Pinback has a unique style all their own. They formed in 1998 and over the course of fourteen years, their sound has remained very distinctly Pinback. It hasn’t changed. This can be viewed as either negative or positive depending on how you look at it. Positive, that a band has been able to stay true to their original sound for so long, but perhaps negative that their sound has not evolved all that much. I often look for a fresh experience with new music, but there are certain favorite bands that I hope will never stray too far from their original place in my musical heart. For Pinback fans, this continuation of their distinct sound may be just what they are looking for, namely more of the same kind of Pinback they know and appreciate.
Pinback’s fifth studio album, Information Retrieved, kicks off with a jangly guitar riff followed by an electronic drumbeat and Rob Crow’s whispery vocals. This first track, “Proceed To Memory,” takes its time building and eventually peaks with some angsty ohs layered behind the chorus, wrapped up with the line “Try to forget you, no.” The theme of forgetting and memory is consistent throughout Information Retrieved, and well represented by the title if we consider memories as information that has been filed away in our brains and then retrieved in order to reflect. However, the album title is not a warm or even human representation of memory, but rather a detached and cold description of a process that is perhaps the most personal experience a person may have with oneself. This detachment in the title is fitting, as the feel of this record is wintry cold. The mood throughout the album is one that reflects a feeling of loss. Dissonant guitars combine with longing vocals to create a rather bleak and robotic atmosphere.
There is a melodic charm to this record that relies on the layering and building of vocals in a brick by brick/revolving door kind of way. One line is laid down and then joined by a counter melody just as it begins its second revolution. Then more voices are piled on in a crescendo of emotional oohs and repeated statements, most notably found at the end of “Proceed To Memory,” and “His Phase.”
Despite this pleasant vocal escalation, Information Retrieved does start to blend together after a few songs in. It is not until the second to last track, “Denslow, You Idiot!,” that there is a notable change of pace. This song’s upbeat and idiosyncratic drums drive this song into my favorite songs of the album category. It grooves on a 6/8 time signature and has a fun, bouncy kind of movement. The album moves toward the end in this more upbeat spirit with the song, “Sediment.” IR’s final track starts with a surprise hip hop style drumbeat over which I expect to hear Biggie Smalls enter with some lyrical spout about being stuck in the game. Once I am over this however, this song develops into one of the album’s best. It features an uplifting chorus with flowing piano over which Crow sings, “There is a message from the company/On your way to the park/There is an agent who will greet you.” The only cathartic feeling moment on the record lies here at the end. There is hopefulness in the vocals that perhaps this message reaches its intended recipient and effectively communicates meaning in one functional and rare instance. For most of the record it feels like, “information hard to deal with and being mulled over.” The change happens when a second subject enters the song lyrics. Before this point, events take place in the narrator’s mind. We hear repeated phrases about memories, thoughts, and dreams. In the end, however there is finally someone else around to make that retrieval transaction, and they are nice because they greet you.
Information Retrieved is over all a good album, but I am hard pressed to say much else about it. As a new release on its own it fails to impress as something fresh that treads on territory previously unexplored. Pinback has kept their sound together and created their very own niche in the spirit of a true independent band. There is something nice about the kind of nostalgia this record evokes. For nostalgia to exist however, there must first be a history. Pinback has a well-established history and that is why this new record works for them.