It’s sweet without becoming nauseating, melancholy without becoming morose, buzzing without the headache; a rush of blood to the head.
To help suppress those Glastonbury blues, many non-attendees of the festival could be found down at The Fleece this past Sunday night to see New York’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Through their three album career, frontman Kip Berman has remained the band’s constant. On this occasion, aided by the Hochheim twins of Depreciation Guild fame, bassist Jacob Sloan and Fear of Men’s Jessica Weiss on loan, the band delivered a set that showcased the highlights of their latest LP, along with a few fan favourites from their self-titled debut and 2011’s ‘Belong’ for good measure.
An early support slot from Bristol’s own Why We Love kicked the evening off to a good start. The four piece performed a decent eight song set, including radio-ready single ‘Patina’. Whilst the band showed a promising degree of musical efficiency and did a good job at warming up the crowd, it wasn’t the most polished set and certainly lacked that special something Fear of Men and TPOBPAH managed to capture. Highlights were often kept to snippets during songs, where for thirty seconds the band’s golden potential shone through. These moments were by far the most enjoyable portions of the set, ones that framed the band above the murky background of ‘indie’ and into the fore, which with a bit more work could see Why We Love shape up into one of Bristol’s finest.
Brighton’s Fear of Men were next on the bill, who performed highlights from their debut LP ‘Loom’ among various ‘Early Fragments’. Beginning on haunting intro ‘Alta’, lead vocalist Jessica Weiss spins lyrics of sultry devotion and wide-eyed melancholy, which segue seamlessly into opener ‘Waterfall’. Weiss’ chant-like vocal delivery charges the song with a claustrophobic intensity, that a self-assuring ‘I’m not alone at least’ on each successive repetition becomes less of a comfort and more of a doubt. With songs like these, of preservation, observation and presentation, it hardly seems surprising the ‘Loom’ artwork depicts a plastercast body behind glass display in what could be museum surroundings. There’s something very detached in it, but also strangely alluring.
Other highlights included ‘Green Sea’, ‘Tephra’, latest single ‘Luna’, and ‘Inside’, which brought the set to a close. Certainly in this final instance, it is possible to see the necessity of the live setting, as Fear of Men’s claustrophobic world imploded significantly in the song’s closing minutes. It was by far the most explosive ‘rock’ moment of the set; an almost-unexpected burst of searing guitar roars which tore through the preserving amber. Truly Fear of Men are a band capable of great things, and it would be a privilege to see them perform again.
Anticipation was high for TPOBPAH on next. Drawing the majority of material from their new album, but also paying dues to their earlier releases – ‘This Love is Fucking Right’, ‘Come Saturday’ – their set was a real treat for old and new fans alike. Opening with ‘Until the Sun Explodes’, the band have never sounded finer; their combination of twee pop and shoegaze fuzz has always one to admire, that in the live setting just sounded perfectly balanced with nothing lost in the ether. It’s sweet without becoming nauseating, melancholy without becoming morose, buzzing without the headache; a rush of blood to the head.
When Berman delivers catchy choruses for the Tumblr generation on ‘Simple and Sure’, ‘I just wanna be yours’, it’s almost euphoric; a simple phrase one can press to their bosom and heave over endlessly. But likewise, when Berman crafts a quatrain that’d make Morrissey blush in ‘The Body’, ‘you try so hard / to keep it together / and you look so hard / in fishnets and leather’, it’s not difficult to see the band’s wider appeal. It’s lame poetry, but tongue-in-cheek humour keeps things in check. The ‘gin in a tin’ anecdote too was a notable manifestation of Berman’s assured wit.
On female-fronted songs, such as ‘Life After Life’, Weiss handled these with a dextrous vocal performance that certainly matched their recorded counterparts. The Hochheim twins and Sloan too delivered exceptional performances on guitar, drums and bass, that you’d believe the three had played with the band since day one. Even with the loss of three original members in the band’s lifetime, it certainly doesn’t look like The Pains are suffering for it if the live show is anything to go by. A fantastic evening all round.
Check out ‘Simple and Sure’ right here: