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Rhythm & Views

Pinback

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Some bands get worse as the years progress, as their signature, once-fresh sound gets tired and old. Not so with San Diego's Pinback, whose first records, Pinback and Blue Screen Life, sounded like early-career Superchunk. Offcell, Pinback's latest EP, sounds as if it sprouted from a completely different band; there's less off-key singing and scratchy guitars and more indie-rock cool.

The EP still sounds derivative of any number of indie bands--with muted vocals about postmodern fragmentation of identity. Each song on Offcell is a powerhouse of cultural criticism: "Trapped in the drift, entirely inside, alone, a microtonic wave forces us further," sing Rob Crow and Armistead B. Smith, the two founding members of Pinback, on "Microtonic Wave." "Victorious D," the next song on the EP, ends with the word "rebellion," and the title track admits, "It's getting so hard to see straight sometimes."

In "Grey Machine," Crow and Smith observe, "The people on the beach like ants in my food; they must have closed the mall. Here comes whitey to exploit," but the sensibility isn't entirely bitter; the chorus, "I can see myself in the building that stands across from me," suggests that there's still a chance for individual salvation--we can still take the world back from those who want to destroy it.

"There's a stain on the ground that's calling us home," sings Crow, and the last lyric on the EP is "Pick me up, take me home, get me out of here, please." There has to be a way out of suburban West Coast hell, and Pinback's music is searching for that backroad.

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