Rob Crow and Zack Smith, as Pinback, are dedicated followers of a certain Pacific Northwestern strain of urgent, philosophical indie rock, one that started with Sunny Day Real Estate and coalesced around Modest Mouse and Heatmiser. But the duo doesn’t hail from Olympia or Portland or even Seattle: Crow and Smith are California boys through and through, recreating their favorite sounds on their own terms using their own tools, which means that the climactic choruses and spirit quests of their heroes get artfully mussed up through the filter of Sunshine State shaggy-dog guides Pavement.
They haven’t changed their basic game on their fifth album Information Retrieved, but they’re playing it better than ever. By coming at their often ruminative or ecstatic songs from unexpected angles, Pinback give the finished product a beautifully lopsided feel. The knotty guitars in “Glide” feel imported in from a math-rock tune, but they provide firm ballast for the mass of harmonies to bounce off of, while a mechanical, slightly-too fast drum pattern in “Sherman” pushes the oceans of vocal overdubs forward, giving lyrics about seeking relief through drowning an undercurrent of menace.
But just because Pinback doesn’t give you what you expect doesn’t mean they don’t give you the goods; opener “Proceed To Memory” rides a rubbery bass line to anthemic chorus, which sees Crow yelling “come out of bed,” his every strained plea underlined with a shouted counterpoint and jagged guitar riffs. It a rousing song in a style they’ve made their own: All the smart smart-asses know when to play it straight.