Pinback | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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PINBACK

A press release for this spacey San Diego project boasts that "in October of 2000, Urban Outfitters added the debut album to all 42 stores nationwide, and Blue Screen Life is similarly slated for seven months of in-store play rotation." I'm not about to pontificate on the issue of indie cred, but this little promotional factoid did make me wonder whether anything besides the members' backgrounds (guitarist Rob Crow with Thingy and Heavy Vegetable, bassist Armistead Burwell Smith with Three Mile Pilot) distinguishes Pinback's cleanly produced, smoothly performed, gently propulsive tunes from such consumer narcotics as smooth jazz and easy listening. I guess the key difference is emotional focus: elevator music usually strives for simplicity and lushness, while Pinback and Blue Screen Life (both on Hoboken's Ace Fu label) are simultaneously arid and complex, hypnotic and disquieting. "Tripoli," for instance, opens with a bony, cyclical guitar progression, upon which Crow and Smith layer a dreamy tenor melody, a countermelody in a lower register, a lovely falsetto hook, an alternate countermelody, a variant guitar part, some low-key scratching, etc, etc. Each partner contributes his own melodies and lyrics to each song, but the looming schizophrenia is alleviated by the fact that neither one has anything at all to say. This is the band's Chicago debut, and reputedly they're more lively onstage than on disc. Friday, August 24, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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