Twenty-three years ago, the British music paper NME (New Musical Express) released C86 on cassette, featuring 22 songs by 22 new bands. Soon, music critics started using the term “C86” to describe other bands that featured unschooled voices singing simple melodies along with jangly or distorted guitar. In fact, if you track down the compilation today you might be surprised by how few of the songs really sound like that. Still, the term has come up often over the past couple of years in connection with New York bands like Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. But no New York band has done more to associate itself with the tradition than the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who describe themselves on their website as being a cross between the Pastels and Black Tambourine. Both of those are relatively obscure reference points, but never mind. What’s really important is that nothing on the C86 tape, and precious few of the C86-inspired acts to come along after it, have been anywhere near as good as the Pains of Being Pure of Heart.
POBPAH have the slightly fey male-female vocals and fuzzy guitars you might expect from seeing their list of influences. They hit all the bases of anglophilic indie pop, from the revved-up rockers about sunny days to the hazy ballads set to a Phil-Spector-by-way-of-the-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain beat. Their lyrics also show the mix of childlike naïveté and dirty mindedness you might expect from their twee name. So far, predictable. But POBPAH’s powerful rhythm section and songwriting chops make them much more than a revival act. Their debut full-length is the best album I’ve heard this year.
Cymbals Eat Guitars and Depreciation Guild also perform.
THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART: The Casbah, Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m. $12 advance; $14 day of show. 619-232-4355.