Double visions

Separate obsessions and oodles of side projects couldn't break Pinback apart

After almost 10 years and four albums, Pinback's Rob Crow and Armistead "Zach" Burwell Smith IV rightly take it in stride that major differences, and slender fissures, will occasionally open up between them. Consider, for example, this Osmonds fixation of Crow's, soon to appear in the form of a rock block of tunes by the '70s Mormon clan band on one of two Goblin Cock LPs Crow is now resurrecting after a certain hard-drive disaster. "A lot of Donny's synthesizer work is really outrageous and predates a lot of people!" Crow, 36, mumbles enthusiastically over the phone from San Diego, comparing the Osmonds' "My Drum" to something off the Melvins' last LP. "There's no Osmonds record that's good all the way through, but there's at least one awesome song on each one."

"Yeah, I don't get that one at all," the easygoing Smith, 37, says, speaking separately from the band's hometown. He's toiling on his own projects — Three Mile Pilot and Systems Officer discs — during Pinback's monthlong break. "He played me something once, and I said, 'Oh, this is all right,' and ever since, he's, like, 'But you said you liked it one time in the car!' Oh, god, I'll never live that down."

Similarly, arguments during the making of albums are a given — although of all their recordings, Crow says, their latest, Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch and Go), inspired "the least amount of bickering. I think it had to with drinking wine during the day, which made everything go faster and seem more productive." Likewise, side projects have become de rigueur for the twosome, with Crow unofficially becoming known as the most prolific songwriter-collaborator in the so-called Southland — thanks to Goblin Cock, Aspects of Physics, Thingy, and various other diversions. "We both have different outlet for things that don't work with us," Smith offers. "He has 20 of them, and I try to keep it to two."

Yet all of that doesn't mean Pinback isn't still meaningful for both musicians. The proof lies in Autumn of the Seraphs: like the best full-lengths, it ebbs and glows, tugging the listener along from the percussive, Genesis-style AOR pop of "How We Breathe" through the arch, rubbery progressions of "Blue Harvest" and its softer, more sorrowful relation "Torch" to the fittingly stirring closing epic, "Off by 50." They're songs that not only "displace you from reality," as Smith puts it, but also satisfy Crow's requirements for honest music making. "I just try to make sure we like what we're doing and it has an emotional thing for us," the latter says.

If the pair can avoid pinning those emotions to new obsessions, they hope to put out another Pinback album within a year and a half rather than their standard three years. The danger for Smith: World of Warcraft. "You need to have groups for this, like Warcraft Anonymous or something," he says with a rueful laugh. "Luckily, I have too much music to do."


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