Consistency can be a double edged sword. Some will extol it as a virtue, a workman's approach to one's craft, refining and improving a specific template, sound or set of ideas. Others will decry it, arguing it exhibits a lack of imagination, a refusal to take risks, at worst equating it with stagnation and lack of growth. It's a term that has oft been levelled at Pinback throughout their 13 year career – predominately as praise, but occasionally with disdain.
Ultimately, it may boil down to whether you liked them or not in the first place as to which context you'd use the term in relation to their fifth full-length Information Retrieved. But even the most ardent of fans may find themselves somewhat irked to be given essentially the same album, from the same band for the fourth time.
Despite its five year gestation period little has been added or detracted to Pinback's signature sound. It's still mid-tempo, gentle indie-rock complete with programmed drums, dual vocals and songs that softly swell and recede rather than rise and fall. The most obvious stylistic departure is their decision to discard the seasonal themed titling present on their previous records, 2004's Summer In Abaddon and 2007's Autumn Of The Seraphs - not exactly an apostasy. In short, it's business as usual.
Opener 'Proceed to Memory' exhibits Rob Crow and Zach Smith's vocal interplay with plenty of 'woah-ohs' and faded shouts over a bed of rolling, programmed percussion and gentle chiming riffs. It's one of the more dynamic tracks present, yet still feels determinedly placid. 'Glide' opens with a chirpy riff but fails to find its footing, drifting aimlessly through a toothless bridge and chorus. The most violent thing about 'Denslow, You Idiot!' is its punctuation and closer 'Sediment' fails to do anything interesting with its length – at five minutes long you'd have thought they could have at least ended the record with some perfunctory post-rock climax or extended jam, anything at all to provide the slightest bit of variation. But no, it fades away indifferently in another wave of soft vocal harmonies and gentle percussion.
You could argue I'm attacking the very things that make Pinback special. I'd argue these things aren't special, that others do them better. Stars Of Track And Field imbued an admirable amount of dynamism and tenderness into their electronica tinged 'Centuries Before Love And War' and The Shins embody American indie rock purity as fully as Pinback, but actually write memorable, diverse songs. Pinback's oft admired consistency is little more than treading water. Fourth track 'Sherman' finds Crow asking “Is there another side to your story?/Is there something you're not telling me?”. Turning the question back on Pinback themselves elucidates a depressing response; no.
4John Watt's Score