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With The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Kurt Feldman mines the early 1990s sounds of shoegazing and indie-pop. On his new project, The Ice Choir, Feldman sets the wayback machine for a half-decade or so earlier and revisits the sounds of the mid-‘80s. If he has very many more projects up his sleeve, chances are he’ll end up in a doo-wop band at some point.
Feldman’s interest in the ‘80s isn’t a huge surprise, given that prior to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart he was a member of (previously featured trio) The Depreciation Guild. That outfit used video game technology to work up an unlikely mix of shoegazing and early ‘80s synth-pop, a combination that oughtn’t have worked but defied the odds and did so wondrously. So Feldman is no stranger to the sounds of the Reagan/Thatcher era.
However, with The Depreciation Guild, Feldman was messing around with an ‘80s style that no one has much problem with. With The Ice Choir, he’s plunged headlong into the side of the ‘80s that no one wants to admit to liking – the post-Duran Duran, MTV-ready last gasps of New Wave. Listening to The Ice Choir is to hear echoes of “Something About You” by Level 42, “No Promises” by Icehouse, “Wishing (A Photograph of You)” by A Flock of Seagulls, “If You Leave” by OMD, Voices Carry” by Til Tuesday, “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo, and “True” by Spandau Ballet.
These are bands that have been pop culture’s whipping boys for most of the last decade, exemplars of the dreaded “’80s production sound” derided by learned minds in all the scholarly music rags. And now here’s Kurt Feldman sounding like all those bands, without a hint of the ironic distance that one would come to expect from a hip young artist these days. “I Want You Now and Always” is the sound of a man who’s chosen to sound like Paul Young because he dearly loves the idea of sounding like Paul Young.
For that, I applaud him. I’ve long thought dismissing any given era as being intrinsically uncool or cheesy is silly, as well as short-sighted, since in pop music, whatever goes around is destined to come around again – it’s only a matter of time. But I applaud him even more for not only daring to sound like Paul Young and being absolutely sincere about it, but for nailing the sound perfectly.
“I Want You Now and Always” would sound perfect on a Hits of the ’80s compilation, sitting proudly alongside the songs mentioned in that earlier paragraph. For approaching an era that many choose to snicker at with a pure heart instead, Feldman has created a gorgeous, heartfelt track that does honor to his inspirations as well as himself. It’s a sparkling tribute to an era I love as unironically as Feldman seems to.
Click here to listen to Afar on Spotify.