Album Reviews: Living Well by Rob CrowRob Crow seems to have never met a friend who he didn't want to make an album with, and this has led him to a prolific career under a million different names. Most people probably know him from his work in Pinback, but he's also put out albums with Heavy Vegetable, Thingy, Goblin Cock, The Ladies, Optiganally Yours, and Lord knows what else. He also makes solo albums, naturally. Living Well isn't challenging or convention-defying in the way that some of his band material has been, but, in its own understated way, it's no less valuable as an addition to album collections. These are some of his loveliest tunes, and, y'know, there's nothing wrong with that.
"I Hate You, Rob Crow" appears in two versions, a short "album version" and a humorously extended "single version" -- however you slice it, it puts the pop! into guitar-pop, sounding safely hipster-ready while riding an irresistible melody. "Taste" settles into a slowly shuffling groove, and its chorus is all pleasant ambience. All the pieces are effective, from the anchoring bass line to Crow's soothing vocal to guitar work that consistently refuses to settle for the easy way out. One effective diversion to the album's semi-uniform pace is the carnivalesque polka "Liefeld," a rare spot on the album where Crow sounds agitated.
Standouts "Up" and "Over Your Heart" are built on warm and memorable riffs, and while there's often a gurgling stew of instruments and parts, the songs never feels overcrowded. Crow is very focused and precise in his approach here, and Living Well is consequently less cluttered or reckless than some of his other work. Some would say that a comfort zone should be anathema to Crow, but it's hard to argue with an album that goes down so smoothly.
Crow's name is announced loud and clear on the album cover, and the songs shake off his usual opaqueness as if to say, "Here I am!" Crow is a devoted family man now, and Living Well is a loving tip of the hat to this new chapter. It's an easy, wistful, and even romantic listening experience. Just don't expect the same from the next Goblin Cock record. - Adam McKibbin, The Red Alert
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