"Do you mind if we play some new songs?" It's a question that I can't help but dread. Rhetorical question aside, I've always been a believer that new songs and headline shows are a sour mix. These days I can't help but quickly lose interest in an unfamiliar song - gigs are a debilitating experience to which the cure is usually a set of familiar songs. So needless to say, when Pains of Being Pure at Heart frontman Kip Berman tentatively proposed the dreaded question to the sold-out audience, my heart sank.

Yet the New York four piece, complete with boundless enthusiasm and unassuming confidence, quickly restored my faith in the 'new song experience'. Their new offerings, the majority of which will feature on their new album Belong, were a perfect compliment to the short, succinct set and first albums offering to such an extent that I was almost sad to hear the singles.


Photography by Jason Williamson

But Pains of Being Pure at Heart have come along way. Having relentlessly toured the underground circuit and released their eponymous debut to only limited commercial success, 2011 feels the perfect time for POBPH. In front of the captivated crowd at the 6th story university union-cum-venue, everything fell flawlessly into place. Indeed, the band exuded more presence that a spoilt child's birthday party. Symmetrically framed in black and smothered in shadow, the band played their trademark fuzzy, hook-laden music with seemingly effortless coolness. As inadvertently arrogant as this might make them appear, the set was speckled with reassuring modesty - the band clearly made a special effort to thank, well, just about everyone else. They were clearly enjoying themselves and were evidently grateful to be ending their tour in front of such a receptive and packed audience.

And don't think I'm forgetting the music. I'll admit as much as I would call myself a 'big fan' (in support, not size) I have previously found their sound fairly derivative - it's no coincidence that they cite C86 bands and early My Bloody Valentine as influences. Yet, performed live, everything falls effortlessly into place. Helped with uncompromising energy and a fantastic, powerful live sound, their nuances and idiosyncrasy are affirmed with a whirlwind of feedback. In fact, the set itself was so fluid and enjoyable that I soon forgot the occasional out-of-tune singing and cramped conditions (going to gigs is increasingly turning me into an old, grumpy man).

There aren't many bands that are worth climbing six flights of stairs for, but PoBPAH are certainly one of them. British bands should be ashamed of themselves; not only are Pains of Being Pure At Heart able to win over an English crowd so assuredly, they create more enjoyable and convincing 'English' music.


Photography by Jason Williamson