I’m glad that Being There released their debut album Breaking Away in June, because had it come out between November and March, I would’ve forgotten it quite quickly. Not because the LP isn’t good – it is – but because Being There’s sound is so suited to summer, I can’t imagine listening to Breaking Away and being cold.
Breaking Away is the band’s third release on the Young and Lost Club label, the four-piece having come out with a double a-side back in October and the single ’17′ more recently this April. If you took Pavement, and replaced Steve Malkmus with Peggy Wang and Kip Berman from the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, you might come close to achieving a Being There sound. But if you were between the ages of 18 and 25 in the ’90s, and were given the choice of listening to Breaking Away or Slanted and Enchanted, you’d probably choose the Pavement album. In other words, Breaking Away is ’90s music for kids who’ve come of age in the ’00s.
At first glance, Breaking Away seems to be self-consciously intellectual. I was initially concerned – when I saw there was a track called “Allen Ginsberg” – that this album would try too hard to be smart; but actually, it’s trying much harder to be hazy. It’s this combination of intelligence and haziness that lends itself well to a Pavement comparison.
‘Punch the Clock’, the album’s opening track, is also one of its strongest. The aforementioned single, ’17′ – a nice little jam about being, erm, 17 – is also a standout. ‘Allen Ginsberg’ isn’t as painful as expected, perhaps because the song’s namesake receives only a brief mention. ‘Silent Runners’ clocks in as the longest track on Breaking Away and is also the album’s best, with a texture that the other songs lack, mostly down to a moment halfway through when the guitar riffs and vocals evaporate into trembling echoes, only to regain their solidity a minute later.
Most of Breaking Away’s lyrics focus on the experience of being young, and there’s an elegiac undertone to their writing that echoes the band’s labelmates and touring partners Noah and the Whale. The album ends on a good, if melancholy, note with ‘Up.’ “You’re still here, though I try to forget/How it’s one night or it’s heartbreak instead.” ‘Up’ is less about moving in a positive direction than it is about giving up.
Breaking Away definitely falls into the category of seasonal listen. This isn’t to say the album is fluff – it succeeds at intelligence in spite of its own self-consciousness – but it’d be doing Being There a disservice to listen to the album in the winter. Come November, I might reassess and conclude that it is, in fact, actually an excellent soundtrack for a snuggle session with my heater, but for now I’ll just recline and enjoy its summer haze.