Live Review: Pinback Played Autumn of the Seraphs in its Entirety

It was 2007 all over again on Sunday, Feb. 12 at Great American Music Hall.

Pinback (Credit: Corey Bell)

It’s been 10 years since 2007, a decade that seemed to slip by with cruel tenacity. It was the year that we were given the iPhone, and the year we lost Anna Nicole Smith.  It was the year that LCD Soundsystem introduced us to the Sound of Silver, that Arcade Fire read to us from their Neon Bible, and that Kanye West finally reached his Graduation.  It was the year Radiohead forever redefined the music marketplace with their introduction of the “pay-what-you-want” model alongside their instant classic In Rainbows.  

In the decade since 2007, we’ve seen countless iPhones and lost many celebrities, LCD Soundsystem broke up and got back together again, Arcade Fire released two more stellar albums, Kanye married a reality TV star, and Radiohead continued being, well, Radiohead.

But there was another great achievement of 2007 that often gets left out of history books: the release of Autumn of the Seraphs, the fourth full-length album by San Diego indie-rock outfit Pinback.  Heralded as one of the band’s best albums (if not the best), Autumn paints a picture of calculated malaise, a structured exploration of the maddening tendencies of progress.  Around that time, the signature sound of indie-rock was starting to branch out, like a rapidly growing crack in a windshield, sprawling to include everything from DIY electronica to hip-hop to Americana.  Modest Mouse started popping up on mainstream FM radio, The White Stripes started to doubt their relevance, and Bon Iver was just another guy with a beard and a guitar. Indie-rock, as we knew it, was dying, and Autumn of the Seraphs was simply its requiem.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, Pinback —  consisting of Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith — played the entire album in-full at Great American Music Hall for its 10-year anniversary.  Joined by drummer Chris Prescott, they played in front of a modest crowd and were greeted with an enthusiastic roar when they took the stage that seemed to surprise even them, indie rock’s last warriors.  

No words were spoken as the band kicked things off, deciding not to dive immediately into their chosen opus of the evening, but rather playing a few of the LP’s B-sides. They opened with the bouncy bonus track “The Hatenaughts of Melancholy Wall,” much to the surprise of everyone in attendance, which mostly consisted of 30-somethings in dark clothing and a few middle-aged folks ready to shake the rust off their dance moves.  

As the set progressed, Pinback bounded through “I’m A Pretty Lady,” popular B-side single “Kylie,” and title track “Autumn of the Seraphs,” which oddly enough, does not appear on the album itself, most likely due to its almost shoegaze-like nature — conjuring images of Sunny Day Real Estate — that just does not quite fit in with the more mechanical aesthetic that helps Autumn chug along so efficiently.

As the band slid further into the album, there was no segue, no remarks, no introductions — they simply began playing opener “From Nothing to Nowhere.”  The song’s infectious energy seeped into everyone in the crowd, from the group of extremely tall men in front to the heads peppering the venue’s upper balcony.  Upon the conclusion of “From Nothing to Nowhere,” the screams from the audience were deafening, banishing any notion that this crowd was going to be lame.  Again, without speaking, the band went right into the album’s second track “Barnes,” with Smith resembling a modern Trent Reznor as his tight black T-shirt ached to restrain his muscled torso during the song’s powerful crescendo.

While onstage, Pinback brought electric new life to each song from Autumn of the Seraphs: the computerized undertones of my personal favorite “Good To Sea” were sped up, giving the song a swifter, more breezy feel, while songs like “Subbing for Eden” and “Torch” had their psychedelic factor turned on high, boasting an impressive volume for three middle-aged men on such a small stage.  “Devil You Know” and “Blue Harvest” had practically everyone in line for drinks pausing their conversations with the bartenders to emphatically sing along with the band.  Penultimate track “Bouquet” had the entire venue bumping as the crowd stomped and bobbed with the rhythm, and album closer “Off By 50” took on a whole new persona as the band plugged in, the intro itself sounding like some long lost Pixies demo.

Seeing the band reunite onstage (their last album, Information Retrieved, was released in 2012 and they have been on hiatus since 2015) to perform this album was like receiving a sonic postcard from the past, reminding us that some things never change, no matter how much time has passed.  The band’s voice is still pertinent, their messages remain intact, and a classic has been given the opportunity to shine once again.

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