all the night sky
THE BROKEN FACE, sweden
The Pins follow up the their second album ”Radar” from 1997 with another psychedelic collection of songs glancing at the darker of the pop spectra. Despite the despair that surrounds the Pins they are still very much pop although with a murky production recalling New Zealanders like the Bats, the inimitable Clean, Verlaines and too many other great Flying Nunners to mention them all. The opener “Ache/Sugar Pill” goes from blissfully stretched out guitar sounds to catchy pop with the electric piano following the distortion-laden guitars with a closeness and precision that is nothing less than remarkable. “Collide” sees drummer Beth Van Dam’s in the foreground with strong frantic Barbara Manning-like vocals giving this up-tempo rocker a well-deserved energizer as well as another nod in the New Zealand direction. The only track on the album, which is written by the whole band, is arguably the best. The instrumental “Chartreuse” is pure beauty with Rich Barlow’s lead-guitar spiraling around Steve Shaskan’s keyboard effects in the most profound way. The oddly link to the Middle Eastern guitars of “Salamander” might seem rather weak but on the contrary they fit together just perfectly. These two tracks are the intro of an amazing five-track finale ending with the droning guitars of “Slide” which nicely is intertwined with some freaky spaced out Kraut instrumentation. And I almost forgot Jim Boulware‘s perfect Roy Montgomeryish guitars on “Firefly” which is so full of space and emptiness that you actually start to wonder if he’s one of those long-way-from-home Kiwis temporary misplaced in the States.
“All the Night Sky” works in my opinion even better than its predecessor “Radar” since this one has been more carefully put together creating a strong, cohesive whole. According to Barlow “the cohesion may have come from the fact that the songs were worked up with more live shows, and then recorded live (except vocals) in the same running order as the CD. I think the energy came through”. I can only agree, energy is the key word here and it’s certainly a positive and very droning energy. If these guys would have been from down under they’d been national heroes by now.
In a big week for record releases, The Pins join in by celebrating their '98 CD all the night sky, a lush and full complement to their past recordings radar and eleanor (vinyl LP). The local popsters add the dreamy, ethereal element of a 4AD band while remaining vaguely rockin' enough (think early 80's Great Britain - Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen) to serve as "catchy" in some parts. Mostly it moves in the vein of a souped up Low record or anything shimmering from Galaxie 500 - very beautiful, if not a little more dramatic with some (sm)art noise thrown in for good measure. Rich Barlow's sweet vocals float above jangly guitars and electric pianos justifying other rags' hails of "soaring" and "brilliant" for their previous CD. After a time away from the stage due to lineup uncertainties and scheduling conflicts, The Pins return for a reliable treat to the senses and soul. Bring a date?
CITY PAGES, minneapolis
One of local indie-pop's semihidden treasures, the Pins got some flak for their inability to sing notes steadily after their emergence in 1995 (sometimes the critique is couched in comparisons to the Wedding Present or the Bats). But the notes they sing are strung together beautifully, and the band inspires awe when their echo-chamber sound starts spinning. (I like the warbling voices, too.) Tonight will be the band's first appearance since they began work on their latest full-length, All the Night Sky. The platter is the perfect soundtrack for February: moody, dark, full of ancient keyboards amped through old guitar-pedal effects; i.e., it's cloud-pop.
-Peter S. Scholtes
STORMBRINGER, bournemouth; also IN MUSIC WE TRUST
Critics of modern music will argue that the problem with punk music is its irrelevance today. Back in the 1970's, the disgruntled British youth had a reason to feel despair, and the music was a reflection of their times. Thirty years later (hard to believe, isn’t it?), with Johnny Rotten going commercial and the American economy going BOOM, the original angst-ridden problem child of the post-Beatlemania, disillusioned cockney youth seems more like an overgrown brat in desperate need of lithium therapy. So, why the Pins? Why give even a second look at an American band (from Minnesota, no less) doing British punk?
Well, for starters, they’re not doing British punk. They are more of an experimental band — think R.E.M. and Visage get married and raise the kids from South Park — who give kitchen appliances and dub samples a workout not seen since Frank Zappa played the bike on the Steve Allen Show.
For a band with a history of vinyl LP’s (of mass critical acclaim) and Robert Goulet-esque warbles by lead singer Rich Barlow which he still does, though not to as great of an extent, on this album), "All The Night Sky" is actually rather remarkable. The Pins careen through each song with a dark, ambient abandon — most notably on "Hollow Bells" — and combine it with pedal steel guitars and keyboards that sound like 11th century Visigoth temple organs. Fans of Mike Oldman will enjoy "Chartreuse" all too much, while "Slide" (not to be confused with the crap Goo Goo Dolls song of the same name) challenges your perceptions and proves a staple for any venerable droner playlist.
I should warn you, though, that the Pins’ music is not for everyone. There is one too many dangers associated with autoingestive shoot-swoop rock(Third Eye Blind, anyone?), and being unaccustomed to the music of the Pins is one of those pitfalls. I warn you again — but with "All The Night Sky", you either have to love it or hate it. There’s really no in-between.
STAR TRIBUNE, minneapolis
The Pins' "All the Night Sky" is a lo-fi but dense record showcasing the band's penchant for moody chord progressions, multi-colored pop and metronomic rhythms.
WORKERS VS. ROBOTS, baltimore
Okay, you think that just cause I interviewed them and there's an ad in here that I'm going to say this is a good album, right?
I'm going to say I like it because it's quality. This is interesting music. It's got the one-two punch of being both intellectually stimulating and emotionally intriguing -- I'd put it halfway between something like Swell Maps and something like Flying Saucer Attack on the musical comparison scale. There's a lemon twist of humor in the glacial melodies; this is an extremely worthwhile purchase, and I dare say one of my favorite musical discoveries of the year. It's not something I can take constantly -- that would be a bit like wading through fog -- but it's highly appreciated when I do listen to it.
The Pins seem to have a penchant for low-fi, quasi-psychedelic pop that harkens the production values of early releases of such bands as Guided by Voices. The track that stands out the most on this CD is the track "Stuck," a hooky layered song that verges on immediately accessible alt-pop. I would have to admit that, while listening, I wished that the production were a little less murky, so I could hear more of the nuances that I know were intended to be heard. Sometimes it was a little to muddy of a mix for my taste. (But I could hear what they trying to do amidst the fuzzy production). (The whole CD was recorded live, but that shouldn't be an excuse. These guys are doing some great stuff that deserves better production.) I'm all for the indie, low-fi thing, but I also like to "hear" what I'm listening to. That is to say...the genre lends itself to a more lucid, crisper production. I would like to hear these songs recorded in a cleaner manner to hear all of the nuances that get lost in the current production values. A very promising release that shows that Minneapolis has original, resident visionaries, who aren't into the musical xerography du jour.
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