The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

support Flag White
author TL date 19/08/11 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Funny how things work out sometimes. I've known for a while that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were playing in Denmark, I just hadn't bothered to remember when, where or at what cost, I'd simply let PP know that I was up for covering the show, and then thought no more of it. So imagine my surprise when I'm talking to my girlfriend at something-something past midnight on the morning of their gig and she asks if I'm coming to 'the show'. "Show? What show?". Apparently, I should check my email, which I haven't been doing much since my main computer recently drowned in coke, because in my inbox was actually a week old confirmation from PP, saying that I was cleared to go and review. Naturally, this didn't leave me much time to prepare, so I had to go pretty much with what I remembered from reviewing the band's last album "Belong". On the flipside, I got a surprising opportunity to check out Amager Bio for the first time. A venue of such size and facilities that I really don't quite understand why I haven't seen more good bands here. Be that as it may though, when I get here, the venue is barely at a tenth of its capacity, with only few having shown up in time to see tonight's support band.

Flag White

Said support band is Flag White, a local indie-pop trio, who are so underground that they have fewer facebook likes than our website. Either that is very sad, or it means they're too cool for school, and judging from the sound of their show tonight, I'm leaning towards the latter. With guitars, bass, an electronic drum-pad, a couple of macbooks and a couple of synthesizers, each band member seemingly has not only more instruments than he has hands, but he also has a microphone to boot. And switching between all these things, Flag White put together songs of floaty, dreamy, mainly electronic pop, which sound a bit like new romanticism (think A-ha or Tears For Fears) at post-rock pace, yet confined in songs of pop length and structure. The main vocal is an airy and electronically altered singing, which sound a bit like I'd Brian Molko (Placebo) or Brett Anderson (Suede) would if they used the same effects as Pet Shop Boys (effectively, think of Mew's Jonas Bjerre - who incidentally joins the audience after this band). To my ears, the end product sounds pretty interesting, if mostly a bit too calm to exhilarate, but still, the performance fails to gather more than some polite applause from the audience, few of whom seem to know the band. Maybe the size of the venue versus the scarcity of the crowd has a role to play, as the band restrains itself to rather casual and soft-spoken between song banter, and rocking out modestly while they're playing. It makes for a chill time, with pleasant music to keep the ears occupied, but beyond that, I wouldn't exactly call it an eye-opening set.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

Next it's time for tonight's headliners, who come on to the sight of a significantly grown crowd - although Amager Bio could probably still hold twice as many - and immediately launch into the album opener and title track of "Belong". And as soon as they do, I am instantly taken back to a show in March, in which I saw Yuck play, a band that has often been compared to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Indeed, it is hard not to draw the comparison, as their styles of fuzzy, low-fi indie-pop-rock are very similar, yet right off the bat it shows that Pains have been around longer, and why they should more rightfully be considered as the real deal. Despite almost immediately having problems with one of their guitars, Pains look more comfortable and at home on stage than most bands I've seen, and any indie-sceptics who were inclined to complain about notions of pretense should immediately be shut up, because these guys are the polar opposite of try-hards. They genuinely seem to enjoy rocking their way through their setlist, and singer/guitarist Kip Berman perfectly fits the role of the charming frontman, all smiling and down-to-earth as he addresses the crowd between songs, speaking a Danish word or two, asking if anyone wants to get him some akvavit after the show, and remarking on his appreciation not only for Danish 90's band Gangway, but also for the good taste represented by the many cool band tshirts tonight.

Effectively, he sets a light-hearted mood, that helps people dance happily, while paying less attention to the fact that the sound never really gets good when it comes to the vocals. Berman's are only barely distinct between the otherwise decently sounding instruments and Peggy Wang's backup singing is all but inaudible, and it's a bit of a shame, because it takes the edge away from a performance that otherwise has a lot to like. If the band is unhappy about this however, they hide it well, maintaining both their passion, energy and friendly attitude while they make their way through a setlist containing at least a good number of songs from "Belong". I recognize personal favourites such as "Heart In Your Heartbreak", "The Body" and "My Terrible Friend", yet judging from the number of songs I don't recall, it seems reasonable to guess that there is also a good share of tracks from the band's self-titled debut (with which I'm less familiar). In the end, Berman even starts the encore of the show with a solo performance of what is apparently the first song he ever wrote, explaining that "it's a song about sucking at life, and then trying to get better". The band then rejoins him on stage, closing proceedings with "Even In Dreams", which I personally consider a good choice for a closer. Leaving the venue a little later, I'd say that the show was actually quite good overall, and despite a worse crowd/venue size-ratio, Pains' actually did slightly better at showing me an engaging performance than their contemporaries in Yuck. Unfortunately, they also had worse sound, and effectively, the final grade ends up being the same, or at least so close it doesn't matter.


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