It’s as though you’re hearing it for the first time.
This phrase can easily be applied to Information Retrieved, the fifth album from California’s own Pinback. However, in most cases, this description serves as a compliment to an adventurous album with too many details to fully take in without repeated listens. A sample here, a lyric there, a dig in the background, an extra cymbal crash buried deep in the mix. Unfortunately, every listen to Pinback’s latest record is so forgettable due to its insistence on treading familiar ground track after track that you may as well have never heard it at all.
Information Retrieved’s production is set to “Linkin Park”, minus “Mike Shinoda rapping”, plus “subdued Chester Bennington,” which is evident early on in the bro-worthy track “Sherman”. With its generic piano/keyboard notes and lifeless vocals, courtesy of Rob Crow, you half expect to hear “Crawling in my skin” by the time the chorus arrives, but instead we get “I’m afraid that your face might drift into the forest.” Piano drives the slow-tempo “Drawstring” and “Diminished”, with the latter calling to mind The Beta Band’s Hot Shots II album. Crow and multi-instrumentalist Zach Smith are too content with building off others’ brands to do anything too adventurous, whether they realize it or not.
The album has a couple of moments worth recalling. Opening track “Proceed to Memory” reflects guitar, bass, and vocals off one another, with beats both electronic and man-made providing the undercurrent. At the song’s conclusion, studio magic delivers a four-part harmony with passionate vocals by Crow. There’s a fire throughout the song that most of Information Retrieved lacks, as though someone threw a towel over the remainder of the proceedings to stop it from spreading. “His Phase” is a Sting vocal away from being featured on some alternate timeline’s Synchronicity, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Andy Summers was credited for guitar on the song. Wearing the heart on the sleeve works well here for Pinback; the song has a picked-up beat much of the remaining record lacks.
After such pleasantries, the inevitable listing of brutal truths must now come. Exhibit A brings us “True North”, a track that retreats to that laid-back vibe that possesses/terrorizes tracks like “Sherman”. Its refrain of “This is the number/ Please look it over/ Everything else is/ Just a distracter” is sure to call any seashell-necklace-wearing crowd out of a drunken stupor with its phoned-in string arrangement. Exhibit B is “Glide”, which buries its guitar beneath Phil Collins-by-way-of-311 production (the mind boggles), lacking any bite with its lackluster riff. To Pinback’s credit, they’re able to create a full-band sound with only two players at the helm, but when that sound is limited to a line that goes from Point A to Point B (or track one to track 10) with little to no change, that hard work tends to go unnoticed or unappreciated.
Pinback’s cultish fan base has swelled over the past five years, mounting with anticipation for a new full-length release, and maybe the devoted will be satisfied. It’s easier for the hardcore supporters to swallow what they’ve been fed when it isn’t up to snuff. Apart from a couple positive notices, nothing here matches the creative flourishes painted on the band’s previous album, Autumn of the Seraphs. Remember “Blue Harvest”, with its occasional guitar bursts and energy — the verse/ chorus/ harmonies bleeding into each other? All Information Retrieved provides is leaking creative inertia.
Essential Tracks: “Proceed to Memory”, “His Phase”