There are a lot of reasons why a song called "This Love is Fucking Right!" has emerged as the most talked-about track from Brooklyn's new noise-pop kings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. First and foremost, it's the catchiest single off the band's eponymous debut LP, which arrived to major fanfare in February. Secondly, to the fanzine geeks of the indie-pop community, it's an obvious response to the 1989 Field Mice classic, "This Love Is Not Wrong," making it cooler by association. More than anything, though, people seem really interested in the song's anthemic chorus, during which singer/guitarist Kip Berman proclaims, "You're my sister / And this love is fucking right!"
Apparently, to some misguided listeners, this lyric sounds like a proud celebration of incest. Rather than mocking the perversity of that reading, however, I'll let Mr. Berman set the record straight himself.
"Well, as far as lyrics go, we generally don't like to dictate the meaning that a song has to a listener," he says. "Everyone should be able to have their own feeling about it—there's not really a right or wrong." Kip is not helping his case at the moment. "...But I should add that, yeah, that song is definitely not about incest." (Phew.)
Fact is, the word "sister" has been used figuratively in pop music for ages, so no secret subtext there. However, for those who still need a deeper meaning, "This Love Is Fucking Right!" does have a back-story.
"Well, there's definitely a Field Mice reference in there," Berman says. "I mean, why have a 'love that's not wrong' when you can have a love that's 'fucking right?!' That's kind of the feeling of our band in a nutshell. We're not going to be all apologetic and ask 'is this OK?' We're going to be really affirmative and positive, and if we fall on our faces, that's fine. We'd rather be sincere and emotionally honest."
That philosophy has made The Pains of Being Pure At Heart a perfect addition to Brooklyn's growing noise-pop revival, even though, like their pals Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts, they deny any retro movement. In truth, though, Berman, singer/keyboardist Peggy Wang, bassist Alex Naidus, and drummer Kurt Feldman deserve a lot of credit for paying homage to their influences without shoplifting from them. The touchstones are somewhat obvious—The Field Mice, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Black Tambourine—but the Pains are their own unique force, and they've put together a collection of inspired, memorable tunes.
"Our goal was just to sound like us," Berman says. "We didn't want to be artificial or phony or try to do anything that wasn't natural to us. We just wanted to record these songs that we wrote and loved, and let them stand on their own."
That being said, the Pains didn't hesitate to sign with old-school noise-pop's seminal label, Slumberland, nor could they contain their excitement at having former Black Tambourine and Velocity Girl guitarist Archie Moore mix their album. It's all a part of the delicate line this band walks between 1989 nostalgia and 2009 relevance.
"In the beginning, our standard of success was basically like Black Tambourine—having 12 people care, hopefully very sincerely," Berman says. "So to see the response we're getting now is a huge surprise, but definitely not something we're taking for granted whatsoever."
It should be noted that Black Tambourine sealed its legend by breaking up the moment they got noticed.
"Yeah, band suicide's not really our style," Berman says. "We're having a really great time playing music together, so I wouldn't worry about us!"
This curmudgeon misses 328 Performance Hall everytime I see a show at The Cannery
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