Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs

Autumn of the Seraphs

Pinback’s new full-length effort, entitled Autumn of the Seraphs, released on September 11th. For those of you who are not anticipating this album or are not familiar with Pinback’s catalogue, I would like to offer you a few tidbits of aggressive advice: get excited. Quit wasting your time with the paradoxically brand-spanking-new-yet-already-played-out hipster/indie bands, and learn to appreciate Pinback. Listen to Nautical Antiques, a 2006 compilation of rarities, non-released tracks, and B-sides from the band’s earlier years. Even if it takes stealing money from a stereotypical innocent victim, purchase this album! (I’ll leave the particulars unspecified, but virtually anyone can become configured as ‘victimized’ these days, so there are plenty of targets.)

Too authoritarian? Offensive? Proselytizing? Perhaps. But how else am I supposed to convey to you that this album is not only the band’s most solid and consummate release to date, not merely one of the most veritable albums 2007 has delivered to us – but also, truly, one of the top albums in the past five years of indie rock history? And, in a certain way, it makes sense. Why shouldn’t a band follow up an assortment of rarities and dated tracks with their magnum opus?

With Autumn of the Seraphs, Pinback upgrades their already airtight syncopation in such a way that eludes all logic: how does a band record an album in a home studio and have it wind up sounding as if it were created in a space bag?

The initial track, “From Nothing to Nowhere”, churns along at a strenuous pace – something that might come as a surprise to long-time Pinback listeners, who are used to encountering speedy renditions of Pinback songs only at live shows and never on produced records. This track and the next, “Barnes”, feature some of the more inventive and funky riffs/beats, while the next two assemble a unity with the cool, submerged feeling Pinback songs have always been known to carry. Occasionally, the lyrics burst through to the surface and confront the listener:

“It’s really not that kind / to terrorize one in one’s sleep / And if you really tried / you’ve probably cut the chase too deep / It seems to me that that’s a fine way / to keep you off your feet / There seems to be no other side / for the two ideas to meet. It’s good to see you / It’s good to see you go. Oh no, I’ve hit rock bottom.” (From “Good to Sea”)

“It’s how we breath underwater / Kick it right out of frame. Does it matter? Here where we drive into the same old park / Here we’ll be so insistent / Off the mark.” (From “How We Breathe”)

Many of the songs introduce unique aspects that are reprised into the layered, haunting choruses closing each track. In turn, many of the verses hammer directly towards the center of the psyche, quite efficaciously forming melodies which I find myself humming or whistling as I roam the streets of San Francisco.

Pinback collects two tried and tested lead members, namely Rob Crow (the Vegan musician-extraordinaire also released a solo-album entitled Living Well on Temporary Residence earlier in 2007) and Zach (aka Armistead Burwell Smith IV), an artist who became fairly well-known for his other band, Three Mile Pilots, which may also be releasing an album this year.

If I were forced to choose the weakest song, I would probably select “Bouquet”, a lengthier and quieter song towards the end of the album reminiscent of Radiohead. As an avid Radiohead fan, I intend this comment as yet another compliment – after all, one can marshal comparisons which are a lot more rude than that of Radiohead.