When The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's self titled debut surfaced in 2008, it was hard to ignore a band with the balls to revive the sounds of the 80s. Conveying loose new wave, polished post-punk, and a hint of goth rock, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart sounded like a band that would've fit snuggly in the timeline of 80s greats such as The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, and New Order. And as most bands who attempt their shot at a "revival" fail miserably, Pains frontman - and the only consistent member - Kip Berman tackled the revivalist method with a direct and focused manner. More authentic sounding (at the time) than it was corny, Berman was making music unlike anybody else in his scene. As Belong, followed by Days of Abandon proved that Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were a band capable of living up to their hype, their 2017 follow up - and fourth studio album - would be the one that would settle the score for good. Enter The Echo Of Pleasure.

Now, I'm not one to rip on an artist for making a sub-par album. As a music writer, I understand my place in the industry. What kind of person (and professional) would I be to shit on something that somebody put all they have into? It's unfair, and sometimes even cruel to do so. However, as a music fan, there comes a time and a place where a band that you really liked, a band that you thought, without a doubt, was surely fail-proof, falls into that category. As time passes, excitement and anticipation take over your train of thought, often fogging up your initial reaction while the moment finally arrives.

Upon my first few listens to The Echo Of Pleasure, my face immediately turned red. I had only felt that way one other time in my life, listening to the return of a band that I really liked, or at least thought I really liked. Let me clarify: Earlier this year, I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan, attending what I thought was going to be a great show. Whitney, a band whose debut Light Upon the Lake I absolutely raved about last year, was opening up for The Head and the Heart, another band I had really liked throughout high school. Whitney took the stage, and their set blew me away. Surely, I thought to myself, this was going to be a great show, judging from the explosive opener. As The Head and the Heart took the stage, I had noticed that most of the four eyed, beard sporting snobs (a group with whom I heavily identify with) got out as fast as they could, and in came the middle school tweens, fan-girling over the aging, half beards who took the stage. Again, my face turned beat red, and I stayed for maybe three songs. I thought to myself, what the hell had happened to these guys? Where are the real fans? These are the guys I was singing along to before entering my period of music snobism?

Now, my initial response to The Echo Of Pleasure was damn near identical to my spoiled evening with Whitney and The Head and the Heart. Shades of red coated my face, and as I listened to the album in its entirety, the feeling of being stuck behind a garbage truck in traffic came to mind. It was inescapable. I knew I had to listen to it, and I surely knew I had to write about, but god damn it, after one listen I was ready to snap by headphones in half. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sound like a completely different band, like a local radio station putting on a "rock" show at your hometown's theater. It is, at its best, painfully awkward to listen to. The gorgeous post-punk that was found on their previous albums has been replaced with shameful, hyper-produced 80s ripoffs. The Pains of being Pure at Heart, a band who at one time channeled their influences correctly, now sound like a band violently drowning in them, and the result is devastatingly corny.

Whether it's their brutal attempt at gloomy chamber pop on 'My Only', their embarrassingly direct ripoff of a My Bloody Valentine track on 'Anymore', or their goofy, oddly timed guitar licks on 'The Garret', The Echo of Pleasure results in being an incredibly vague arena rock statement, one that's hopelessly gasping for life (and critical acclaim). As Berman's vocals have clearly aged, so have his songwriting abilities. Genres clash like ass-backward magnets, and the conceptual strengths found on its predecessors are swapped for a messy, if not incompetent track list. The Echo of Pleasure is, and always will be, a horrendous piece of art in the glorious year of music.