By Eric Pulsifer
Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 11, 2013
From my not-so scientific study on Pinback (which mostly just involves me dragging friends to go see Pinback shows over the years), the San Diego prog rock trio is a bit divisive. People either know them and love them, know them and hate them, or don’t know of them and make a pained expression when I try to describe their music. People not knowing of the band isn’t for a lack of trying from Pinback. The group has been producing tight, staccato indie rock for 15 years now and has honed a unique sound along the way — a Modest Mouse meets trip-hop vibe that has grown increasingly math rock with subtle metal nods, a light-rock Primus or a more electronic-influenced Built to Spill.
Fan-favorite "Penelope" came third in the set and was the first song to get much reaction out of mid-afternoon crowd. That was followed by another hit with "Non Photo-Blue," and later, a gorgeous take on bouncy lullaby "Loro," with lead singer and guitarist Rob Crow’s slight vocals ‘s hushed chants of "dun dun dun dun dun dun" bringing the audience noise down to a whisper.
Pinback’s subdued, cerebral stuff has the potential for a less-than-memorable live show, but as the crowd grew antsy Crow amped it up with the highlight of the set: an electo-infused take on "Fortress" for which Crow dropped his guitar for some stage dancing antics, including doing the worm across stage and then jumping off and disappearing into the thick of the crowd as far as his mic cable would allow for the rest of the song.
While the Neapolitan swirl of guitar, bass and drums is as tightly wound live as on record, Crow and bassist Armistead Burwell Smith IV’s vocals tend to be the weak link in the live show chain — never downright bad but never as on-key as needed and a little too nasally to convert non-believers who have no idea what the fuss is about.