Heavy metal is a much too easy target for mockery. With so much self-seriousness, pomp, and posturing, the outlandishness of the genre makes for such a fertile source of sarcasm that there’s hardly any value to deriding it. Entirely too obvious, metal jokes prove every bit as tired as the clichés they’re aiming at. Sure, Spinal Tap is still a laugh, but retelling those same scenes with an updated cast of contemporary metal artists is uninspired.
That point is especially true today when metal is undergoing a creative and critical resurgence. Bands like Opeth, Mastadon, and Lamb of God are moving the genre forward while remaining mindful of its heritage. They’re reclaiming metal’s inherent power and converting all that energy into art.
Into this era emerges an outright metal effort by indie icon Rob Crow. Although most famous for the introspective and icy melodic shuffle of Pinback, Crow claims to be a metal head at heart. Although this predilection has crept into other Crow-related projects before, it has never dominated any prior effort. He finally indulges these heavy metal fantasies in a new band with the appallingly unfortunate name of Goblin Cock.
Right at the onset Crow calls his sincerity into question with both the band name and the ridiculous porno-comic cover art of their debut featuring some kind of austere goblin warlord with a monstrously oversized cock. The case against him mounts with absurd song titles like “Winkey Dinky Donkey” and an album insert filled with lyrics written entirely in runes. All of this suggests that Bagged and Boarded has hardly anything to offer but stale old metal gags from some stuffy indie snob.
The classical arpeggiation at the onset of “Hissy Intro” further confirms that skepticism, but soon enough “Stumped” sweeps in with a pretty convincing argument that Crow isn’t only out for a laugh. The guitars burn bright and hang low in a syrupy slow Sabbath groove. The band throws themselves into the rhythm with abandon inconsistent with ironic detachment. As the detuned riffs keep rolling through the duration of the record, the cheesy name and corny cover can’t obscure the earnest enthusiasm with which Crow and the band approach the genre.
While it might be a surprisingly strong effort from someone who normally operates outside heavy metal’s aesthetic principles, Bagged and Boarded doesn’t do much to advance the genre itself. Especially when contrasted against efforts by current trendsetters, the album sounds rather conventional and even nostalgic. That’s rather understandable given that the whole endeavor is an exploration of adolescent passions.
Ultimately the album proves not serious enough for serious metalheads and too seriously metal for fans of Crow’s more indie-centric output. That may not make for much of an audience but Bagged and Boarded is still worth hearing. Originating from previously repressed affection, a palpable joy permeates the record imparting it with uncommon affability. The good-natured goofing also establishes a space alongside other heavy acts like Clutch and The Melvins who proved it possible to keep a goat-throwing fist raised in all sincerity even with one’s tongue firmly in cheek. Crow’s bombastic garage mosh may not be as intriguing as his textured bedroom pop, but it’s still a joy to hear him uninhibitedly reveling in the sounds that he loves.
// Notes from the Road
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