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Pinback

Complex Yet Catchy

For a band that began as an afterthought - a side project recorded on a home computer - Pinback has made a pretty remarkable imprint on the indie rock world. They are one of those artists music-types have always "heard of", even if they haven't actually heard them. This may be partially due to a great band name that sticks on the brain. (I looked it up: pinbacks are little buttons used mainly for advertising and featuring quirky slogans. They are collectors' items for those who like such things, though I'm not sure if the band is named after them or not.)

Name recognition aside, Pinback built its reputation through deliciously quirky yet accessible pop albums and entertaining live shows, which have developed a cult following of sorts. Landing a gig at venerable Bimbo's is a testament to their burgeoning popularity. Pinback grew up in the well-connected San Diego scene. Group founders Armistead Burwell Smith IV (yes, that's his real name) and Rob Crow, played with local bands like 3 Mile Pilot, Thingy and Heavy Vegetable before forming their own partnership and creating Pinback. With well-established connections and impressive resumes already in place, the group took off immediately. Their self-titled debut was a critical success and they have since released an EP and two other well-received albums, including 2003's Offcell.

Pinback's music is best described as intelligent pop- the lyrics are smart, the song structures are complex and they don't shy away from subtle layers of weirdness, so the music itself feels original. At the same time, Smith and Crow are songwriters with ears for the pop pulse, and they wrap it all up in catchy melodies, dual vocals, swirling electronics and shiny guitar parts that leave you strumming and humming all day. Similar to contemporaries like The Shins or Yo La Tengo, Pinback manages to be addictive while maintaining a relatively slower pace. What these bands share is an ability to create songs that are appealing simply because they are consistently interesting. Your attention holds steady to see what will happen next.

Smith and Crow both play multiple instruments and each contribute vocals to Pinback's canon. They are the types of singers who aren't necessarily blessed with naturally beautiful voices, but the sounds come out sweet and pretty just the same. The backing music helps, as do the gentle melancholic undertones. Most importantly, the duo are accomplished and versatile musicians, and their vast knowledge and understanding of music allow them to be so inventive. Smith and Crow are both able to scratch records and play guitar, bass, keyboards and cello, among others. Since Pinback's inception, drummer Tom Zinser was recruited and officially joined the band as the third member.

It can be challenging to take music of this type and translate it to the stage effectively, but Pinback has a reputation for engaging shows that keep the audience involved. It's another testament to the band's creativity and ability, not to mention a great reason to head to Bimbo's for the opportunity to see a unique band in its prime.