Pinback - Summer in Abaddon 
Music Disc Reviews Audio CD
Written by Dan MacIntosh   
Tuesday, 12 October 2004


Summer in Abaddon
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Touch and Go
release year: 2004
performance: 8
sound 7
reviewed by: Dan MacIntosh

The word “Abaddon” in this Pinback CD’s title refers to Hell, although the music itself cannot at all be likened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth one might expect to hear from those sentenced to eternal damnation. Pinback’s primary members, Armistead B. Smith and Rob Crow, create subtly sad songs of emotional surrender instead.

These melodies are primarily driven by electric guitars and keyboards (both the acoustic and electric kinds), and come off sounding a lot like polished lo-fi music, if that’s not too much of a contradictory couplet. Lyrically, these 10 songs are vague at best. For instance, “Sender” includes the chorus: “Acute angles divide my path that I had lost.” And what does that mean? Heck if I know. Rather than being another rock ‘n’ roll road song, as a chorus like that one might suggest, this track is closer to traveling along an uneasy emotional terrain. At least, that’s my best guess.

Even though these songs rely heavily upon minor key melodies, they don’t ever devolve completely into repetitive dirges. Instead, sharp instrumental work, matched with lightly sung vocals, keep the mood edgy, yet never overwhelmingly depressing. It’s a little bit like a therapy session where the patient clearly needs someone to talk to, yet doesn’t want to disclose the details of his or her troubles. It’s an undeniable cry for help; one where the patient hopes the doctor can read between the lines quickly enough to heal the pain.

This music is too soft to attract screaming alternative rockers, while at the same time, it’s far more inventive than what was once known as soft rock. Only on the last song, “AFK,” does this group crank up the volume a tad with pounding drums and emotive vocals. Pinback rocks, albeit briefly. Elsewhere, the track “The Yellow Ones” incorporates a few modern dance elements without ever succumbing to beat heavy club sounds. But this outfit’s detached nature makes it come off a lot like an acoustic dance band. (I know; “acoustic dance music” is another tough-to-swallow analogy).

These songs float by so unobtrusively that they make you want to dig into the CD booklet and read what you’ve been missing. But even after reading through these lyrics, it’s still difficult to get the full picture. Summer in Abaddon by Pinback is a stellar effort, although I’m not exactly sure why. It just is.

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