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Rob Crow: Order In A Chaotic World

<p>"Sophistructure," from Pinback frontman Rob Crow, is punk rock for lonely astronauts and paranoid androids.</p>
Courtesy of the artist

"Sophistructure," from Pinback frontman Rob Crow, is punk rock for lonely astronauts and paranoid androids.

Rob Crow once described his band Pinback as "the lo-fi sci-fi that makes the boys cry," a statement that could just as easily apply to his new solo album, He Thinks He's People. For almost two decades, the San Diego multi-instrumentalist has released albums under a variety of names with a rotating cast of collaborators. But whether Crow makes quirky electro-pop or heavy metal, his unmistakable voice shines through, literally and metaphorically. His songs sound both high-tech and low-budget, geekily meticulous and infused with muted emotion.

"Sophistructure" is textbook Crow — a tightly wound rock song that ticks by with metronomic precision, powered by angular and delicately interlocking parts. Crow's thin tenor flits around in the mix, sometimes robotically clipped and sometimes building into an otherworldly one-man chorus of layered harmonizing. But the song's painstaking composure is laced with unshakable melancholy. It's punk rock for lonely astronauts and paranoid androids.

The title, a portmanteau of "sophistry" and "structure," hints at basic existential anxiety. The structures engineered into everyday life — and the rhythms that provide its soundtrack — help provide order to a chaotic world, but they just as easily lull us into a false sense of security. All of which is heady stuff for a three-minute pop song, but Crow's elliptical, evocative songwriting crystallizes this sense of instability and contradiction.

"We are swimming alone in your basement, fractured and mangled and down," he sings at one point. It's a dark but eerily beautiful image, and difficult to forget.

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Rachel Smith
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