In 2015, Rob Crow quit music. In 2016, he’s put out two records, both with full bands. The first of them was You’re Doomed. Be Nice., which came out in March on Temporary Residence Ltd. under the banner of Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place, and the second is a return from the long-absent Goblin Cock, a third album, given the title Necronomodonkeykongimicon and issued via Joyful Noise Recordings.
Crow, who here is clad in a robe going by Lord Phallus and is probably best known in indie circles for his work with Pinback but has had a hand in a wide variety of outfits over the years including his own solo work and the delightfully bizarre Optiganally Yours, may not be much for retiring, but that can only be good news for any fan of quality songcraft. He’s proven time and again to be the kind of writer who can make a hook out of just about anything.
It’s been nearly eight years since the last time Goblin Cock had anything out — their second album, early 2009’s Come with Me if You Want to Live (discussed here), still gets periodic revisits — and it would seem that in light of what has no doubt been a tumultuous year-plus for Crow, that the perfect vehicle for giving the universe a big ol’ middle finger was already right at his disposal.
That, ultimately, would seem to be the impetus for Goblin Cock as a whole — there are levels on which they seem to be fuckall incarnate — but across their now-three albums beginning with 2005’s Bagged and Boarded, they’ve never been lazy either in songwriting or performance, and as the 13 tracks/36 minutes of Necronomodonkeykongimicon demonstrate, that continues to very much be the case more than a decade later. Hell, even naming the record clearly took effort on some level.
While the overall quality underlying the structures of the material is consistent, that’s not necessarily to say nothing has changed in Goblin Cock over the course of the last eight years. Necronomodonkeykongimicon actually speaks most of all to what was Crow‘s intention when he first put it together: to make a metal record. I wouldn’t say either Bagged and Boarded or Come with Me if You Want to Live were overly metal in their execution, though both were excellent heavy and/or stoner rock.
This time, while one might say the same of the mega-catchy “Flumed,” “Your Watch” or opener “Something Haunted,” the entire outing hits with a harder edge, marked out by copious gallop and double-kick bass in cuts like the chug-happy “Montrossor” and “Island, Island,” or “The Undeer” and “The Dorse,” while still retaining variety in its presentation that comes out more with repeat listens. Only slower and more spacious closer “Buck” reaches past the four-minute mark, so the songs are quick one into the next, and whether it’s the forward-thrust intensity of “Youth Pastoral” or the more swinging “Your Watch.”
Whatever tempo they’re using at any given point, whatever the lyrics — “Something Haunted” boasts the lines “Fuck shit and fuckin’ fuck you” — the songs offset the kind of toss-off, joke-ish nature of the band through their sheer memorability. That’s always been the thing about Goblin Cock, and while Crow and company — whoever that company might be, if anyone — are very clearly having a good time in these tracks, they’re by no means screwing around when it comes to presentation. The band is tight, the songs are tight, the performances are spot on. A telling moment is when Crow holds a note vocally across multiple measures for so long in “Flumed” that it becomes comical. Yeah, you have to laugh at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also really impressive.
And is Necronomodonkeykongimicon more metal than Goblin Cock were before? Probably. But by the end of the record, after the ups and downs in mood of “Stewpot’s Package,” “Bothered,” “World is Moving” and the two instrumentals, “Youth Pastoral” and the aforementioned “The Dorse” — both of which are perfectly placed to provide the tracklist with a shift in vibe without sacrificing momentum — it really doesn’t matter anymore. Or maybe it does, but the thing worth emphasizing about Goblin Cock‘s brand of metal is that it seems to be put together with zero preconceptions about what “being metal” means, or otherwise it’s actively working against them.
Crow has a long history of experimenting around pop forms, and maybe it’s fair to see Goblin Cock as a genre-based extension of those impulses, but if it was just an exercise in toying with sound, I’m not sure Necronomodonkeykongimicon would work as well as it does. It’s less narrative than was Come with Me if You Want to Live, the lyrics feel more personal — there’s no song about Billy Jack, for example — as though the closer of that record, “Trying to Get Along with Humans,” became a point at which “Something Haunted” could pick up after so much time passed.
When the drums on “Buck” have thudded out and the song has pushed out its last proggy keyboard line, I think the album in its entirety can only be said to benefit from Crow‘s background as a “metal outsider.” He has fewer restrictions. He brazenly takes the material where he wants it to go or is otherwise willing to let it go there on its own, and these songs are hammered out in a way that metal, as known by pitiful mortals, is often simply too indulgent either in its technicality or its chestbeating aggression to engage. Lord Phallus, it seems, knows no such boundaries.