Heavy Vegetable
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

The Amazing Undersea Adventures Of Aqua Kitty And Friends , 6.5/10
Frisbie , 6/10
Rob Crow: Lactose Adept , 5/10
Spotlight On Optiganally Yours , 6/10
Thingy: Songs About Angels , 5/10
Thingy: To The Innocent , 6/10
Pinback: This Is Pinback , 6/10
Optiganally Yours: Presents Exclusively Talentmaker , 6/10
Pinback: Blue Screen Like , 5/10
Rob Crow: My Room Is A Mess (2003), 5/10
Pinback: Summer In Abaddon (2004), 6.5/10
Pinback: Nautical Antiques (2006), 4/10
Goblin Cock: Bagged And Boarded (2005), 4/10
Ladies: They Mean Us (2006), 6/10
Rob Crow: Living Well (2007) , 5/10
Other Men: Wake Up Swimming (2007), 5.5/10
Pinback: Autumn of the Seraphs (2007), 6/10
Rob Crow: He Thinks He's People (2011), 5/10

Rob Crow was the singer and guitarist of Heavy Vegetable, a San Diego band that showed promise with each of the four tracks on the EP A Bunch of Stuff (The Way Out Sound, 1993), particularly Doesn't Mean Shit, and then redefined progressive hardcore on The Amazing Undersea Adventures Of Aqua Kitty And Friends (Cargo, 1994). Instrumental dexterity and harmonic imagination turn brief songs like Couch, Lactose Adept and Black Suit into manifestos of a new genre. And Head Rush is even catchy.

Frisbie (Cargo, 1995) is more progressive than punk. The band plays its (28) songs with the seriousness of a jazz combo, although the songs maintain their frantic and angry identity. The album is still a machine-gun parade of short songs, but the lengthy Going Steady With The Limes seemed to open new horizons. Instead, the band dissolved.

Rob Crow recorded the "lo-fi" Lactose Adept (Cargo, 1996) along the same style and then Spotlight On Optiganally Yours (Cargo, 1997), a bizarre experiment with a keyboard called "optigan" in collaboration with Pea Hix. The two would give it a follow-up, again credited to Optiganally Yours (although replacing the optigan with other bizarre instruments), on Presents Exclusively Talentmaker (Absolutely Kosher, 2000), occasionally pop (Held), but more often brooding (Song For America), with nods at new age music (the sounds of nature on Oar) and to Morricone's soundtracks (The Last Ride Of the Pony Express).

In between, Crow formed the acoustic trio Thingy with another Vegetable veteran, singer Elea Tenuta. The EP Staring Contest (Headhunter, 1996) contains a handful of wonderful ditties like Pony and Cutest Baby, and the album Songs About Angels, Evil, And Running Around On Fire (Cargo, 1997) contains 24 brief tunes, including the anthemic Destroy All Music. The childish madness of Half Japanese wed to the melancholy soulfulness of Young Marble Giants.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Chiara)

Rob Crow era il cantante e chitarrista degli Heavy Vegetable, una band che si mise in luce con ciascuna delle quattro tracce sull' EP A Bunch of Stuff (The Way Out Sound, 1993), in particolar modo Doesn't Mean Shit, e poi ridefini` l'hardcore progressivo con The Amazing Undersea Adventures Of Aqua Kitty And Friends (Cargo, 1994). Abilita' strumentale ed armoniosa immaginazione mutano brevi canzoni come Couch, Lactose Adept e Black Suit nei manifesti di un nuovo genere. E Head Rush e' altrettanto orecchiabile.

Frisbie (Cargo, 1995) e' piu' progressiva che punk. La band suona le canzoni con la serieta' di un combo jazz, sebbene esse mantengano la loro identit… frenetica ed arrabbiata. L' album e' ancora un' avanzata mitragliatrice di brevi canzoni, ma la prolissa Going Steady With The Limes e' sembrata aprire nuovi orizzonti. Invece, la band si sciolse.

Rob Crow ha registrato il "lo-fi" Lactose Adept (Cargo, 1996) lungo lo stesso stile e successivamente Spotlight On Optiganally Yours (Cargo, 1997), un bizzarro esperimento con una tastiera chiamata "optigan" in collaborazione con Pea Hix. I due porteranno un seguito, ancora accreditata a Optiganally Yours, con Presents Exclusively Talentmaker (Absolutely Kosher, 2000), occasionalmente pop (Held), ma molto piu' spesso atmosferico (Song For America), con strizzatine d' occhi alla musica new age (i suoni della natura su Oar) ad alla colonna sonora di Morricone (The Last Ride Of the Pony Express).

Crow formo' il trio acustico Thingy con un altro veterano dei Vegetable, il cantante Elea Tenuta. L' EP Staring Contest (Headhunter, 1996) contiene una manciata di fantastiche canzoncine come Pony e Cutest Baby, e l' album Songs About Angels, Evil, And Running Around On Fire (Cargo, 1997) contiene 24 brevi melodie, incluso l' inno Destroy All Music. L' infantile pazzia di Half Japanese si sposa alla malinconica passione di Young Marble Giants.

Thingy expanded to a quartet for the full-length To The Innocent (Absolutely Kosher, 1999), and the rhythm section of bassist Jason Soares and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (who used to be in legendary punk outfit Clikatat Ikatowi of Orchestrated and Conducted fame) often steals the show from the singers. The comatose tone of the singers, that evokes boredom and desolation the way Lydia Lunch used to, contrasts with the progressive-rock acrobatics of the players (Ballpoint Pen). The album marks Crow's return to Heavy Vegetable form.

This Is Pinback (Ace Fu, 1999) is a collaboration between Crow and Three Mile Pilot's Armistead Burwell Smith IV Tripoli, one of Crow's artistic peaks, is a somnolent lullaby that repeats in a hypnotic manner employing vocal harmonies reminiscent of the Renaissance song. The subdued, dreamy tone persists throughout the album, affecting the the anemic plantation blues Charborg, the tenderly psychotic Chaos Engine (with the counterpoint of a vintage "acid" organ and a discrete drum machine), the half-song mantra of Loro, the martial cabaret-like philosophical poem Rousseau, the relatively propulsive and catchy Crutch (whose refrain takes three minutes to soar) and the closer Montaigne, by far the most complex architecture, an austere Joni Mitchell-esque piano ballad with wavering gospel organ and a lengthy loose jamming coda.

Drummer Cameron Jones joined Pinback in 2000 and the trio released the single Loro (ace-fu, 2000) and the EP Some Voices (Tree, 2000), whose title-track became one of their live staples.

Pinback returned with Blue Screen Like (Ace Fu, 2001), a confused work that, again, mixes post-rock, psychedelic-rock and folk-rock but hardly coins a personal language out of that fusion style, and with the EP Some Voices (Absolutely Kosher, 2002), an appendix to that album. Their artistic zenith was in fact reached by another EP, Offcell (Absolutely Kosher, 2003), boasting "electronic" arrangements, thanks to the soothingly melodic and hypnotic Microtonic Wave (reminiscent of the new wave of the 1970s, from Television to Police) the post-rock ballad Victorious D (an alternation of tender and vibrant moods), the soulful and elegant B (reminiscent of vocal groups of the Sixties such as the Hollies) and the eleven-minute mini-opera Grey Machine, blending psychedelic trance and soul singing.

Rob Crow's talent is undeniable, but he seems determined to scatter it and waste it in the most grotesque manner. As the number of projects increases (Physics, Alpha Males, Goblin Cock, Advertising), Crow's focus decreases (a simple physical law). His second solo album My Room Is A Mess (Absolutely Kosher, 2003) sounds like an even more confused summary of all the other projects. It rarely coalesces and often sounds unfinished. The catchier tunes (Some Things, Over the Summer, A Subtle Kiss) are Brit-pop for kids who don't have the money to buy import CDs, and the "experiments" are as experimental as Britney Spears' B-sides.

Pinback finally delivered gutsy songs on Summer In Abaddon (Touch & Go, 2004), that almost sounds like the the rebellious alter-ego of the depressed debut album, replete with melodic progressions and hard riffs. Non Photo-Blue (the lead track) sounds like an amateurish version of Police, and This Red Book sounds like a twisted cover of a song from Beatles' Abbey Road, and the slicker 3x0 evokes the prog-pop of the Electric Light Orchestra, but elsewhere Pinback concocts charming structures, whispering Syracuse over irregular drumming, neoclassical piano and almost Middle-eastern strumming, weaving the tale of Fortress around jangling guitars and mellow folk vocals, whining AFK over disjointed guitar and drums, crafting the emotional crescendo of 3x0 via a subtle interplay of piano, vocals, drums and guitar, However, even then, they are not exactly revolutionary. Pinback's music does better as background music than as individual songs. The mood prevails on the music: the album is a jelly of eccentric retro-refrains delivered in a cold spleen.

Rob Crow's side projects continued to multiply. Goblin Cock released Bagged And Boarded (Absolutely Kosher, 2005), his loudest power-pop record yet.

The Ladies, a collaboration with Hella's drummer Zach Hill, released They Mean Us (Temporary Residence, 2006), mostly devoted to Mandatory Psycho-Freakout. Crow had already worked with Zach Hill on the two Holy Smokes albums, Masculine Drugs and Talk To Your Kids About the Gangs (2006).

Pinback's Nautical Antiques (Ace Fu, 2006) is a collection of b-sides and rarities.

Rob Crow's third solo album, Living Well (Temporary Residence, 2007), continued to dilute material (as it happens with every prolific artist whose name is not Leonardo or Mozart), but simple tunes such as I Hate You evoke the best moments of Pinback in a way that the previous solo albums failed to do.

Other Men was almost a reunion of Heavy Vegetables as it featured Crow, drummer Manolo Turner and bassist Travis Nelson. Their first album, Despite the fact that Crow's best material was scattered among so many different releases, Wake Up Swimming (Robcore, 2007), managed to assemble enough vigor from the players and overcome the weak material.

Pinback definitely came out of its post-rock shyness on Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch & Go, 2007). By now Pinback excelled at both penning facile ditties such as From Nothing to Nowhere (their most frenzied song yet) or Subbing for Eden or Off by 50 and at sculpting slightly angular songs such as the Devil You Know (that swings between hard-blues and light-pop styles), or Blue Harvest (typical of their mesmerizing vocal progressions, discontinuities and harmonies, against an insistent Police-like riff), or the ballad Good to Sea, or the syncopated Barnes, or the piano elegy Bouqet, or Walters (that starts as a soft ballads and ends as a tense boogie), that don't quite fit any definition. Each is just another disorienting twist in an album of twisted ideas.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Tobia D'Onofrio)

Thingy diventa quartetto per l’album To The Innocent (Absolutely Kosher, 1999), e la sezione ritmica del bassista Jason Soares e del batterista Mario Rubalcaba (che faceva parte della leggendaria band punk Clikatat Ikatowi di Orchestrated and Conducted) ruba spesso la scena ai cantanti. Il tono comatoso di questi ultimi, che evoca tedio e desolazione come era solita fare Lydia Lunch, contrasta con le acrobazie progressive-rock degli strumentisti (Ballpoint Pen). L’album segna il ritorno di Crow alla forma degli Heavy Vegetable.

This Is Pinback (Ace Fu, 1999) è una collaborazione tra Crow e Armistead Burwell Smith IV dei Three Mile Pilot. Tripoli, uno degli apici creativi di Crow, è una ninna-nanna sonnolenta che si ripete in maniera ipnotica impiegando armonie vocali reminiscenti della canzone rinascimentale. Il tono pacato e sognante pervade l’intero album, influenzando l’anemico plantation blues Charborg, la teneramente psicotica Chaos Engine (col contrappunto di un "acido" organo vintage e una distinta drum machine), la semi-canzone mantra Loro, il marziale poema filosofico da cabaret Rousseau, la relativamente propulsiva ed orecchiabile Crutch (il cui ritornello ci mette tre minuti ad alzarsi in volo) ed il pezzo in chiusura Montaigne, di gran lunga l’architettura più complessa, un’austera ballata per piano alla Joni Mitchell con vacillante organo gospel e lunga coda di improvvisazione libera.

Il batterista Cameron Jones si è unito a Pinback nel 2000 ed il trio ha pubblicato il singolo Loro (ace-fu, 2000) e l’EP Some Voices (Tree, 2000), la cui title-track è diventata uno dei pezzi forti dal vivo.

Pinback ritorna con Blue Screen Like (Ace Fu, 2001), un lavoro confuso che mescola di nuovo post-rock, rock psichedelico e folk-rock, ma da quella fusione stilistica non riesce a dare origine ad un linguaggio personale, e poi con l’EP Some Voices (Absolutely Kosher, 2003), un’appendice di quell’album. Lo zenith artistico è raggiunto da un altro EP che sfoggia arrangiamenti "elettronici", Offcell (Absolutely Kosher, 2002), grazie alla melodica ed ipnotica consolazione di Microtonic Wave (reminiscente della new wave anni ’70, dai Television ai Police) la ballata post-rock Victorious D (un’alternanza di umori teneri e vibranti), l’elegante ballata soul B (che ricorda gruppi vocali degli anni ‘60 come gli Hollies) e la mini-opera di sette minuti Grey Machine, che intreccia trance psichedelica e cantato soul.

Il talento di Rob Crow è innegabile, ma il musicista sembra determinato a disperderlo e sprecarlo nel modo più grottesco. Con l’aumentare del numero di progetti (Phisics, Alpha Males, Goblin Cock, Advertising), l’enfasi di Crow diminuisce (una semplice legge fisica). Il suo secondo disco solista My Room Is A Mess (Absolutely Kosher, 2003) suona come un ancora più confuso riassunto di tutti gli altri progetti. E’ raramente compatto e suona spesso incompleto. Le melodie più orecchiabili (Some Things, Over The Summer, A Subtle Kiss) sono solo Brit-pop per ragazzini che non hanno i soldi per comprare CD d’importazione, e gli "esperimenti" sono sperimentali quanto le b-side di Britney Spears.

Finalmente Pinback tira fuori delle canzoni piene di grinta su Summer In Abaddon (Touch and Go, 2004), che suona quasi come l’alter-ego ribelle del depresso debut album, infarcito di progressioni melodiche e riff pesanti. Non Photo-Blue (il pezzo d’apertura) sembra una versione amatoriale dei Police, This Red Book sembra una contorta cover dei Beatles di Abbey Road, e la furba 3x0 evoca il prog-pop degli Electric Light Orchestra, ma altrove Pinback architetta strutture incantevoli, bisbigliando Syracuse su un drumming irregolare, piano neoclassico e strimpellate quasi mediorientali, imbastendo il racconto di Fortress attorno a jangling guitars ed un cantato folk maturo, mugolando AFK su chitarra e batteria sconnesse, lavorandosi il crescendo emozionale di 3x0 con un’ingegnosa interazione piano, cantato, batteria e chitarra. Comunque, anche quei pezzi, non sono esattamente rivoluzionari. La musica di Pinback funziona meglio come musica di sottofondo anziché come canzoni individuali. L’umore prevale sulla musica: l’album è una gelatina di eccentrici ritornelli retrò eseguiti con un gelido umore nero.

I side-projects di Crow hanno continuato a moltiplicarsi. Goblin Cock ha pubblicato Bagged And Boarded (Absolutely Kosher, 2005), il suo disco power-pop più potente.

The Ladies, una collaborazione col batterista degli "Hella" Zach Hill, hanno pubblicato They Mean Us (Temporary Residence, 2006), particolarmente devoto a Mandatory Psycho-Freakout. Crow aveva già lavorato con Zach Hill sui due album degli Holy Smokes, Masculine Drugs e Talk To Your Kids About The Gangs (2006).

Nautical Antiques (Ace Fu, 2006) di Pinback, è una raccolta di rarità e b-sides.

Il terzo album solista di Rob Crow, Living Well (Temporary Residence, 2007), ha continuato a mescolare il materiale (come accade a qualunque artista prolifico che non sia Leonardo o Mozart), ma stavolta melodie semplici come I Hate You evocano i momenti migliori di Pinback, come non era ancora accaduto nei precedenti dischi solisti.

Other Men è stata quasi una riunione degli Heavy Vegetables, poiché presenta Crow, il batterista Manolo Turner ed il bassista Travis Nelson. Il loro primo album, Wake Up Swimming (Robcore, 2007) è riuscito a tirare fuori dai musicisti abbastanza vigore da sopraffare le parti più deboli, nonostante il materiale migliore di Crow fosse disseminato fra diverse uscite discografiche.

Pinback è finalmente uscito dalla sua timidezza post-rock, su Autumn of the Seraphs (Touch & Go, 2007). Fino ad ora Pinback ha primeggiato non soltanto nel firmare disinvolte canzoncine come From Nothing to Nowhere (finora il pezzo più delirante) o Subbing for Eden o Off by 50, ma anche nello scolpire canzoni leggermente spigolose tipo The Devil You Know (che oscilla fra sonorità hard-blues e light-pop), o Blue Harvest (tipico esempio delle loro incantevoli progressioni, discontinuità ed armonie vocali, contro un insistente riff alla Police), o la ballata Good to Sea, o la sincopata Barnes, o l’elegia pianistica Bouquet, o Walters (che inizia come soffice ballata e finisce come intenso boogie), pezzi che non calzano nessuna definizione stilistica. Ognuno è soltanto un altro disorientante inganno, in un album di idee contorte.

Crow then decided to delve into heavy metal with a new band, Goblin Cock, that released Bagged And Boarded (2005) and Come With Me If You Want to Live (Robcore, 2009).

Rob Crow's solo album He Thinks He's People (2011) boasts the usual second-rate refrains (like Prepare to Be Mined) but truly excels at dark humor (Locking Seth Putnam in Hot Topic, I'd Like to Be There).

Pinback's Sherman (2012) was another notable addition to Crow's canon.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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