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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
The Nina The Pinta
The Nina The Pinta

Rating: 6.6/10 ?

January 8, 2008
Confidence is one thing that should never come into question for The Nina The Pinta. The band's vigorous and brisk debut has guts in spades; it's the Minneapolis quintet's creative muscles that could stand to be juiced with a shot in the arm. What had initially piqued my interest about this Land o'Lakes outfit was their hunger to just kick ass in the simplest of ways. There are a lot of groups out there right now wanting to re-invent the wheel with studio experimentation and elaborate performance concepts, and that's all fine to an extent. Every decade needs a certain percentage of pretentious experimentation, affording the Animal Collectives and the Battleses a means to creep out through the crowd and point back to the Soft Boys and King Crimson in explanation. That is how independent music keeps from going stale. But come on - everyone's got it in their library, but does anyone still listen to Fun House? Did we forget how good it felt to blast "Die, All Right!" eight years ago?

Well apparently The Nina The Pinta didn't. The band has done their homework, and I give them a lot of respect for the spirit with which they approached this album. But like the ships of Christopher Columbus they take their name from, good intentions give way to mixed results. The A for effort the band earned going in is eroded over the album's course, enthusiasm failing to outweigh monotony. No matter what the mares might say, the secret to being a successful one trick pony is size, and while a colt may zestfully chomp at the bit it takes a mustang to pull the apple cart. When it comes to horsepower, think more along the lines of Les Savy Fav's Boeing jet engine rather than The Nina The Pinta's radio-controlled bi-plane. One trick ponies can make it (see the White Stripes, Sigur Rós, et cetera), but they've got to be Clydesdales, and on their eponymous first album The Nina The Pinta sprints to the finish line, ripping the tape after barely a half an hour, only to arrive they're so winded that they can't see straight, out of breath and out of ideas.

That's not to say that the ideas they had aren't good ones. There are even flashes of ass kicking to be found here, most often when lots of guitars are involved. If you wish more bands wielded the axe like Tim Harrington's Frenchkiss flagship, congratulations, you've found a friend in The Nina The Pinta. In their debut's best stretch, the one-two punch of "Death To The Matador" and "Tallest Hat Is Law," the Minnesotans fire on all cylinders; the guitars, the shouts, the hunger - it's all there. Even though it is spent copying the formula of the two stormers, the rest of the album falls comparatively short. The vocals skate close to blandness in the album's biggest lulls, and by the time "Barber Is In" finishes there is a sense of absence, a space where there should be a pause to let the album sink in. But no revelations come, because The Nina The Pinta doesn't feel like a complete experience. Perhaps it's a track or two too short. Perhaps the gears weren't shifted up and down forcefully enough. Perhaps some vocoders or accordions or 808s would have upped the ante. Perhaps a lot of things could have given this album the je ne sais quoi that inhabits Les Savy Fav tracks, but those things aren't there. The end result is a band that looks to be a little over half the way to putting their finger on it.

Their confidence being accounted for, The Nina The Pinta need to take stock elsewhere. For all intents and purposes, they've got two choices; they can either look at this effort like a skeleton mold of their sound and flesh out the empty spaces with new approaches and take some scary but potentially rewarding risks, or they can turn it up to eleven and really just rock the fuck out in hopes the Twin Cities have another Hold Steady story in them.

That The Nina The Pinta haven't fully formed shouldn't be given much weight as an indicator of their potential, as the first attempt at an LP rarely finds any band making a definitive statement. It's clear from this self-titled effort that The Nina The Pinta wants to explode like a short-fused firecracker in the hands of an absent-minded ten year-old, and "Matador" and "Law" are two enjoyable blasts of solid rock that have me interested in what set of cards these boys play next.

Reviewed by Dave Toropov
Introduced to music in the womb with a pair of headphones on his mother's stomach, Dave Toropov has yet to recover the experience. A writer based in Boston and New York, he has also written for Prefix Magazine and What Was It Anyway, and is the maintainer of the "Middleclass Haunt" blog.

See other reviews by Dave Toropov



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