Californian duo’s first LP for five years is a downbeat delight.
Mischa Pearlman 2012
Zach Smith and Rob Crow don’t like rushing things. This is their fifth album since the pair formed Pinback in 1998, and their first full-length record for five years. Clocking in at 38 minutes, that equates to approximately 7.6 minutes of Information Retrieved being written each year over the last half decade.
Of course, that’s not at all how creativity works, nor should it. Besides, Smith and Crow have also been engaged in other projects during that time, notably a new album by the former’s other band, Three Mile Pilot, in 2010 and a pair of two-track Pinback EPs, Information Retrieved Pt A and Pt B, released last year.
Unsurprisingly, the lead tracks of both EPs – the portentous shimmer of Sherman and the resigned but urgent countdown to the end of the world of True North (“Crust of the Earth is flaking off / Changing the time zones / Confusing the true north”) – feature on Information Retrieved the album, alongside eight other downbeat, dystopian cuts.
As its title suggests, this is a record born out of the information technology age, a time when the world is more connected but more divided than ever before. It’s a warning against the constant immersion of our lives in online ecosystems while the real world stutters and sputters and suffers real damage outside.
Similar to OK Computer, it depicts a modern society on the verge of collapse, but within the context of this planet’s inevitable end. That’s a crucial difference. Where Radiohead indulged in their own paranoid conspiracy theories about how computers and humans would bring about some kind of unnatural apocalypse, Pinback are merely observing the natural demise of the world waiting out their own (relatively) much more immediate deaths.
The result, on the likes of the fervent, semi-robotic His Phase and the spooky, insistent Drawstring, which contemplates the burning out of the sun in the next “1500 billion years”, is to emphasise the utter unimportance of human life. Ironically, it makes these 38 minutes all the more significant. Five years is nothing to wait for the end of the world.