Sunday, November 18, 2012

"You can't get out of this mess so easy." A new Pinback track tells a tale

 Artwork from Pinback's new album

Story by Thomas Matich.

There is a mysterious fable here... not everything is at it appears..

It's usually a single song that gets you into a band. You hear it on the radio or one of your friends is playing it in the background.

The first song I heard from Pinback was "Fortress," the college radio hit from their 2004 album Summer in Abaddon. I was a freshman when I first heard that song in 2005 on an AOL Music Streaming service application I was randomly listening to, and the next week I played it during my radio hour back when I was a jockey at the school's station.

"Fortress" is the exemplary Pinback track, revolving around a hypnotic math-rock riff, Rob Crow's cozy blanket of vague vocals and a sprinkle of Beatles jerkiness. Since their self-titled debut in 1999, the duo of Crow and Zach Smith have casually released five albums that continue to expand upon their own unique, original sound. Each new album that appears every so often is refreshing, as Pinback isn't like any other band before or after their existence.  Puzzling lyrical harmonies mesh with calculated guitars and synthesized transmissions: I'm not sure anyone else could emulate Pinback's style...

Released this October, Information Retrieved, is the band's first new album in 5 years, and again, it contains another stand-out song that resonates...

"Denslow, You Idiot!" is a fiery track that appears towards the end of the record. A zippy, revolving riff is the backbone to a mysterious tale that sprints to a explosive hook:

"You can't get out of this mess so easy
You can't just draw anything and leave me
We won't go through every page apathetically
Denslow, you could never act more guilty."

When I interviewed Crow back in 2007 when the band was touring the Autumn of the Seraphs album, I did talk with him about the mysterious nature of his lyrics, to which he replied:

“Sometimes I’ll try to make it sound like I’m saying something I’m not really saying. I like the idea of giving two meanings to different things. Like, it's what you think it is and that’s what I sorta mean it is, in that sense."

It's in our nature to personalize songs, to assign a photographic memory to moments of our lives that are associated with a certain soundtrack. For me, "Denslow, You Idiot!" is my theme for this year, in which I've picked up the pieces after exiting a long-term relationship and am left to figure my life out in the twilight of my twenties: "You can't get out of this mess so easy," indeed... I have to confront it.
The song is potently hilarious and poignant, with a couple roaring choruses buttressed by head-spinning strings.

"Revising these texts is a brazen sin
This infraction just will not keep
You swallowed your own opium
While we lull our children to sleep"
The poetics are draped in cryptic messages. Crow could be singing about anything. At first I thought it had something to do with a relationship, but closer listening made me think maybe it was about the Wall Street crooks during the Financial Crisis. And who was this Denslow, anyway?

After consulting Google, my theory is Crow is singing about William Wallace Denslow, an American illustrator best known for working with L. Frank Baum on The Wizard of Oz.

"Arrogance flows from each page you're in
Detached and disposed were your thing
So you bought your own island
Built a castle and crowned yourself King"

According to Wikipedia, it appears that Baum and Denslow did have a financial dispute that ended their working relationship. Denslow amassed a fortune from keeping some copyrights and did actually purchase an island in Bermuda and anoint himself King Denslow I. 

Kinda like I've felt lately, Denslow moved on, and far away, that thing is for sure. To another world even.


Pinback plays The Bling Pig in Ann Arbor this Tuesday, November 20 in support of their terrific new album, Information Retrieved.