The strange abundance of flannel in this church basement makes one wonder if the local thrift shops have run out of choices to clothe the oppressed or if you accidentally showed up at Seattle Tribute Band Night for the Christian youth group that meets here. But this crowd is decades too late for grunge, and the warm, jangly pop spilling out of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart depicts anything but angst.
Another night, another buzz band comes to Philadelphia—“The Pains” here, as their name is too long. (Can you imagine the chaos at the printer if they had co-headlined with And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah?) The Pains embrace the sugar highs of a mid-’80s dream with a bouncy noise-pop punch that wouldn’t hurt if it hit you.
Frontman Kip Berman, adorned in his best Members Only jacket, blissfully delivered to a swaying fanbase with lilting, breathy vocals on songs like “Higher than the Stars” and “This Love is Fucking Right.” Keyboardist Peggy Wang slayed the sensitive boys with her bangs, as well as her backups on the rainy-day rock of “Teenager in Love.”
The Pains songs pile repetitive meters that hearken back to Katrina and the Waves or The Cure, yet the fuzzy bleats of the keys and scratchy guitars matched with Berman’s girlish tenor sound like a shoegazer’s dream. This is wallflower pop, but judging by the steady sway of the bespectacled crowd the wallflowers are amping up their confidence and getting out more often.