The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are a go-to indie-pop band. They deliver solid album after solid album of fidgety indie that sounds like Belle and Sebastian’s jittery offspring. They rarely take risks and that shows once again on Hell, the follow-up to last year’s Days of Abandon. Hell is painfully short, but brings out The Pains…’s best moments on the sweet ‘Hell’ with two covers – ‘Ballad of the Band’ by Felt and ‘Laid’ by James. If it seems short and lacking in original songs, that’s because it is. Hell is a fan’s collection, but doesn’t deserve the status of EP as it comes off more like the extras of a deluxe album (something that the Pains already did on Days of Abandon). However, as a stopgap between Days of Abandon and whatever the band decide to do next, it will be a breath of relief for any hardcore Pains fans.
‘Hell’ and ‘Ballad of the Band’s vocals are taken on by Kip Berman, whose Stuart Murdoch-isms are still apparent, but Jen Goma takes over on ‘Laid’ which is a refreshing change as her vocal style is more untamed than Berman’s. The lyrics on ‘Laid’ are almost funny coming from the Pains as they are a band that are so much more emotional than physical that lyrics like ‘This bed is on fire with passionate love / the neighbours complain about the noises above’ are a quirky sidestep from ‘Hell’. If Berman was singing ‘Laid’, it would probably come off more awkwardly, but Goma’s wilder vocals work very well. ‘Hell’, on the other hand, is all Pains. The brittle guitar combined with the funk bassline makes it the most danceable song on Hell. It could get repetitive after a while, but it breaks up over the dreamy chorus and comes back with handclaps. It’s such a joyous song that the next two middling covers are almost balanced out by it.
Hell is a glamorised single with cover b-sides, but will tide over any fan wanting some material while the band play around for their next album. ‘Hell’, the song, is the reason to listen to the EP, with its simple beginnings developing into a song that incorporates brass and handclaps into the later parts and the guitar resonating throughout. If there’s any reason to listen past ‘Hell’, it’s Goma’s interpretation of ‘Laid’, which evolves her first input on Days of Abandon into an even more integral part of the group after joining the band prior to Days… Not an essential listen by any means, but a fun one.
Funnel Recommends: Hell