You get the sense that Armistead Burwell Smith IV and Rob Crow, the co-conspirators behind Pinback, live in a house strewn with intelligent contraptions and futuristic doodads. Take, for example, the device that simultaneously wakes Pee-wee Herman up and cooks breakfast at the beginning of his Big Adventure. Smith and Crow must have a bunch of those, all functioning in a studio whose walls must resemble the blue glow of Tron. How else would they achieve their peculiar mix of robotic quirk-pop? In fact, no band this side of Devo embodies the word “quirk” more than Pinback, a fact illustrated by the group's two full-lengths and a handful of EPs.
While the duo has a new LP slated for release on Touch and Go in August 2004, Absolutely Kosher gave us the Offcell EP earlier this year, which should be enough to tide you over until then. Offcell's five songs find the group in traditional form, mixing woven synths, dry-sounding guitar riffs, a mélange of electro and real drums, and whispered vocals. But, like much of Pinback's catalog, it's difficult to imagine the group being able to pull this material off live. Fortunately for us, however, Crow and Smith don't rely on simply karaoke-ing over prerecorded tracks, the way so many electro purveyors do (see: everyone from Cex to Fischerspooner). While we've yet to observe the Pee-wee Herman and Tron devices onstage, the musicians do use a bunch of computers, keyboards, cables, and guitars to make what they make happen. But autopilot is always off, so expect the Pinback boys' nimble fingers and vocal chords to be the main gadgets bringing all their quirky arrangements to fruition.