Pinback Information Retrieved(Temporary Residence) Buy it from Insound
If Pinback had released one record and split up, they’d probably have a minor cult following praying for a reunion. What they do is unique and entertaining, and it’s not immediately clear why they sound so distinctive; they’re not trying hard to be clever, which is refreshing. But now they’re on album five, and showing almost no signs of building upon their aesthetics. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there must be plenty of Pinback fans who bemoan the formulaic predictability of pop music, and have already bought this record, and are excusing the fact that every song on it could fit easily onto any other Pinback record.
The only track which really transcends the sum of its parts is Proceed to Memory, which is already my favourite Pinback song – I simply listened to it on repeat while I should have been getting accustomed to the rest of the album. Unpicking it reveals much of the appeal of the band: their taut sense of structure, their flowing, natural ear for harmony, the way they take simple ideas and effortlessly build layers and layers upon them without ever overcomplicating things. It’s especially effective because it boasts the strongest lyrics on the album, with the poignant apex: And soon all you’ll have is the memory / And then you won’t even have that memory.
One strength of this song is that it’s so direct in its subject, reassured by its gorgeous “whoa-oa-oahs” and yelps – and as such, it’s much more arresting than say, lead single Sherman, with its mystifying chorus: I’m afraid your face will drift into the forest, the kind of line that floats into one ear and out of the other. It’s abstract writing, difficult to relate to; while this can be an appealing and challenging attribute of other songwriters, the lyrics across Information Retrieved come across as bland, or even austere, especially on Sediment: There is a message from the company / On the way to the park. It makes a decent closer if you don’t notice its similarity to The Yellow Ones (from their career highlight Summer in Abaddon); it retreads to the point that I was waiting for Rob Crow to break into the melody of the older song.
Perhaps if you’re unaware of their superior earlier work, it’s intriguing in its own right. The jaunty guitar work of Glide or Denslow, You Idiot! is clever but never self-indulgent, like a form of prog which doesn’t demand so much patience. His Phase is another highlight; it is Pinback as their most seductive, with a chorus that would make excellent driving music. There’s a lush string arrangement in True North with dizzyingly effective dips and swells – all of which assures that there are certainly a few points which will stick with you, even if you’ll feel as if you’ve forgotten several songs by the end of the record.
Pinback are curious in their un-trendy cleanness in an indie-rock era more pervasively interested in noise or haziness, but a lot of the time, this album doesn’t do enough to sound much more than merely pleasant. What’s especially frustrating is that Crow is so self-evidently full of musical ideas – his dozens of wide-ranging side-projects attest to this – so one wonders why Pinback consistently fails to develop.5 November, 2012 - 12:54 — Stephen Wragg