As the old saying goes, “a lie has speed, but truth has endurance.” To be perfectly honest, I had only a perfunctory knowledge of Rob Crow’s discography going into this review. I’ve been vaguely familiar with the name for years now, through his background vocal appearance on Drive Like Jehu’s “Luau,” as well as a few name drops here and there. I have my own fair share of underground legends and obsessions, but since I’ve always lived at least half a country away from San Diego, Crow has never made it onto that list. Yet 2011’s He Thinks He’s People has changed that fact for the better.
The press release boasts that He Thinks He’s People contains “13 Depressing Pop Hits!”, an odd claim that rings true on this album. Whether he’s crooning along to a syncopated math-rock snare in “Sophistructure” or harmonizing in acoustic contributions like “This Thread” and “Purpose,” Rob’s compositions all have a heavy heart and a beautiful execution. With topics ranging from clearing out your desk after being fired to a man wearing a dress, Crow takes irregular subjects and delivers their message in a manner both appropriately dark and absurdly meditative. From the dark but blunt content of his lyrics to his dynamic musical influences, which range from XTC to Elliott Smith, what Crow offers in this release is nothing if not honest.
The landscape of the album as a whole is gorgeous. With 13 tracks that range from 1:05 to 3:26 apiece, the album is a reasonable length, and each piece flows into the next with precise timing. I particularly enjoy the way “Build,” “Pat’s Crabs,” “So Way” and “Locking Seth Putnam in Hot Topic” roll into each other. Just one more way Crow displays the level of thought he puts into every move he makes.
So yeah, this is the first complete album I’ve ever heard by Rob Crow. But I listened to it six times today, and found something new to embrace at every turn. And another positive side effect is that it’s only made me want to dig deeper into the recesses of Crow’s vast catalog. Whether you’re a Crow devotee or a newcomer as well, take that as reason enough to take the album for a spin on your own.
Stream: Rob Crow – “Sophistructure”