Give Pinback credit for playing it cool. After the unexpected success of “Good To Sea,” off 2007’s Autumn Of The Seraphs, the San Diego indie-rock outfit took a five-year break from releasing an album. And the new disc, Information Retrieved, in no way attempts to replicate the bouncy, fizzy buzz of “Good To Sea.” Granted, that hit was a fluke, and Pinback has always seemed in it for the long haul; for well over a decade, core members Rob Crow and Zach Smith have opted for slow builds and sleepy lulls. But there’s a perversity to Information’s lack of dynamic that leaves it feeling not only flat, but maddeningly so.
Pinback seems physically unable to write a song that’s anything less than gorgeous, so that isn’t the issue. Tracks like “Glide” and “Drawstring” are sterling examples of the group’s precise, airtight pop, full of Crow’s immaculate jangle and sugary singsong. They also fail to rouse themselves from hibernation. While Pinback has always been subtle, classics like 2004’s Summer In Abaddon knew how to fill out wispy dreaminess with lush, melancholy atmosphere. Sparse to the point of translucency, Information leaves little to hold onto. Smith brings far less of the teeming counterpoint that he’s known for, both vocally and on bass—even on the mildly catchy “Sherman,” whose funky undertow quietly screams for more of Pinback’s signature intricacy.
Crow, for his part, works his voice into a near-growl on the album’s opener and most immediate song, “Proceed To Memory”—and that dynamic sets a high bar that the rest of Information tries its best to forget. “His Phase” is a flat line of pleasant, lazy hooks that evaporate the instant they hit air; “Diminished” begins with a promising, jazzy piano vamp that slowly sinks into a fog of disinterest. The band rallies just before the finish line, clocking in with the stuttering, needling “Denslow, You Idiot!” and the sumptuous closer “Sediment,” which succeeds despite the fact that it feels cobbled together from stray bits of a dozen other Pinback songs. Even at its coolest, Pinback’s music has never felt cold. Information Retrieved, though, rarely rises above lukewarm.