The Pins - "All The Night Sky"
(Stick It To The Man Records 1998, STICK-003)
From Aural Innovations #6 (April 1999)
From Minneapolis, The Pins play melodic pop-psych songs. The band consists of Rich Barlow on guitar and vocals, Jim Boulware on bass, Steve Shaskan on electric piano, moog, and vocals, and Beth Van Dam on drums and vocals. All The Night Sky is their third release.
Musically there are some good ideas here. The band has a raw 60's sounding rhythm that is mixed with a more modern pop-psych sensibility. Much of it borders on the standard shoegazer sound, but The Pins are more committed to the song format and don't drift off into a meandering drone. The sound is a bit rough but the disc was recorded in the band's basement practice space and so I applaud them for making things happen on their own.
The Pins' main weak point I'm afraid is the vocals on several of the tracks. The male vocalist is a bit irritating and damages what are pretty good tunes. What's interesting is that when harmonies are included they are quite strong. For example, "Collide", which has drummer Beth Van Dam as vocalist, has really good harmonies that give the song an almost Beatles-like sound. Definitely one of my favorite tracks on the CD. "Hollow Bells" starts taking the band a bit more overtly into psych territory and features a nice shimmering guitar sound. "Salamander" is another highlight featuring a wildly strumming guitar combined with a somewhat more acidic guitar, and both against a dense droning background. "Shipwreck Song" is a tortured bit of dark intensity that is a bit different from the other songs. A nice contrast that really threw me off when it then returned to more melodic territory on the next track "Firefly".
In summary, The Pins have a good sense for writing good pop-psych songs. A better vocalist (make Beth the lead?) and a well recorded disc could bring these folks some serious attention.
For more information contact The Pins at PO Box 8475; Minneapolis, MN 55408.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz