Years Active: 19.
Provenance: San Diego, California.
Essential Albums: At the risk of sounding like one of those people who always says, "I only dig the early stuff," I'll say it (call me an early-aughts purist). Anything before 2004 is your best bet: Pinback (1999), Blue Screen Life (2001), Offcell (2003), Summer in Abaddon (2004).
Essential Songs: "Tripoli," "Hurley," "Microtonic Wave," "Proceed to Memory," "Fortress."
Influenced By: The Shaggs, the Moody Blues, the Jesus Lizard, Slint, the Black Heart Procession, the Sea and Cake.
Influence On: The Album Leaf, Minus the Bear, Shelf Life, Portugal. The Man, the Shins.
Significant Other Bands They're In: Three Mile Pilot (Smith), Heavy Vegetable (Crow), Goblin Cock (Crow), Systems Officer (Smith solo project), Optiganally Yours (Crow).
Precautions: Rob Crow is social-media awkward. In March 2015, he said he was "giving up" music, later backtracking and saying: "I just wrote a thing on Facebook. Everybody went weird. All I did was post a thing on Facebook!"
Why You Should Give a Fuck: Darkly happy or happily dark? If you're in the mood for either, then give a fuck about Pinback. Formed by duo Armistead Burwell Smith IV (bass) and Rob Crow (guitar), Pinback play with the angles of prog and the vocal harmonies of pop, set amid the context of a super bummed out and/or perennially existentially tortured mind.
Perhaps that's why people have a hard time categorizing them. Occasionally lumped in with emo, Pinback's signature sound seems to have more in common with the jazz-influenced post-rock bands of Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records than with the post-hardcore San Diego scene that spawned them.
"Pretty with an edge," is how Smith describes the moody undercurrents that chafe against the spiral grain of their songs. More than just math rock for the mellow, Pinback's complexity is partly revealed through their lyrics. You'll get lulled into the comforting repetition of Smith's slightly off-kilter but always chill bass lines for at least half a song before you notice it's all about, say, waiting for someone to come and kill you, like in "Tripoli," for example.
But then an appealing melodic or tonal shift happens, and you're back to the relative safety of cooking/driving/ordering a coffee/sorting laundry/trying for just a moment to feel normal when nothing is normal anymore. If you're finding it hard to do the last one, Crow's latest side project, Anal Trump, is a grindcore middle finger to the president that you can scream along to between refreshing your news feed—the entire album clocks in at just over one minute.