Summer in Abaddon
urveyors of meticulous, sleek, subtly insidious make-out music for mathletes, mope mantras from angelic groove-busters, Pinback’s two-man (plus rotating cast) crew of San Diego-bred emotive instrumentalists—and yes, we’re playing the game where voices are instruments—have shown gorgeous hints of their fluid ingenuity over the past five years. “Loro”, from the group’s eponymous debut, might be the sexiest patch of greenery ever uprooted from an arid indie wasteland, and 2003’s Offcell EP debuted a thicker, punchier brand of complexity, now brought to fruition on the new Summer in Abaddon, the first consistently compelling LP under the Pinback moniker.
Pinback’s layered perfectionist drumkit pop has always lacked a certain immediacy—their jams often sound as scientific and calculated as they are emotional, and their previous lyrics have rarely transcended vague inscrutability, both chief reasons why the duo is rarely mentioned alongside indie heavyweights—which Summer in Abaddon attempts to remedy. Opener “Non-Photo Blue” rides jagged, palm-muted riffs and piano harmony with the group’s trademark heavy-bass-drum percussion, but “Sender” kicks things up a notch, with its mournful, oblique refrain: “Acute angles divide my path that I had lost.” No longer content with a haphazard, seemingly lazy brilliance, Pinback arms “Syracuse” with a Morricone-esque drum assault, and the closer “AFK” with a cathartic, shout-along command chant: “Protect! Embrace! Engulf! Remember! The Summer! In Abaddon!”
Don’t let the title fool you; Pinback’s season is autumn, not summer. “3x0” is the most beautiful song on the album, with piano leading the band’s two complementary voices into a somber harmony, conjuring, quite explicitly, the image of vanishing summer giving way to something less optimistic. A nostalgic soundtrack to a late Sunday afternoon, if you will. Album theme? “Hold on, motherfuckers, hold on!” sounds about right.
There are a couple moments of relative dead air on Summer in Abaddon, as the collection falls a few yards short of essential listening. It’s still an unmistakable signpost of Pinback’s relevance as keen topographers of musical landscape, bringing da funk—if not da noise—back to indie-pop. And while micro-budget perfectionism is nothing scoff at, just imagine…if this band transferred its DIY soundscapes into a major studio, we might have a minor emo-symphonic revolution.
Reviewed by: Akiva Gottlieb
Reviewed on: 2004-10-15