Pinback. Goblin Cock. Heavy Vegetable. Physics. The Ladies. Optiganally Yours. Thingy. Alpha Males. Other Men. Fantasy Mission Force. Advertising. Remote Action Sequence Project. Cthugha. Altron Tube.
There: that covers just about every band that Rob Crow has been a part of. Oh, and don’t forget his solo album and pseudonym Snotnose. And his work with Team Sleep. And Aspects of Physics. And his two forthcoming albums from Goblin Cock. And the releases on his own record label. Needless to say, love him or hate him, Rob Crow has been a prolific indie-rocker, truly indulging his every whim and fancy.
So don’t be surprised if the prospect of another Rob Crow solo album may not exactly elicit cheers from the masses. Yet, from the get-go, Living Well, in both its looks (with nothing but family photos coating every portion of the CD) and sound is just slightly different than the Rob Crow we know. He’s a bit looser, a bit peppier, and just in a different state of mind. Though it’s hard to hear a song like the simple-minded “Focus” and not immediately think of Pinback, it’s a different, darker side of the band’s sound that sticks out. Listen to the energetic and punchy first single “I Hate You, Rob Crow” (its name originating from a very unpleasant roommate Crow had earlier in his life). Despite it’s hater-biting title, the song is actually a very sweet rumination on his courtship with his wife:
I think it kind of depends
I mean like what’s your perspective
Is anything wrong?
Is anything missing?
I’m a little bit lazy
Oh won’t you forgive this?
What’s your regrets from?
It’s none of my business?
Yet such sentiment is lying on top of a punchy guitar line, and one of the most immediately accessible things that Crow has penned to date. For an album where every single instrument and was played and recorded right in his own house, such poptastic brevity is not only unexpected, but pleasantly surprising.
“Never try and lose that taste forever,” Crow coos from the chorus of “Taste”, a song detailing the in-fighting that is dealt within a relationship, yet acknowledging the sense of self-reflection and longing that occurs in the aftermath (and all within less than three and a half minutes). Here, as throughout, Crow hits a surprisingly vulnerable lyrical tone, no doubt inspired by being at home with his wife and newborn infant son (who can be heard briefly at the start of “Leveling”). And though he is lyrically very compelling, he sometimes resorts back to his Pinback stylings a bit too much (like the heard-it-before styling of “Over Your Heart”). Considering the experimental leanings of his previous solo outings, it could be seen as a bit of relief that Crow “plays it safe” with Living Well, but a bit of the heavy flavor of Goblin Cock or the electronic weirdness of the crazed Optiganally Yours would also have been welcome to the mix. However, it’s hard to fault Rob Crow for sounding like Rob Crow, but he can be faulted for the slight bit of redundancy he occasionally illustrates. Yet he knows when a hook is played out. Only one song manages to break the four-minute mark the entire time, making for a very too-the-point listening experience.
Though this may not reach the same critical heights as, say, Summer in Abandon, Crow exhibits an extremely sharp flex of his solo muscle, and songs like the beautiful acoustic-powered “No Sun” and the energetic “Up” are outstanding musically, further highlighting the keen lyrical sense that Crow has tapped into for this release. Even when relegated to the role of a stay-at-home-dad, he’s the still the coolest stay-at-home-dad you’ve ever heard.