Bob Forrest, front man of the almost famous early ‘90s alt-rockers, Thelonious Monster, is back from the near-dead. After an eight year musical hiatus due to heroin, cocaine, living with John Frusciante, blundering the National Anthem, and fulfilling the L.A. rock star stereotype, he has re-emerged as the Bicycle Thief. More monk than monster, his new release You Come and Go Like a Pop Song delivers a collection of parables—three minute life lessons taught by a man who’s licked the bottom and managed to get up.
Unlike Thelonious Monster’s underrated final album,Beautiful Mess, You Come and Go Like a Pop Song was never intended to be a major release. Instead, it was born from accident and slowly grew into a not-so-messy work of beauty. In 1997, Bob contacted old friends at the L.A. concert promotion firm Goldenvoice in hopes of getting a gig as a messenger (he was washed up, barely sober, and presumably out of the music industry for good). But the big guys at Goldenvoice knew that Bob should be writing songs, not delivering mail, and prompted him to put together a demo. So he recorded You Come and Go with the help of former Geraldine Fibbers drummer, Kevin Fitzgerald, producer Josh Blum, and Josh Klinghoffer, a teenage prodigy who masterfully plays most of the instruments on the album. Frusciante even sits in on “Cereal Song”, a bleak tune about heroin and cocaine and losing your teeth.
Still, the album rides on Bob’s folksy, modern-day Dylan vocals. His crackling voice easily moves from the whimpers of a tortured artist to the howls of man who’s seen war. He loops country, rock, and blues around a funky beat, and maintains a crying passion through it all. But it’s not so much the sound of the voice as what he’s saying that matters. The journal-like lyrics give insight into a sordid past that is almost unbelievable. According to Bob, “If I had a chance to fuck it up, well, I did, I did”. Whether he’s singing about the false beauty of L.A., the failure of public schools, or the evils of hyper-consumerism, every word penetrates with honest intensity. It’s like his voice is wrapping itself around your shoulders, shaking hard, and telling you to wake up to the world. Although the album is filled with plenty of somber moments, it is the bits of faith that are most gripping. “Rainin’ (4 am)” provides a flicker of hope in the midst of despair, “What’s the use in trying, everything is so backwards, but for some strange reason I keep going, I never give up, no matter what”.
It seems strange that Bob has always been a fixture of the southern California rock scene. With slices of country twang, the echoes of old phonographs, and an airy recording quality, You Come and Go Like a Pop Song feels like it should be listened to on a decaying porch in Dwight, Nebraska. The instrumentation is sparse, but hard working, and the lyrics uphold values that are far-removed from L.A. The album trudges through day-to-day existence—drinking coffee and going to the grocery store—with poetic grace. During “Tennis Shoes”, he sings “Let the truth be known”. And that is exactly what Bob Forrest is doing on You Come and Go Like a Pop Song—simply sharing his own truths and hoping that listeners may learn something along the way.