I’ve been debating how to describe this one for a while. Pinned in Place aren’t exactly happy campers, but compared to most of what I’ve been reviewing lately their music feels downright optimistic with the sunny guitar lines and harmonies that define their sound. That said, the record is named Rubbernecking at the Gates of Hell for a reason.
The opening guitars in “Codependence Day” set the tone on this one quickly. The music itself is upbeat and bright, then Sean Arenas’ vocals kick in with a more cynical take. While I call it cynical, it’s not downer 1990s overkill at all. His singing fits the musical tone well, but with a feel of longing and uncertainty that goes up and down in conjunction with the melody. There are punk power chords and soft tinkering emo-indie moments. The record itself moves seamlessly between aggressive notes and more introspective jaunts while using punk song structure and an impressive ability to turn on a dime without any awkward rhythmic shifts. The record itself is a metaphorical search for clarity, working its way through an anxious world and trying to keep positive amid the muck. There’s also, of course (note the album title), a heap of religious context to mull over, which has a little in common with the storytelling nature of a band like The Hold Steady.
The whole record has an anxious feel about it, with 11 songs in just over 20 minutes of play. It’s consistent but never predictable as the guitars crawl and run while the rhythm section keeps it just in check with a feeling that it could all go off course at any minute. By the time the record hits its thematic peak in the closing title track, it truly feels like an accomplishment that it’s kept on track this whole time, never losing its way. It’s rare where I’ll say the acoustic-tinged song on a punk record stands out, but they’ve pulled it off here.
This record didn’t strike me much at first. The dual winding guitars are fascinating, especially when the piano comes together with both and creates an entirely new tone, but it felt like too much. The anxiety was crushing me. But, once you get your footing, it all pulls together. It’s a little challenging, but it pays off for those who are willing to do so. There’s real journey here and the listener is part of the adventure. The payoff, too, is more than a cathartic punk fist-in-the-air, it’s a feeling of solace in this crazy world after all.
Or maybe I’m completely missing the point. Either way, I’m enjoying this record more and more with each listen.
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