Sunday, 17 May 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart @ The Lexington, Islington (15th May 2009)

[With support from The Loves and Draculas.]

Up a winding staircase and into what has to have been a first floor flat, the Lexington's upstairs venue is a perfect size for this sort of gig, with a risen platform & bar at the rear for the 'stand at the back with a drink in hand' types and a good size floor for 'the dance at the front singing all the words' fans. The fans themselves are mostly made up of well-dressed, bespectacled individuals (be them prescription or not), with the bands themselves mirroring this dress-code, and the buzz about the place is friendly and relaxed.

First up is 'Draculas', a stripped-down twee garage pop four-piece mixing sweet female vocals and some rather flat male ones to largely good effect. The simplistic nature of the songs allow the innocence of the vocals to shine through, drawing comparisons to The Vaselines and to a certain degree, The Moldy Peaches, notably in the vocal exchanges. However the bass and second guitar do little to flesh out their otherwise enjoyable songs and as their set progresses, you find yourself wondering whether Draculas would be better suited to being a two-piece. Definately one to watch though, this blooming group could turn out some fantastic music in the near future.

Second to take the stage is The Loves, and its already obvious that this band is a different breed from the openers, with several members sporting 1970s suits and lead singer / guitarist desperately emulating Paul Weller. Unfortunately he's The Loves' key downfall, with his overly-confident stage presense and delivery doing little to ignite the crowd's excitement as he leads his band through uninspired pub-rock with several members looking outright uncomfortable. Its only towards the end of the set when the female bass player and the previously redundant tambourine(!) player take the mic that the music takes on any interest, with a pulsing bass line pushing the sleazy garage rock track forward to a much more original direction.

Their final track was the most enjoyable, however thats not a compliment to the band. The singer pulls two stage members up to play additional percussion, one being a cowbell. The cowbell player then continued to thwack his instrument as loudly and as close to the singers ear as possible, visible annoying him on several occasions much to the satisfaction of the audience. The closing mumble revealing that they've recorded three albums suggests a new direction may be advisable - perhaps letting the other members talents shine through?

By the time The Pains of Being Pure at Heart take the stage, the tiny venue is packed out and excitement is running high, with one fan requesting their signatures on their LP, much to the bemusment and even confusion of the band. Breaking into their opener 'Doing All the Things That Wouldn’t Make Your Parents Proud', they seem to be caught off guard by the enormously positive reaction they (deservedly) recieve. They obviously hadn't been made aware of their recent, rocketing popularity over here, their sweet, boy/girl vocal work over noisy guitar with power pop melodies finding a eager audience, this being their first show on British soil. By the time of their third song, current single 'Young Adult Friction', the crowd is singing along and shouting out the choruses, much to the immense pleasure of the band, with keyboardist Peggy grinning happily throughout, even pulling out a heart-shaped lollypop mid-set to complete her insanely adorable image. Album favorites 'Stay Alive' (sounding like a more accomplished, melodic Black Tambourine song) and 'Come Saturday' as well as previous single 'Everything With You' get fantastic reactions from the crowd, with the 'whoa-o-oah!' vocal melody of 'Come Saturday' sung by the audience being audible over the band themselves!

With such a welcome, completly engaged audience, Pains... end up enjoying themselves equally, with what at first appears to be a local drunk throwing random items at drummer Kurt and playing keyboard actually being revealed by singer Kip as being their friend Serge from Brooklyn, who then ups his attempt to sabotage Kurts solid drumwork to amusing effect, increasing the band's own comfort and sense of familiarity further.

Pains... are astonished once more by enthusiastic demands for not one but two encores, prompting Peggy to add that 'we're running out of songs!', before proclaiming it, ' the best show we've ever played, and I dont just say that at every show, it really is!'.

An energetic, uplifting and heartfelt performance from an incredible new band, their live show injecting additional bounce into already beautiful tracks, with exuberant joy reflecting back and forth between band and audience.

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