The term ‘indie’ is obsolete, as dead as Amy Winehouse’s ability to perform brilliantly and sober. Brit-pop, the vacant landfill guitar bands that followed and the media can be targeted as the culprits responsible for laddishly bludgeoning the genre to a sad death. Or so you could be led to believe if you’ve followed or read about music models, fashions and trends over the last few years.
Yet reports of this death are over exaggerated. Fashion and pop music are inextricably linked. As soon as one goes out you can almost guarantee that somewhere, under the radar, there will be new kids on the block stirring up their own palette of ideas. Right now it seems this mix is surfacing again. Indie is back. The concept of truly independent - verging on artily elitist - self-released music on non-commercial formats such as cassette and 7” vinyl is being embraced by a new bunch of creatives – from Mirror Universe Tapes to Transparent, who successfully operate with the use of the internet. There’s also a whole crop of bands that are creating music that fits the old-fashioned, nostalgic indie ideal – groups making music that words such as hazy, dreamy, distorted, d-i-y and lo-fi are designed for. Still Corners, Yuck and Memoryhouse are just three of these bands that we’ve featured on the blog. It’s a bit C86 all over again.
Of course some would say that this music has always been there and that in the last few years the media drew a curtain across it. Whilst this may be true, it does seem that there are an undeniably good number of bands of this nature at the moment. At this rate it won’t be long before all the cooler NME reading kids are ditching their plastic sunglasses, colourful t-shirts and over-excitable love of bands such as Vampire Weekend, Klaxons and We Are Scientists – and regressing back to a world where black is the new black and any other colour really just won’t do.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart fit perfectly into this wave of indie. Let’s call it ‘new-indie’ for want of a better name, even although it’s really just old indie that got forgotten for a while. Their sound is a consistent vat of buzzing guitars and thin vocals, with every song clocking in around three minutes. After a flat and lacklustre first song, 103 amps things skywards, scorching guitars burning the slackness away, and from thereon in every track the band play is zestful, joyous and surprisingly muscular. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart may sometimes have a jangly lightness to them and Kip Berman’s softly indistinct and muffled vocals don‘t help, but their trebly guitar sound is a supersaturated noise that brings dreamy distant smiles across faces. The cynics will complain that every song sounds the same (they’re probably right) but when something is beautiful, why disfigure it?
The band clearly enjoys the reaction that they get from the audience as well, particularly on Come Saturday and Young Adult Friction where celebratory cheers ring out as the first notes chime. Brighton may be a supposedly hip and cool city, but tonight the crowd are having fun with plenty of dancing and on the spot jigging. Kip picks out one particular individual near the front - a colourfully attired dude in a pink baseball cap and shades - who is grooving like he’s having the time of his life. He may not have subscribed to the old school indie fashion sense, but his musical appreciation is right there.
“We went to the beach today. We’re not really a surf rock band,” Kip says to the crowd. They may not be surf rock, but their tight-knit old fashioned indie rock is plenty good enough. Sharply intoxicating, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart showed Brighton that indie is still alive and kicking. Old indie or new indie ? Who cares as long as it's good.