During the recording of their latest release, I imagine Pinback’s Armistead Burwell Smith (aka Zach) making this comment to bandmate Rob Crow, “Set a steady course straight ahead, captain.”
While both core members busy themselves with a vast quantity of eccentric side projects, Pinback records have remained remarkably consistent in their construction and sound. Each new release seems to refine and improve on previous recordings. A Pinback record always sounds unmistakably like Pinback – densely layered and thoughtfully constructed college radio pop.
The band’s songs also have a somewhat linear quality to them – once they start, you can guess where they’re going. In this sense, Autumn of the Seraphs is less about breaking new ground and more about artists mastering their craft.
The record opens with the upbeat single “From Nothing to Nowhere,” a desperate pop gem complete with intertwining vocal harmonies. Later, they return to familiar, subdued material such as “Torch” and “Walters,” which crawls along casually, finally climaxing in an epic peak at the two minute and forty-five second mark. “How We Breathe,” with its electronic drum sequencing and repetitive bass, nearly qualifies as hip-hop, if not for the floating, angelic vocal line.
Lyrically, Crow and Smith combine personal observations with what seems to be an obsession with all things nautical. The line “I become consumed by desire, and I can feel the depths of the ocean,” from “Subbing for Eden” is sung with such conviction that you believe this man is horny and can calculate fathoms off the top of his head. The repetitive chorus “it’s good to see you, it’s good to see you go” from “Good to Sea,: seems to be about telling a lover off, until you notice the title’s spelling.
There’s nothing mind-blowing or surprising here, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. New listeners will enjoy Seraphs’ instantly catchy pop accessibility, while veteran fans can bask in the warm familiarity. Everything’s solid on this ship. Prepare for departure. – (6.8/10)
Pinback play Seattle’s Showbox SoDo on Monday, October 22.