy to match, with a chorus that goes “It may be simple but I’m sure, I just want to be yours.” “Eurydice” and “Beautiful You” sound like they could be on a John Hughes movie soundtrack.
Frankly, I couldn’t be happier to hear jangly guitar and echoey handclaps come back. (Unfortunately,) I read an interview that Berman did with Stereogum in which he said an alternate title for the album could have been Welcome to the Jangle. Sure, it’s not as serious-sounding as Days of Abandon, but come on, that would have been amazing. I may never get over the disappointment of realizing that that title will never be. Anyway, back to the review: If you grew out of the moodier songs from those bands after graduating from college, this album will take you into a cheerful new era.