The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
November 9, 2010
@ The Independent
Better than: Plenty of other local bands.
It says something about both the talents of San Francisco's Weekend
and the generosity of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart
that the latter band, last night's headliner, began its set with a congratulations to the preceding act instead of a song. Yesterday saw the release of Sports
, the debut album from Weekend, making last night a kind of release party. But it was a restrained celebration: As a stoic crowd gazed on, the three politely dressed boys (collared shirts, rolled-up cuffs, vintage dress shoes) laid out their expansive post-punk with a minimum of fuss and only a little more energy. As shows go, it was more cerebral than visceral -- more buttoned up than hanging out.
Sports begin with tight, rapid-fire drumbeats, which contrast with their monstrous, fuzzed-out bass figures and almost unrecognizable guitar squeals and squelches. Over all this noise comes the voice of Shaun Durkan, siphoned out in long, echoey ribbons, with undecipherable words more setting a mood than delivering a meaning. The locus of these songs is to be found somewhere in between all their elements, rather than in any particular one.
Weekend, like a lot of recent indie-rock groups (especially local ones), melds the all-encompassing noise of shoegaze bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain with the gnashed-teeth tautness of Joy Division post-punk. Many of the tracks on
Last night, each tune worked onstage about as well as it does on the record. "Coma Summer" came out fast and atmospheric, with the bright jangle of guitars brightening a rumbling bass figure, Durkan's falsetto floating high above it all -- one of the band's best songs. The combination of "Monday Morning" and "Monongah, WV," proved as jarring (in a good way) onstage as it did in their recent video. The first, a nearly ambient, nearly instrumental wash of dense bass and guitar structures, was abruptly obliterated by the bass cuts and jutting drum entrance of the speedy second song.
At other times, though, the band's hazy linearity left the room sagging. While all the distortion and echo effects add drama to what are essentially very simple songs, they also work as a crutch. Midway through the set, each trailing-off vocal from Durkan, reverby flick of guitar from Kevin Johnson, and dry splatter of punk snare from drummer Abe Pedroza all began to sound the same. At one point, when Johnson and Durkan stopped playing, letting Pedroza pound the way from the finish of "End Times" into the start of "Afterimage," the energy in the room seemed to all but expire.
If the band seemed to lose some of the crowd toward the end of the set, Durkan's mild stage manners charmed us early on. "We had our record come out today," he blithely informed the audience after the first song. "How is it?" a crowd member shouted back. Durkan just shrugged and continued tuning his bass. "It's okay," he muttered.
labelmates) the Pains of Being Pure at Heart apply the jangly New Wave sonic palate (with some thick, distorted guitars) to brisk, basic guitar pop. Instead of Weekend's dense beauty, their songs strive for an immediately accessible rush -- one which, while enjoyable, wears off rather quickly. Still, highlights of the Brooklyn five-piece's catalog such as "Come Saturday," and especially "Young Adult Friction," made last night's crowd swoon. After congratulating Weekend, frontman Kip Berman dedicated pretty much every song to someone new as the band pressed on through its catalog of uptempo pleasers.
Last night's headliner (and Weekend's
Bummer: I kept waiting for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart to play "Ramona," a gorgeous, pleading B-side that alone serves to greatly diversify the band's repertoire. But it didn't happen.