Pinhead Gunpowder - Kick Over the Traces (Cover Artwork)

Pinhead Gunpowder

Kick Over the Traces (2009)


Not many bands last as long as two decades, and those who do have often had to compromise something at some point in their careers to make it the distance. Bands are often broken by conflicting egos, ‘artistic differences' or by the strains inflicted upon them by demanding recording contracts. Pinhead Gunpowder are not one of those bands. The East Bay ‘supergroup' have consistently and almost habitually shunned not only the spotlight, but also any perceived notion of ‘commitment.' Pinhead Gunpowder are on a constant hiatus, but not a hiatus that is self-enforced. The band are simply always in a state of stasis, coming together only when it suits each member -- which is not, it would appear, very often. For this reason alone, fans of the ‘Gunpowder have long since acquired patience as a core virtue, and have learned to enjoy and to savour the group's precious output whenever it erratically arrives. This time, that arrival comes in the form of a ‘greatest hits' compilation, Kick Over the Traces.

For a band who have never had a ‘hit,' at least not in any kind of objective sense, Kick Over the Traces is a strange concept -- yet in reality it is a convenient and long overdue release that serves as a reminder (as if we needed one) that this band has repeatedly churned out songs that transcend the realms of brilliance with fascinating consistency. Containing songs that span the duration of the band's career to date -- including all three from 2008's self-titled 7-inch -- the compilation is largely predictable and none of the ‘classics' are omitted: "Big Yellow Taxi," "Second Street," "Life During Wartime" and "Mahogany" all feature while songs like "MPLS Song" and "Kathleen" still have the power to inspire sheer awe. One often forgets the band's earliest material, often characterised by departed lead vocalist Mike Kirsch's harsh growl; Mike is today gone but not forgotten, making a welcome return from the depths of Jump Salty on "Future Daydream" and "Keeping Warm in the Night Time."

As the CD reaches its conclusion, one wonders why the band never took the opportunity to simply release a double-disc, anthology type affair -- a chronological ‘best of' of their back catalogue, perhaps. Songs such as "Letter from AOF," "Black Mountain, PT.3," "27," "Homesick Hopes" and "Song of the Returning" among others would all be worthy additions. Ultimately, though, regardless of this greedy gripe and despite the distinct lack of any brand new or unreleased material this time round, the nostalgic high alone is surely enough to keep Pinhead Gunpowder junkies worldwide sedated, at least for now, before they return to that familiar state of patience, of waiting, of anticipating.