It’s hard to believe that it has been four years since we covered The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. A lot has happened at Brumlive and in our local scene since then, and I walked in to the Rainbow wondering how things had changed for the band, particularly in light of their recent Days of Abandon album, with its more polished style and the arty, idiosyncratic videos that accompanied it.
On the face of it not much has changed: a smallish venue in Birmingham, an excited, knowledgeable crowd and a sweaty claustrophobic atmosphere, caused in part by The Rainbow Courtyard and its peculiar shape and size.
In today’s congested music world there can be a temptation to change for the sake of it, to compromise music at the expense of exposure. I’ve never seen The Pains in that light, and tonight they confirmed my feeling that in front man Kip Berman in particular they have someone who values his song-writing and his collaborations and sticks to his guns.
That’s not to say he has allowed thing to stand still. There have been a few line-up changes and the addition of Jen Goma, lately of cosmopolitan shoe-gazers A Sunny Day In Glasgow, has added a new dimension to the live performance. Having someone else share the vocal duties changes the focus of the band and it seemed to me that Kip was a bit more relaxed than usual because of this. They are an excellent band with a distinctive sound and he is a key part of that. They can rock a place out without bursting eardrums, which is fine because it is important to hear everything that they do.
I like volume. Loudness is good; except where it obliterates the music. I’m pretty sure that the vocals for local openers Gleam are pointed, atmospheric and an integral part of the music. I know this because I’ve heard their stuff. So why did some Feedback Phil decide to turn it up to 11 and make the whole thing a mess? Singer Jake was having to scream to hear himself. Mr Sound Man – go and see Mogwai live my friend, and learn how very loud and very good can be achieved. People around me were blaming the venue but I think that missed the point. I hope it wasn’t second support syndrome.
From what I could hear I liked Gleam’s songs and I will be looking for them again. Special mention should be given to the young couple in the audience, maybe friends of the band, who leapt around during every tune while everyone else stood and stared clutching their beers.
Victories At Sea had no such issues. Their sound is one honed over a few years and many more gigs. On the face of it their stuff is dance music, but with a twist. Imagine Erasure-style beats and loops but then add a darker, almost post rock element. In a way they remind me of the later Film School sound, which is weird as singer/guitarist JP also seems to have Dave Dupuis’ quirky dance moves. They are much loved by one particular member of our Brumlive team and I can see why. They have been going for a while now and should be bigger than some other Birmingham bands I could mention.
The place was full by the time Kip and his friends had completed the group hug and opened up with Until The Sun Explodes. All three of their albums were represented with personal favourites Heart In Your Heartbreak and Belong on show, the latter finishing the set. Fans still have a soft spot for the first eponymous album with Young Adult Friction and Come Saturday going down really well.
Jen took the lead for Everything With You and her backing vocals on other songs were much more prominent in the mix. She adds something extra to the band so it will be interesting to see if she is a permanent fixture. The later songs sound more polished and less dependent on Kip’s influences, a process that started with the Belong album, but you can’t hide them for ever.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kip a few years ago and he was absolutely wild about Lawrence Hayward, Denim and particularly Felt. So for The Pains tribute to Birmingham they played a cover of a song from the “Best Brummie Band ever”, Ballad Of The Band. There may be a few who dispute that but Felt were certainly the most criminally underrated band from our neck of the woods.
Belong closed the encore and another enjoyable night with “The Pains”. They are hugely popular but still seem pleasantly surprised when people sing along, get dancing or show the love; Kip making a point of thanking everyone for what was basically just having a good time! No — thank YOU Kip.
Until The sun Explodes
Heart In Your Heartbreak
Simple and Sure
Young Adult Friction
Life After Life
Everything With You
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Ballad of the Band
Review: Ian Gelling
Photographs: Stephanie Colledge