A couple of years ago The Pains of Being released their eponymously titled debut LP and with it opened the floodgates for semi-twee revivals of the shoegaze genre that was popularised in the late 80s and early 90s. It was an LP filled with sixth form love and lust, and just the right tinge of melancholy to keep an adult audience gripped. So on their sophomore effort has tampering with their sound slightly detracted from their charm?
In short, the answer is a simple maybe. Belong definitely sounds like their debut – all fuzzy vocals and lyrics taken from the doodled-on notebook of an innocent college kid – yet their securely beefier, more mature sound is a nice surprise for those who thought their debut was all fuzz, no real volume. Opener ‘Belong’ proves that little tweaks make a huge difference, a difference that carries through on to ‘Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now’ and standout track ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’.
That melancholy feel is also maintained in the really rather sad middle section of the album which isn’t afraid to wear it’s heart on it’s sleeve.
Unfortunately, some of this gets blended together in a slight mess on the second half of the album: it’s like an Eton Mess with a dodgy meringue. ‘Even In Dreams’, the album’s second single, turns out to be the LP’s most irksome song. It is in this moment only when you can’t help but see some truth in the NME’s claim that the album is smug and pretentious: ‘Dreams’ thinks it’s a much greater and powerful pop song than it really is. The sad truth is that it’s a bit wet, and just a little bit too childish, setting a slightly disappointing precedent for the album’s second half.
Had ‘Belong’ been an EP comprised of the magical first half of the album then it would undoubtedly have been one of the EPs of the year – this is what makes The Pains of Being so frustrating. You can love them one minute or wonder what the heck they’re doing the next. This makes ‘Belong’ something of a mixed bag that’s still well worth taking a punt on… Providing you can stomach some of the sicklier moments on offer here.