The last time I thought about Pinback was in 2005. And when I say "thought about," I mean sat next to. In a golf cart. This was backstage at the music festival Coachella, where the transport between stages -- or anywhere, really -- was a small, chauffeured buggy. So, en route from perhaps eating lunch to get ready for my own set (playing cello with Bright Eyes) I was riding next to the San Diego duo of vocalist and guitarist Rob Crow and bassist and vocalist Zach Smith, a.k.a., Pinback.
Coachella has a way of bringing people together -- on both sides of the stage -- but I didn't need an introduction to Pinback. For much of late 1999 and 2000, I had their debut, the quietly complex This Is A Pinback CD, on repeat. In the years since, they've put out three more full-length records of layered, pulsating pop, and numerous EPs of slightly more offbeat stuff. I sort of missed Pinback's last release, 2007’s Autumn Of The Seraphs, in the midst of my own short break from the music world. Now, five years later Pinback finally have returned with Information Retrieved. So, what's changed over five years? Not much -- which, at its core, is the beauty of Pinback. This is (still) a Pinback CD.
"Proceed To Memory," the opening (and, after repeated listens, still my favorite) track on the album, is chock full of the band's trademark sound: There are surprising rhythmical turns; melodic and constantly moving bass; choruses of voices overlapping in rounds; Hits of drum machine. There's the occasional chunka-chunka guitar that so defined the mid-aughts emo sound, and here, injects a nice bit of edge. And the quiet emotionalism of lyrics like "Soon all you will have is the memory / and then you won't even have that memory."
There’s so much going on within Pinback that there’s no reason to change from without. But at least one thing did in fact change –- in late 2008, the duo tragically lost a friend and bandmate, Terrin Durfey, to cancer. In the album's acknowledgements, they write: "So much to say. Don't know how to say it. We really miss that guy. Every day."
Sad notes aside, this is not a somber album. Other standouts include the propulsive strings on "True North," and the reaching resolve of "A Request." Then there's the strange and hard-boiled album closer, "Sediment," which tells a pulpy tale: "There is a message from the company / On your way to the park, there is an agent who will greet you / Hand off the plates and go dark." Throughout, Information Retrieved feels familiar -- like picking up with an old friend that after a dozen years knows its formula, but is never formulaic.
Audio is no longer available for this feature. But you can listen to the album's opening track via Soundcloud, below: