Release Date: Oct 18, 2011
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
As Rob Crow has continued to make music over the years it's a gentle delight to realize how distinct a voice, literal and referring to his work as a whole, he's been able to create -- there's always something steady and ultimately sweet (however sour a lyric might be) in both Pinback and his solo efforts, a sweet clarity and structure that appeals without trying to beat over the head or be randomly frenetic or sloppy (though "Build" certainly comes close to that in its nervous quaver and quick guitar scrapes and beats, skating close to the edge but never quite going over it). Otherwise, He Thinks He's People continues this admirable path, "Sophistructure" feeling like it emerged with every part in perfect place down to the sudden chorused vocals. From there it's almost one high point after another, whether it's the to-die-for spotlight chorus on "So Way" melting into the waggish tale of "Locking Seth Putnam in Hot Topic," the latter a bit of slick dance-rock crunch refigured in Crow's style, or the quiet, almost barely there "Unstable," a soft touch of electric guitar and a whisper of a voice for its first half before turning into a bolder declaration of feelings.
It was in the early 2000s—a time where some bands still weren’t completely pasted all over the Internet—that one of my best friends went to see Pinback for the first time. He was obsessed. He had every track he could get his hands on, but he’d only known them from listening to burned, coverless CD-Rs; there weren’t websites like MySpace or Facebook, and popular magazines weren’t covering the band.
Rob Crow owes us a new Pinback LP; that much, he knows. And the shadow of the California compulsive's most famous band's unfinished work seems to loom over He Thinks He's People, Crow's fourth solo effort. People got its start as something of a warm-up for Pinback's long-awaited follow-up to 2007's Autumn of the Seraphs; a relatively modest affair, at times almost seeming as though it's saving its strength.
There’s something approachable, even tossed off, about Rob Crow’s work outside of Pinback. From the ramshackle recordings with his side project, Thingy, to the awkward candid photo and block letters that adorned the cover of his last solo record, 2007’s Living Well, to the stick figure and hand-written scribble on the cover of the new album, He Thinks He’s People, Crow’s solo outings offer a simpler counterpoint to the intricacies of Pinback, though the melodic pleasures are awfully similar. In some ways, the simplicity of the artwork on these releases, and on He Thinks He’s People in particular, feels like it bleeds over into the music.