Too quirky for emo, too mellow for punk and too underproduced for the mainstream, Pinback belongs in an honorable league with Joan of Arc, American Football and Death Cab For Cutie. Like these bands, Pinback sounds deceptively simple with their clean, jangly guitars, unembellished production and lyrics by way of rhythmic poetry.
Listen to all of this closely; there’s a lot of depth to Pinback. Perhaps, of the aforementioned groups, only American Football is more intricate. As we speak, even more bands (Pedro the Lion, The New Year) are gaining notoriety by playing similar music and the truth is there’s enough room for all of them to coexist. The reason: None of them (especially not Joan of Arc) has made an entire album of essential music and until one of them does, it’s open season for anyone who comes close.
Pinback got precariously close on their self-titled debut, which most closely resembled Death Cab For Cutie with more vocal and rhythmic idiosyncrasies and less guitar multitracking. The effect was a less intense, almost danceable version of emo, and a bit more variety might have made the album indispensable.
The new Blue Screen Life is an equally noble effort, and yet it falls just short in almost the same exact way. The band (actually a duo) has tightened up a bit since Pinback , but the songwriting hasn’t shifted much at all, which, all told, is probably a good thing. The high points (“X I Y,” “Prog”) are wonderful, and the weakest moments (“Your Sickness”) are nothing worse than innocuous. Everything here is worth a serious listen, but none of it should make you trade in your American Football CDs (assuming that you own any).
Fans looking to discover Pinback would be well suited to buy either album. They’re both solid efforts that flourish with repeated listening. Serious fans should own both and play them back to back. You’ll hear what could have been a stellar double album but instead will endure just fine as two separate, but equally worthy, releases. And if some brave soul were to combine the best of Pinback with highlights from a few of their musical peers -watch out. Then we venture into the essential. nyou