March 5, 2009

Test Spin: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

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A standard indie quartet of bass, guitar, drums, and keyboard, these Brooklyn cuties have found a low-fi, post-punk sound on their self-titled debut that feels less retro than timeless. They eschew any sampling and remixing, on the one hand, and any of the by-now commonplace addition of brass or classical strings, on the other, for the purity of a throwback garage rock band.
One member has tongue-in-cheekily dubbed their form of streamlined noise pop “tweemo,” hinting at the sweetly moody, melancholy spunk of their lyrics. But this description doesn’t do justice to the scruffy undercurrent that saves the album from ever seeming mannered or mawkish. There’re enough crunchy guitar chords and rattling, fast-paced drumbeats echoing behind the girl-boy duets to emphasize the destruction that their failed puppy loves both foreshadow and forestall. The songs are about trying to split the difference between growing up and giving up, losing oneself and finding oneself again, in the maundering, endless transition and “coming” of age that is one’s early-20s and beyond.
“Young Adult Friction,” for example, despairs about remembering a sexual encounter in the library stacks, ending with the many-sided refrain, “Don’t Check Me Out!” “Come Saturday,” one of my favorite tracks, juxtaposes its upbeat, rapid-fire drums with a chorus aching with longing and drift, which tells about wasting the waning days of a summer hoping to become a homebody when an ex visits. “This Love Is Fucking Right!” depicts friends whose innocent yet sadomasochistic hook-up endangers one of their monogamous relationships; a trebly coo intones, “Your mister, he don’t hurt you the right way.” This band, however, has precociously mastered the art of inflicting a gentle damage.