Rob Crow is the man of a million projects, including the Ladies, Team Sleep, Thingy, Heavy Vegetable, Goblin Cock, Optiganally Yours and, most notably, Pinback. But his true identity as an artist may be most evident in his solo albums, where there are no collaborators to mask his tendencies. Living Well is his third solo full-length, and his first since 2003's My Room Is a Mess, and it exposes Crow for what he really is: a writer of intricate, weaving guitar melodies, usually acoustic and electric, over soft, hushed vocal harmonies. But whereas Pinback sounds deliberate and calculated, the music on Living Well sounds like half-formed ideas and melodies. Crow never really builds his sounds into a fully realized statement.[more:]
It's not completely incomplete. "Over Your Heart" features the complex instrumentation, hushed, earnest singing and melodic progression. Layered acoustic guitars, a timely drum machine, very slight synth and Crow's repeat of "I'll just wait/ and you'll be fine" make "Up" a successful piece of atmsphereric longing. "I Hate You Rob Crow" appears in two different versions and, despite its brevity, is a nice contrast to Crow's low-key triumphs. Here, he steps to forefront of the song with meatier vocals and chugging instrumental progressions.
But although there are plenty of hooks, none of the fourteen songs on Living Well feature the intricacies and lush arrangements of Crow's best work. It becomes evident that Crow may be at his best when working with a collaborator (Zach Smith in Pinback, Zach Hill in the Ladies, et cetera). I've often wondered how Crow can be as prolific as he is and still maintain artistic integrity, inspiration and creativity, but Living Well shows that in Crow's case, two heads are better than one.
***"I Hate You Rob Crow" MP3: http://www.temporaryresidence.com/mp3s/robcrow_ihateyou.mp4
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