Luke Rounda | Lawrence, KS | 04/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Listening to a Pinback record is about the easiest thing you'll ever do. Their mellow but complex songs are a soundtrack to the working man with a brain and two ears-- soothingly propulsive, powered by choppy guitar lines and fat, hollow-log bass, salted with tasty piano ostinato, and backed by singer Rob Crow, who has a singing voice that makes him sound like he's either constantly drugged or engrossed in something. The guitar tones are perfectly rounded and spongy, and sit chiming and ticking in the middle of everything as if soaking up melody.
Abaddon ("the place of destruction" in the Bible) is a reference to hell. The sleeve art illustrates the listener's colorful descent into an underground bunker beneath a desert at the onset, and their reemergence at the other end. In the complete absence of musical themes like dissonant triads and soul-rending howls to mirror a descent into damnation, we're reminded that hell takes many forms. Sometimes things are destroyed just because they fall apart. This is somehow more fittingly sinister than heavy metal's typical depiction of overt terror and cruelty. The record chronicles a lengthy depression or period of suffering, and the narrator's efforts to come out unscathed-- something fairly universal to humanity.
Like most of Pinback's back catalog, "Summer in Abaddon" is a head-bobbing collection of cleverly disguised lullabies coated with aural superglue. You'll hear the bass riff in "Fortress" mirroring your walk up the escalator, or the sludgy plod of "Non-Photo Blue" following your fingers through yet another ignored forum post ("she's posting all the time, but the boards are down / it's a burned-out building"). The deceptively simple rhythm of "This Red Book" will haunt your subconscious for months.
They should be exalted as the true masters of rhythmic guitar pop. Nearly everything worth commenting on about Pinback arises from their perfect knack for sewing hooks through a heartbeat metronome pulse. Endless rhythmic variations are shelves for the notes and rests to sit on. Pick any Pinback tune at random to listen to. You'll swear you're listening to something human yet mechanical at the same time. Like the endless tick of a fine Swiss watch, the inner workings are ludicrously complex, but the outward result looks simply elegant. "Summer in Abaddon" sees Pinback at the pinnacle of their talents."