It's one thing to write and perform all of your own music, but
to also engineer and produce is a little much. Like many of his
past projects, most of Rob Crow's latest album seems like
constructed fragments rather than composed songs. It feels as
if the tracks were founded on a riff or two and layered with production
rather than exploring them and letting them breathe. Sadly, Living
Well feels like a really good compilation of demos.
Crow's songs are airy, supported by a clean electric guitar and
nice vocals, which sit far back in the mix. His soft, ambient
voice recalls Elliott Smith and Built To Spill.
However, unlike Smith, Crow is compelled to fill his songs with
unnecessary instruments rather than keeping them exposed. He makes
the mistake of most home-recorders by assuming that a drum beat
and bass (also poorly mixed) will bring a half-baked song to light.
The songs on Living Well are very linear in terms of structure
and are obviously the creation of one person. A lot of emphasis
is made on the beat (usually a drum machine), which holds together
music that spends a lot of time bouncing between two chords. It's
interesting to see musicians intentionally use a cheap drum machine
when we live in an age when high-quality technology is readily
available. Crow may defend it as an aspect of his "quirkiness".
However, both "Taste" and "Up" are examples
of what might be good songs if a crappy drum beat weren't laid
"Leveling" is the first chance Crow takes to break
out of the mold and get into some sort of groove. Unfortunately,
it's too little, too late, and he soon dives back into the circusy,
fake drumbeats with the following song, "Ring". "No
Sun" is another glimpse into what Crow would sound like if
he spent more time on his songs. It's only a minute and a half,
but there's some excellent fingerpicking and the drum, bass, and
electric build the song, rather than simply support it.
Rob Crow definitely has a unique style that would benefit tremendously
from either hiring a backing band or spending more time with his
other band Pinback. The interplay and intricacies on Pinback
albums are lost on Crow's solo discs. Despite the freedom he has
(like titling a song "I Hate You, Rob Crow") he truly
sounds like a man in need of a band. Crow is well known for being
a prolific writer, he now needs to become a better self-editor.
- Jon Murray
1. Bam Bam
2. I Hate You, Rob Crow (Album Version)
4. Over Your Heart
12. If Wade Would Call
13. No Sun
14. I Hate You, Rob Crow (Single Version)
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!