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Rob Crow
Living Well
Temporary Residence Records

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 over them.

"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

Track Listing:
1. Bam Bam
2. I Hate You, Rob Crow (Album Version)
3. Taste
4. Over Your Heart
5. Up
6. Chucked
7. Burns
8. Liefeld
9. Leveling
10. Ring
11. Focus
12. If Wade Would Call
13. No Sun
14. I Hate You, Rob Crow (Single Version)

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