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Pinback At The El Rey: Review

Aliza Noor Khan |
January 19, 2014 | 10:06 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Pinback front-man Rob Crow in action. (Ariel Sobel/Neon Tommy)
Pinback front-man Rob Crow in action. (Ariel Sobel/Neon Tommy)
Pinback, a decade-old band with a robust five-album discography, knows how to work a crowd.

The band’s sonic journey has traversed the plateaus of indie-rock, offering consistent and committed listeners its own brand of moody, emotionally-flustered music--a feat achieved by complex compositions, expressive vocal harmonization, and thoughtful lyrics.

Over the years, the band has developed a distinctive, self-assured sound that has often vacillated between the sunny and the melancholy, but has never lost its emotive charm along the way.

Their show at the El Rey on Friday brought together a cross-generational crowd that included the pioneers who first listened to the then-nascent “indie-rock” genre in the 90s and their contemporary quasi-hipster counterparts.

This variegated crowd coalesced under the roof of the dimly-lit and crimson-saturated El Rey Theatre, a historic concert venue that has a rich legacy of fostering the artsy.

The show kicked off with the band Deathfix, which is a band amassed from a pool of well-established indie-rock bands such as Fugazi and New Order. The band’s set included songs from their eponymously titled album, a seven-song stylistic collection of glam and progressive rock. The band played a melodious and fluid set; their obvious highlights included the "Hospital," a song imbued with a wonderful cast of characters, and "Dali’s House."

"Dali’s House", perhaps one of the funkiest and kooky songs of all time, is about wanting to live inside the houses of some of Western pop-culture’s coolest figures.  “I wish I was James Murphy’s house – because you can steal ideas and Daft Punk is always playing there” -- this shout-out to James Murphy, frontman of the glorious LCD Soundsystem is particularly curious, considering the stylistic similarities and playfulness shared between "Dali’s House" and LCD Soundsystem’s "North American Scum."

Deathfix’s balladry (and in the case of "Dali’s House" -- scumbaggery) excited the audience as we discovered a new band with a well-conceived, well-put together sound.  The band opted for simple audio-visual effects; the lighting was plainly yellow and the only visual on the projector screen was a dated picture of Judy Garland from her days as Dorothy Parker in the Wizard of Oz. 

This simplicity resonated with Pinback's performance as well. Frontmen Zach Smith and Rob Crow began the concert with comical banter with the audience. This segued into songs from their newest album "Information Retrieved"; the more upbeat and fast-paced "His Phase" and "Proceed to Memory" gathered the most excitement from the crowd.

One particular eager-beaver confused the texturally complex sound of Pinback with the rambunctious surge of hard rock and attempted to crowd surf -- much to Pinback's amusement.

Smith and Crow routinely made small-talk with the audience; at one point Crow forgot the words to a song and with a "sorry" and a shrug, the band moved on to the next. This is the sublime pleasure of the El Rey's intimate setting. The band and audience are in constant contact, and the band is able to gauge the audience's immediate reaction to their music.

The audience erupted with enthusiasm when the band began to play their older and better known songs. "Loro," the band's most enduring song, elicited exuberant sing-alongs as the audience hummed "da da da da dada da da da" with Crow.

Other stand-outs included "Fortress" and "Good to Sea", both prime examples of the diverse aesthetics Pinback employ to convey their music.

There is something so disarmingly sincere about a simple concert set-up. The focus is squarely put on the band's performance capabilities, as opposed to gaudy visual effects and distracting stage props.

Pinback proved that it's one of rock's greatest treasures at the El Rey; its inherent indieness be damned. This is a band that will be remembered because there is just no other like it. 

You can listen to the band's most recognizable song "Loro" here: 

Reach Staff Reporter Aliza Noor Khan here.



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