Review Summary: With a penchant for safe, simple indie pop structures, Pinback fail to deliver anything innovative, emotional, or very memorable. The record is consistent. Unfortunately, it's consistently average.
Pinback like to make, for a lack of better wording, pretty music. Their latest release, Autumn Of The Seraphs, thrives on delightful pop melodies, regular drum rhythms, and the intertwining vocals of Crow and Smith. This album takes up where their latest release left off but disappointingly failed to create anything inspiring out of it, ending up with an eleven track album that sounds just like what you would have predicted having heard their last album; safe, melody-based indie pop songs.
Don't let the album opener fool you, the energetic "From Nothing to Nowhere" is about as up beat as the album gets, with repeating vocals layered nicely over a solid, upbeat guitar melody. The vocals are produced to have an ethereal effect, making the vocal dueling of Crow and Smith even more fluid and enjoyable. The almost-staccato guitar makes a smooth transition from the opener to the next track, "Barnes", which rides a funky bass line and a great song climax (one of the only evident build-ups in the album) straight into the album highlights list. "How We Breathe" has a slower pace, using the regulated beat of a drum machine, and progresses from soft, deep vocals to a more upbeat falsetto chorus which contrasts the verse. The true surprise of the album comes in album closer, however, "Off by 50", which sounds nothing like anything Pinback has done before. This doesn't make it the best song on the album but it helps make it a definite highlight. The songs emanates a confident swagger, combining an anthemic style (heard in the shouted backing vocals), a sludgy guitar, and even a hint of strings at the ending.
In between the opening and closing highlights lies a band consistently failing to create songs that bare any lasting impact on the listener. "Good to Sea" is the most straight forward pop song, with a friendly electronic keyboard melody and a mid-tempo chorus. Once the final note of the song diminishes it is instantly forgettable, which is one of the key flaws of many of the lower quality songs on the album. Songs like "Walters" and "Subbing for Eden" drag on and end up sounding lazy, as well as ruining the flow that the first part of the album did so well to build. "Devil You Know" and "Blue Harvest" attempt to recapture the more flowing vibe of the first part again but the formers brooding guitar riff and the latters odd yet catchy quick and articulated verse both make the songs bearable but still nothing better then average. There lies another key issue that hinders any chance of musical progression in the band.
Relying on safe melodies and simple pop structures can help a band make a consistent record but if consistently average proves anything it is that the band are either too afraid to experiment with more complex sounds or they are just unwilling. In the end, many of the unmemorable songs on the record can just as easily be confused with 'old Pinback songs you knew but forgot about' as they can be individually significant in their own ways. The album is more diverse than previous records, though that says about as much as Posh sings in a Spice Girls single, as most of the songs end up following the same structures (or subtle variations of the same structure) anyway. Too many safe songs and too little outstanding songwriting quality make this an album that you shouldn't feel bad skipping over next time you're in the record store.