People on the Net have been comparing Pinback to Steely Dan, and the parallels are there: The sound on the Pinback CDs is fastidiously clean, not to say airless; they are a two-man studio band who augment themselves with extra musicians for touring purposes; and the deception of their music's seemingly pleasant vibe evaporates with a glance at the mordant lyric sheet. For instance, the title of the recent Summer in Abaddon disc calls up breezy, perhaps Go-Gos-like vacation imagery, until someone tells you that "Abaddon" is a Hebrew word meaning "place of destruction" or "realm of the dead." And regardless of any biblical underpinnings, the dread and hopelessness meandering under the meticulous sheen of the Pinback groove takes place squarely in the modern era. Protagonists here are "posting all the time but the boards are down," and stabs at emotional vulnerability are likely to be couched in smug, insider references. "I miss you," sings Rob Crow, "not in a Slint way, but I miss you." This kind of posturing is bound to keep Pinback from reaching an audience anywhere near the size of Fagen and Becker's, but hey, the converted need preachers, too.