He Thinks He’s People
(Temporary Residence Limited)
Like Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, Rob Crow is one of those rare indie-rock frontmen whose work is difficult to criticize. Even if you don’t think Pinback—the band for which Crow is most well-known—is somewhat overrated (I do), you’d still be hard-pressed to say that they suck. Both that band’s stuff and Crow’s solo material have been poppy but rhythmically complicated, technically proficient without being too showy. There’s just nothing particularly polarizing about the guy; the closest he’s ever gotten to offensiveness is naming his tongue-in-cheek metal side-project Goblin Cock.
It’s been four years since the last Pinback album and the last Crow solo effort, and he’s spent that time having kids and working on myriad side projects and collaborations. Still, you don’t get any sense from He Thinks He’s People that Crow has grown much, either as a person or as a musician. I suspect that his fans like it that way. After all, they can buy Goblin Cock and Fantasy Mission Force records if they want the other, more out-there version of the artist.
There’s also a lingering sense that Crow never wants the listener to take his music too seriously. Whether it’s the crass drawing on the album cover or songs like “Pat’s Crabs” or “I’d Like To Be There”—the latter starting with a humorous rant about people talking on their phones in the movie theater—the silliness often bogs down otherwise fantastic songs like “Scalped” and “So Way.” Overall, it’s a clever and spirited set of songs from a huge talent who’s got nothing more to prove. But after making music for nearly 20 years, that just might be the one thing holding him back.