Systems Officer is the solo guise of Armistead Burwell Smith IV, better known as “Zach” and even more well-known as a member of Three Mile Pilot and Pinback. Since the release of Pinback’s last full length, 2003’s Offcell, the band’s core members and incidental players have filled their time by throwing out side projects left and right. While most members stray from the Pinback formula – Rob Crow’s electronic snippet-rock and Kenseth Thibideau’s sometimes sweet, sometimes raspy loops with Howard Hello – Systems Officer plays it close to the vest and yields surprisingly good results.
“Forever This Cyanide” and the title track are the most straightforward, driving indie rock songs here. The former undermines its potential power by pulling punches on the expected overdriven chorus and by giving way to an intricate low-key bass riff that ushers the track out. The latter keeps a rock pace throughout, but adds a liberal dose of rippling synth notes to create a stark atmosphere and compliment the nostalgic, summer-themed lyrics, “we swing from the old trees above/let’s submerse ourselves/in the river below.”
This album is undeniably good, but it’s not really a step forward, backward, or sideways from Zach’s fulltime band. If nothing else, Systems Officer should satiate old fans and serve as a primer for new listeners until Pinback’s forthcoming album is released next year.
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