Sticky situations

Even though Armistead Burwell Smith IV might be something of a recluse, don't let him make you believe he's a technophobe.

"We have to watch out that the computer doesn't take over," he warns. "Sometimes it's like a member of the band." There is an edge of paranoia in his voice, but Armistead Burwell (who usually goes by, um, "Zach") has a rep for being a little socially awkward. His band, Pinback, was started five years ago with San Diego scene vet Rob Crow, and even though they tour with sidemen, Pinback is a party for two. No other member wanted, computer or otherwise.

The duo's sophisticated pop records are silly with layered vocals, canonic guitar lines and rhythmic syncopations -- all created by the blue glow of daisy-chained computer monitors. It sounds like Smith might need some fresh air.

"Sometimes we have to turn the thing off and just play music with each other. It's easy to get wrapped up in fucking around with it."

On their latest release, "Offcell," Pinback is not fucking around. Like the previous records, it's driven with dreamy interwoven melodies, but it takes some unexpected turns. First, it's louder and more straightforward -- critically introduced as Pinback's first "rock" effort. Second, through rigorous touring and a label deal with Chicago mega-indie Touch & Go, people are actually hearing it. That's something new for the duo, who have toiled for the better part of a decade in a host of critically heralded and publicly unnoticed bands such as Three Mile Pilot, Heavy Vegetable, Thingy and Optiganally Yours -- all of which sound kind of like Pinback, but people don't seem to like as much as Pinback. Why?

"It doesn't make much sense that people seem to take to the Pinback. I don't think either me or Rob feel like it's better or worse than anything else," Smith admits. "Maybe it's all the songs about video games."

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