Rob Crow - Living Well (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Rob Crow

Living Well (2007)

Temporary Residence

Just so you know up front: This is not a Rob Crow fanboy review. OK, so the guy has had 16 musical projects (according to an unofficial site), but I haven't even heard that much Pinback. I realized that my wife has their most recent album, 2004's Summer in Abaddon, which was released on Touch and Go. So I've been giving that a listen too for comparison, but that's all I have to go on except for a few MP3s of some of his other projects. I guess I'll have to go mostly on the actual music contained on Living Well. Remember dear readers -- staff reviewers are sent stuff, so don't complain "why review this if you don't know crap about so-and-so?!" Shut it. I got enough of that with that Mudhoney review.

While it seems Crow has had quite the eclectic-sounding bunch of projects (Goblin Cock, Optiganally Yours), Living Well seems like it should have just been the next Pinback album. It's all here: mid-to-slow tempo indie rock, usually on the softer side, with the occasional meter changes and drums that sound like or are indeed drum machines. Yet within these parameters Crow achieves a range of sounds. At times it can sound as poppy as Death Cab (like on "Over Your Heart," especially with that light arpeggiated guitar part), and other times it comes across more artsy and groove-based like Slint ("Chucked"), and even other times like mathy post-punk á la No Knife (openers "Bam Bam" and "I Hate You Rob Crow"). And then there's the too-short "No Sun" which sounds a ton like Elliott Smith at the beginning, with rapidly picked acoustic notes bouncing off a subdued-yet-hooky melody. "Taste" has bit of Smith in there too, and is thankfully a longer, more developed tune earning it key track status.

The thing I like about Crow's songwriting, being pretty new to it, is the concise nature. A lot of the songs here don't break the two-minute barrier because he likes to hit you with an idea, but not beat you down with it. The first two tracks don't technically have a ‘chorus' because nothing comes back to repeat. However, unlike what I've read about his first two solo albums, he doesn't waste time here with jokey throwaway tracks or fuck-around instrumentals. "Liefeld" is weird, yes, but within its slow gyspy-polka there is musical and lyrical content (and a cool accordion-sounding-thing) to earn the song inclusion. Otherwise, Crow is focused and fairly consistent throughout the album. Nothing earth-shattering in comparison to his 'main' band, just consistently good songs.

Even though Crow must have a lot of creative control in Pinback, he felt the need to make their next album solo and therefore created his most solid solo effort to date. He's a family man now. He wants be home with his wife and son, and still make music. Yet, this creates a conundrum. With how much a baby sleeps, how could he have recorded the majority of this album in his home studio? He must have damn good soundproofing.