Music writers are like restaurant employees. Donâ€™t be a dick during your interview.Â Think about it when we have book deals and youâ€™re in the cut-out bin. Rob Crow recently pulled some attitude out of his expansive cargo, uh, cargo, SHORTS?!?!â€¦..what theÂ hell are those things? Thatâ€™s ok. Itâ€™s thrifty not to discard what you wore to a Quicksand show in 1992.
The following is courtesy of my writerly colleague David Dunlap Jr.
(from the Memphis Flyer)
Beware of Geek
Living well hasnâ€™t mellowed indie rocker Rob Crow.
BY DAVID DUNLAP | MARCH 8, 2007
At first glance, Rob Crow seems to be a likable enough guy. Heâ€™s got a great voice and a disarmingly schlubby appearance. On the artwork of his most recent solo release, Living Well, Crow is pictured with his new bride and even newer baby in a tableau of indie-rock domestic bliss. The press release for his latest even states that â€œthe intensely personal lyrics document Crowâ€™s courtship with his wife, their marriage, and the subsequent birth of their first child.â€ Heâ€™s a geek of the highest order; his popular band, Pinback, is named after a character from John Carpenterâ€™s sci-fi comedy Dark Star, and on the song â€œJedi Outcast,â€ he sings, â€œRemember Yoda!/And what he said/â€™There is no try/ There is only do.â€™â€
Well, despite all of these endearing qualities, it seems that someone out there doesnâ€™t think that Crow is such a mensch. On Living Well, there are not one but two versions of a song entitled â€œI Hate Rob Crowâ€ â€” an album and a single version, naturally. The song is pleasant enough, and the blandly cryptic lyrics (a Crow staple) â€” â€œWanted to be/Some kind of mess/The pain of it all/And not too impressedâ€ â€” donâ€™t offer any clues to what could have inspired such vitriol. No help comes from the songâ€™s goofy video, which features Crow stumbling into an operating room and singing into a microphone attached to an intestine. Reportedly, the title came from a â€œparticularly unpleasant roommate Crow had earlier in his life,â€ though Crow himself declines to comment on the
songâ€™s origin. Perhaps it could have something do with his off-putting personality and anemic sense of humor. Youâ€™d think that Crow, the newly minted family man, would have found inner peace and that the guy who called a previous band Goblin Cock would be a laugh riot. Well, youâ€™d be wrong on both counts.
Despite his new family, Crow remains the tortured artist. When asked if it was harder finding inspiration after settling down, he tersely replies, â€œIâ€™m never satisfied.â€ Crow is a staunch vegan and an avid comic-book collector, and he exemplifies the more unsavory personality traits that both of those stereotypes confer. He is known to be sanctimonious and more demanding on contract riders than an artist with 10 times the star power. Though an indie-rock vet, he was more than happy to lend his sweet voice to a Clorox commercial, and Pinback contributed a lackadaisical cover of Black Flagâ€™s â€œWastedâ€ to the cred-sapping compilation Music from the OC: Mix 6: Covering Our Tracks.
Surely, though, the guy who titled a Goblin Cock release Bagged and Boarded (a comic-book term) must have a hell of a funny bone. Again, no. The humor with Goblin Cock, his heavy-metal outlet, ended with the name and the song titles. Some of the more refined fans might claim that the humor never even began. In a fit of literal-mindedness, the not-ready-for-big-box-store-display artwork for Bagged and Boarded depicted the ridiculously large member of some underworld demon. Though Goblin Cock did, indeed, set off false metal alarms for the genreâ€™s purists, Crow claims, â€œItâ€™s not jokey. Iâ€™m just doing the band I want to see.â€
On Living Well, Crow is still flying his geek flag, though not in a silly way. He titles one song â€œLiefeld,â€ after an oft-derided comic-book artist named Rob Liefeld, whose popularity peaked in the â€™90s. Crow joins the chorus of Liefeld detractors, and the lyrics seem to be a critique of Liefeldâ€™s drawing style and his trademark anatomical inconsistencies â€” â€œI know itâ€™s strange, their eyes donâ€™t match.â€
Crowâ€™s sparkling personality aside, the short, melodic songs on Living Well are enough to sate fans of Pinback until the duo releases its next record. Crow handles everything on the record â€” from playing to recording to producing. He compensates for his lack of rhythmic prowess by crafting complicated XTC-esque melodies with his guitar (â€Over Your Heartâ€). Overall, Living Well is a tuneful, pretty bore. The trick, then, is how to translate the low-key home-recorded solipsism of the songs on the album into ones played by a full band in a live setting. So far, Crow seems happy with the results.
â€œThe tour is going really well,â€ Crow says. â€œTo the point where I wish I could record some of it over again with this band.â€
While the band may be gelling on tour, the pressures of what Bob Seger chronicled in â€œTurn the Pageâ€ may be getting to Crow. When asked about balancing family life with life on the road, he replies, â€œWell, right now Iâ€™m just trying to finish this interview so I can spend some time with my family who came to visit me in New York for a couple of days between shows. It can be stressful.â€
Perhaps the doughy malcontent isnâ€™t living as well as it might seem.