In 2004, Pinback last left us summering in Abbadon, whiling away the holiday in abysmal depths, if you were to believe the title anyway. In reality, Summer in Abaddon was no more hellish than any of the band’s prior records, the main difference being slightly crisper production, but certainly no gut-wrenching metal sounds—those were saved for Rob Crow’s side-project, Goblin Cock. Three years on, with Crow and songwriting partner Zach Smith having spent some time outside the band, Pinback reconvenes with another seasonal turn, Autumn of the Seraphs, which is, likewise, no more angelic than one might suspect from the San Diego troupe.
Autumnal, however, is one of the most apt adjectives one can place on Pinback’s style. For a group that emerged from a town with year-round sunshine, they seem to evoke a sort of maturity and metamorphosis, a breezy chill and somber sensibility. With Autumn of the Seraphs, there is a bit more muscle throughout the record, as No Knife drummer Chris Prescott and Rocket From The Crypt drummer Mario Rubalcaba (or Ruby Mars to you RFTC fans) lend their talents to the record’s tightly wound indie pop. This is instantly noticeable with the leadoff single “From Nothing to Nowhere,” an immediate and insistent album opener that takes the familiar Pinback sound and beefs it up into full-blown rock.
“Barnes” is jerky and syncopated, rhythmic lines of punchy bass and clean-tone guitar playing a game of tug-of-war only to lead up to a gentle chorus. “Walters” finds the band floating in a light, ambient haze, building slowly with subtle tones and lightly tapped percussion, while the patient ear is soon jolted back to life with a harsh, dense bridge driven by clamorous guitar and elegant piano. The odd rhythms in “Subbing For Eden” are oddly funky, particularly given who we’re talking about here, yet the chorus becomes triumphant and powerful, all without much of an escalation in volume.
“Devil You Know” throbs with the guitar interplay that Pinback is known for, and does quite well, I might add. The riff in “Blue Harvest” is awfully catchy, and the song itself has one of the best hooks in their entire discography—strike that, three of them. It’s a prime example of Pinback’s current plateau; they haven’t done much to fuck with the methods that have made them a household name. Rather, they’ve given to polishing them, brightening them, and catalyzing them into some magnificent songs. All that’s left for them to do is finish the trilogy a la Blur’s “Modern Life” albums or Kanye West’s college trilogy, and release Winter in Purgatory.
Modest Mouse – The Moon and Antarctica
The Police – Ghost in the Machine
Folk Implosion – One Part Lullaby
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.