Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My review of the Pinback Show - a little late

Pinback+ MC Chris = Awesome

by Melody Stone - for the Eureka Reporter's E on 02.08.08

Music fans tucked behind the Redwood Curtain enjoy a vast and diverse local music scene and six-hour trips to the city to see their favorite national bands. When a band these music junkies would travel for comes to town, well, that’s icing on the cake and it saves more than $100 in gas money.

That’s how many felt at the news that indie sensation Pinback and nerd-rapper MC Chris were coming to town.

Larry Iglesias will travel more than six hours to hear a band he likes. “When I get the chance and can afford it, I like to go to the city for shows. A lot of bands don’t come here,” Iglesias said. “It’s great to have Pinback come here, even after going to the city to see them two months ago.” When Iglesias saw Pinback, they played two shows at Bimbo’s in San Francisco and he went to both performances.

“Pinback are the kind of band you can listen to anytime. You can relax and listen to them or you can have a lot energy and listen to them. It’s really pretty music,” said Iglesias. “I like a lot of music, but I have a soft spot for pretty music.”

MC Chris has played in Humboldt County before, and at the show at Humbrews, where the rapper had to stand on a box to be seen by the throbbing crowd, everyone begged him to come back.

Half of Pinback played at Humboldt State University last year in the form of Rob Crow, who was promoting his solo album, “Living Well.”

Both these bands are well-known in their own circles: Pinback for its latest album, “Autumn of the Seraphs,” on Touch and Go Records, and MC Chris for his work on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” and the underground hit “Fett’s Vette,” off his first album “Life’s a Bitch and I’m Her Pimp” (2001).

“Fett’s Vette” is an anthem to the awesomeness of a character who barely appears in the Star Wars trilogy, but has a cult following bigger than the moon of Endor. MC Chris talks about Boba Fett the bounty hunter, a “devious degenerate” ordered to bring in Han Solo. MC Chris’ monotone chorus chants, “My backpack’s got jets, I’m Boba the Fett! I bounty hunt for Jaba Hutt to finance my Vette.”

He did the animation and voices for several shows on the Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” including the voice of MC Pee Pants (the spider rapper from “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”). He uses video game samples to make his mixes and he raps about nerd girls he wants to impress, video games and Robitussin. In his song “Ten Year Old,” he says: “I sound like a 10-year-old or so I’ve been told, but you don’t need a voice that’s low to make the microphone gold. Other’s claim that they be Midas, but they got laryngitis, so won’tcha kick it with the MC with the voice that’s the highest.”

Kyle Spickler from The Metro in Arcata said, “I love his voice and I love his skits. His ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force’ performance of ‘Bubble Gum and Taffy,’ really sticks out in my mind as his best. Everyone seems to recognize that. People know MC Pee Pants, but they don’t know MC Chris.”

Pinback has catchy, yet indiscernible lyrics down to an art. Like its opener, MC Chris, it, too, dabbles in nerd references. For example, its 2001 CD “Blue Screen Life” is a reference to Microsoft’s so-called “blue screen of death” that appears when the Windows program crashes. With four full-length albums since 1999 and several tours, the musical duo of Rob Crow and Armistead Burwell Smith IV (also known as Zach Smith) has been climbing the indie ladder and making a name for itself.

Pinback started as a side project back in 1998. Crow and Smith are both multi-band musicians, as well as solo artists. According to Pinback’s biography on its Web site, its 2004 album “Summer in Abaddom” really captures the “essence” of Pinback. It “may seem like gentle pop music at first encounter, (but) its brilliance is slowly revealed upon repeated listens. Songs are buoyant and lively at times, melancholy and dark at others, and always resonate with an underlying intensity.”

Pinback’s signature sound is complex layered rock. Rob Crow’s large stature seems misplaced when coupled with his high-pitched vocals. The imagery in their songs is dark and the melodies lighthearted and easygoing.

Galen Dresser, of Arcata, said he likes Pinback because you can listen to a song over and over again, and maybe the 50th time you’ll hear something new and latch on to it and be surprised you didn’t notice it before. “(They) have a really different sound. They have emotional content in their music without being cheap,” said Dresser. “It’s multilayered and intelligently done.”

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