Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Box Elders in Pitchfork; CD release weekend…

Category: Blog — @ 5:50 pm September 11, 2009

Omaha’s indie music scene is perplexing. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who played last night at Slowdown Jr., is easily one of the most hyped new indie bands in the U.S. They stormed SXSW this spring after getting a raging 8.4 on the Pitchfork petermeter. I figured the gig in the small room would have sold out quickly. Instead, there was fewer than 100 people in the bar last night — more evidence that I should never consider a career as a show promoter.

I was less than thrilled by them when I saw them in Austin, calling their music “standard-issue indie with a pop slant that recalled the ’90s… well-played, but boring and flat. Very run-of-the-mill…” I’ve had a few people tell me that was unfair, that I wasn’t listening to their songs because of the gauze of hype that enshrouds them. One guy told me last night to just ignore it all and listen to their music. Fine.

He was partially right. Maybe I was unfair as far as the overall band was concerned. The musicians in POBPAH do indeed know how to rock, and yes they’ve got some very catchy songs in their oeuvre. They certainly were much more alive last night then they were at Emo’s in March. The part about them sounding like a ’90s band, however, still applies. Pains… sounds like a cross between The Cure and Modern English, with a less-glossy guitar sound.

Their Achilles heel is singer/frontman Kip Berman who simply doesn’t know how to sing. He has no tone, no intonation, you could barely hear him, it’s as if he didn’t know how to use the microphone (i.e., this wasn’t the soundman’s fault). His singing sounded like a shy boy trying to ask a girl out on a date for the very first time. Backing vocalist Peggy Wang added nothing to the mix (because you couldn’t hear her).

This is a classic example of a great band with a nonexistent frontman whose only attribute is his haircut. It’s a shame because the music is very pretty and well-played. Then you have that guy up there mewing like he’s never sung in front of an audience before. (See action photo).

Which brings us to the opening band, the horribly titled The Depreciation Guild, whose frontman was the guitarist in POBPAH. Compared to Berman, he was a veritable Sinatra. Too bad their music sounded like a tribute to “the shoegaze era” played in the temple of My Bloody Valentine. The three-piece consisted of two guitars and a drummer, and an ill-conceived synth loaded with samples, including lots of wonky keyboard parts. They were at their best when they turned down the sequencer and turned up their guitars.

* * *

Speaking of Pitchfork, it was brought to my attention that indie music’s favorite online make-or-break tastemakers reviewed the new Box Elders album a couple weeks ago (here) and gave it a lowly 5.4, saying ” …you’ve no doubt heard the 1960s garage surf of Box Elders before. It just wasn’t theirs. Of course, if you put together enough solid hooks, none of that would matter. But Alice and Friends doesn’t produce often in that department, relying instead on the kind of raw energy that fuels a good house party.” Confused? Then you’ve never read a Pitchfork review before.

* * *

There are a couple interesting shows going on tonight as we head into the weekend.

Flight Metaphor is celebrating its CD release tonight at The Waiting Room. I haven’t seen this band live, and have only casually listened to their new album, Mess, which sounds like a stab at alt-radio rock. Opening is Charm and Skypiper. $7, 9 p.m.

Down the street at The Sydney, Fortnight is headlining a show with California Wives and the mighty Talking Mountain. $5, 9 p.m.

And over at O’Leaver’s Yuppies opens for Davila 666 and The Prairies. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Techlepathy celebrates the release of its new CD, Anthem For Future History, on Speed! Nebraska Records. Opening is Mother Pile and Speed! labelmates Ideal Cleaners. $5, 8 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Broken Spindles plays at The Waiting Room with Pharmacy Spirits — one of my favorite Lincoln bands — and Boy Noises featuring new drummer Corey Broman (Dance Me Pregnant, ex-Art in Manila, ex-Little Brazil, ex-Kite Pilot). $7, 9 p.m.

Finally, down at Slowdown Jr. Saturday night, Arts & Crafts recording artist and Milton Ontario natives The Most Serene Republic headline a show with Still Life Still and Omaha’s Adam Weaver and the Ghosts. $8, 9 p.m.

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