Return of the Pin

Ambiguity is everything for anonymous duo Pinner as they release their debut album

The digital revolution has given artists the freedom to do whatever they want. Now everyone can be a musician, a producer, a photographer, a filmmaker, a writer. But is it possible to remain mysterious? Pinner certainly think so, and with their self-released debut album/DVD set, this masked duo hope that an aura of mystique will go a long way.

Pinner is NotElton and NotSimon, two musicians who wear horrific Elton John and Simon Le Bon masks to disguise their identities. But to say that they are a ‘band’ is not strictly true. Whilst the anonymous duo are set to release their debut album, it comes with a DVD featuring videos to all of the songs. Are they a band or an art project?

It’s a lot to take in, but after listening to Return of the Pin Vol I: We Might Not Win, But We're Claiming Victory, to give this album its full title, I can confirm that Pinner somehow manage to get away with it. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of conceptual cohesiveness here.

Genre hopping has categorised pop music over the last ten years, and while Pinner's music is kaleidoscopic, it's not self-consciously so. They cherry pick from most genres, and the results are frequently thrilling.

With elements of punk, hip-hop, funk, soul and indie rock thrown into the mix, Return of the Pin leaps about from style to style. Pinner are unafraid to go in search of what works for each track, no matter how outlandish things might get.

‘Trouble’ prances along on a ska rhythm, with a jaunty bingo organ tooting out the melody. ‘Monkey Nuts’ somehow manages to sound like De La Soul and the Happy Mondays at the same time. And ‘AllURisallUR’ is reminiscient of Nine Inch Nails – if Trent Reznor had ditched industrial music in favour of funk.

Not all of it works, and some of the tracks struggle to make themselves heard amongst their more adventurous brethren. ‘Birth of a City’, for example, is a pleasing enough instrumental based around a funk-influenced shuffle, but it doesn’t really add much to proceedings.

‘Close Your Eyes’ sounds a little half-baked, some of the lyrics falling flat, and the tune as a whole comes across as underdeveloped. There’s so much going on here, though, that there will inevitably be points in every song that you will like and that you will totally lose interest in it – such is the nature of Pinner.

The accompanying DVD is similarly eclectic. The videos are very much on the lo-fi side of things, clearly homemade, and sometimes lack any real direction or stand-out ideas to carry them, which, perversely enough, often becomes their major selling point. The DVD is a mess, but it’s a fairly charming and glorious one.

A keen-eyed viewer may be able to work out who the culprits behind all this are, thanks to some of the shoddy masks they’ve used in their promotional materials. But their identities are superfluous; it's their art that really matters. Just like a puppet show, if you’re looking at the strings, you’re missing the point.

All in all, Return of the Pin is a mixed bag with enough surprises to keep you coming back for more. It’s joyous and exciting, and Pinner's enthusiasm is infectious. In a world of homogenised ‘product’, they have made something pleasingly hand-made, full of the creative freedom that the digital revolution originally promised, which can only be a good thing.

Pinner will officially launch Return of the Pin Vol I in Auntie Annie's in Belfast on December 21.