Rob Crow is best known for the intricate pop of Pinback, but he’s done a little of everything—heavy-metal lifting in Goblin Cock, math-rock ricochets in Heavy Vegetable, funny music with JP Hasson, and a muted mix of folk, rock, and pop under his own name. All that experience is funneled into He Thinks He’s People, an uneven 13-song solo collection Crow finished while working on material for a forthcoming Pinback album. A few tracks on People employ the same textured-and-tessellated approach that distinguishes Pinback: “Tranked” slinks around a rudimentary electronic beat in the verses, but climbs high in the chorus, with Crow’s voice lifting and shifting the simple framework beneath. Crow appropriately closes with “Hangnailed,” a twisting, layered, smart tune that serves as a sort of cliffhanger for that promised new Pinback LP.
Crow’s sense of humor comes written across the record, often coupled with an overriding outlook of despair—messages written in napalm, the cell phone-talking commuter zipped into a body bag, people learning how to fall apart. Metal even gets its due on “Locking Seth Putnam In Hot Topic,” a tune that jangles with harmonium-and-keyboard bass in spite of the title’s reference to the late Anal Cunt frontman. Crow shifts the meters on “Prepare To Be Mined,” a complicated number whose web of cross-crossing harmonies sits well against a guitar line that suggests Silkworm or Polvo recording their guitar parts in a tin can.
Crow’s focus on variety—or perhaps it’s a lack of focus—also hurts People. Several songs feel rushed, even unfinished, while others move from obvious touchstones in regrettable directions. “Build” seems to be Crow’s piss-take nod to Faith No More’s “Epic.” “Unstable” offers an unsophisticated, badly written imitation of Elliott Smith’s grayest numbers. That said, the 65-second “Pat’s Crabs” lifts elements from both songs—indulgent repetition from the former, a multi-tracked acoustic guitar from the latter—and nails it, putting harsh self-pity in a perfectly soft pop light. He Thinks He’s People feels like an autobiographical mix-tape, with a few phases worth forgetting.