Words & Photos by Liam Moody
One of the laws of journalism dictates that at all times, a writer should present fact, not opinion. The writer should, at all times, remain impartial and unbiased, especially when it comes to reviews. Therefore, I feel that I have to state that parts of this piece of writing will barely qualify as journalism. New York outfit The Pains Of Being At Pure At Heart are one of my very favourite groups of recent times, and this is the first show they have played in Manchester for several years. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally get the chance to see them live, especially with the promise of new material.
The first support, Yoke Lore, a duo who come with at first glance a very disparate set of instruments- a banjo and drums along with all manner of samplers, sequencers and synthesisers. Playing their current EP along with songs from their upcoming record ‘Goodpain’, Yoke Lore’s sound is a mixture of effect-saturated banjo picking (folk club, this was not) and crashing, echoing drums backed up the harmonised, almost washed-out vocals, not unlike ‘Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming’-era M83. The use of electronics soaked with reverb added to this, giving the huge propulsive beats some breathing room and adding extra atmosphere to the songs, almost invariably about lost love, love never spoken, love never known or reciprocated, but keeping that flicker of optimism. Songs that John Cusack could have played to Ione Skye in Say Anything. This was the first time that Yoke Lore have played Manchester- hopefully not the last.
Night Flowers, like Yoke Lore before them (and Pains following them) also sound somewhat indebted to the past- in this case, a past that didn’t exist- an early 1990s where instead of Nirvana and Pixies, it was Teenage Fanclub and Velocity Girl who defined a generation- college-rock styled jangling guitar and boy/girl harmonies singing about hanging out with friends, slacking off, and glowing in the dark (fun tie-in, a special edition glow-in-the-dark vinyl single!). Almost completely devoid of angst or irony, Night Flowers are the perfect summer band- all shimmering upbeat melodies and bursting with genuine happiness and joy- something that translated to the band themselves, who spent the entirety of their set smiling and dancing.
By the time The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart came to the stage, Night & Day Cafe had become something of a packed-out sweatbox, either the heat or perhaps the knowledge of a venue curfew meant that Pains blazed through a selection from their back catalogue, along with some new songs from their new album The Echo Of Pleasure. While the new material slotted perfectly next to their earlier songs, some showed some potential sonic evolutions. ‘The Garrett’ in particular, with its Talking Heads-style rhythm, and the soaring ‘Anymore’.
Due to their influences, Manchester is a fairly significant city for Pains, even going as far to say in their own pre-tour press release that “England and Scotland are the home of so many artists we draw our inspiration from as a band (or rip-off shamelessly)”. The horrific events of earlier in the week had hit the group hard, especially lead singer and songwriter and new father Kip Berman, who took a few moments to say a few words about the tragedy, almost tearing up in the process. This outpouring was beautifully received by the crowd, offering Kip and the band a much-deserved applause as they tore into a number of songs from their debut album.
A few weeks before the tour began, the band had taken to social media to ask fans if there were any particular songs they would like to hear. Therefore, it was a wonderful moment when they started playing ‘Eurydice’ from their third album Days Of Abandon, the song I had asked them for. This was followed by the set-closing one-two punch of the band’s very first single, ‘Everything With You’ and ‘The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart’.
Seriously, the sweat. This show is probably one of the hottest, sweatiest shows I’ve been to. Kip, bedecked in a large denim jacket, was drenched, and the rest of the band – wearing far more sensible attire, weren’t much better – but somehow this environment added to Pains’ aura. Bands like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are so much better in places like this – an intimate venue, close to a truly appreciative audience, an audience who believe that they are ‘their’ band. I can only hope that their new album can capture the hearts of a larger audience, and that they will be back in the UK soon.
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart performed at the Night & Day Cafe on Thursday 25th May 2017.