Album Review: Crobot – Feel This

Regularly as clockwork, right as you think “We could use some new music from Crobot”, the self-styled dirty groove rockers appear with a new album in hand. Or in this case, a melting ice cream in hand. Thankfully, said cover art is not a reflection of the contents of album five. Feel This, has them at their Crobot-iest and much more like a fresh serving of your favourite flavour of ice cream.

Where its predecessor focused on the doom elements found within their music to create their darkest record, this time around they’ve went to the other end of their spectrum and are at their most straightforward hard rocking whilst remaining true to their core sound. There may be far less fuzz and grime to be found in the guitar licks from Chris Bishop but his playing itself is as dirty as it has ever been. As the fast and furious “Electrified” opens the album, its mission statement is clear: this isn’t your dad’s Crobot. Instead, they’ve raided their own back catalogue, cherry-picked the best parts to present the new and improved version which fits 2022 without blending in with the crowd.

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However, they haven’t completely abandoned their roots and whilst this may be, sonically, the cleanest sounding album in their arsenal backed by crisp production without going heavy-handed, there’s a great helping of familiarity book-ending the album with “Dizzy” and “Staring Straight into the Sun”. Where the former rhythmically stomps along as Brandon Yeagley drawls and rasps against Bishop’s fuzzy tones whilst also dabbling into his trademark robotic tones and could easily feature on Something Supernatural, the latter closes out the album in a stroll, dipping into their Black Sabbath influences with its brooding opening riff.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something in the straightforward category, lead single “Better Times” should serve you well. As band who refuse to make the same album twice, this is a perfect snapshot of them at their current incarnation, it’s still Crobot, just with a bit more wisdom to balance their puckish charm. Showing growth and maturity in both the music and lyrics in which we all found ourselves hoping for circumstances to change for the better in the last couple of years, Yeagley’s vocals are laced with both desperation and defiance.

As the band also delve into grandiosity as hinted at on last year’s EP, Rat Child, “Set You Free” builds to a bombastic crescendo, betraying the keys on the intro. And as the video depicts a piano aflame at several moments, it’s a perfect metaphor for the song itself, as belief and passion spark into an inferno against its sombre opening. It pairs well with the whiplash-inducing “Without Wings” with its subtle clean guitar intro before it erupts into a pounding “Child of the Grave”-style gallop.

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Elsewhere, “Golden” is the band’s grunge moment, clad in flannel but still suitably groovy, it deliberately channels Soundgarden and paying tribute to Chris Cornell, it never delves into pastiche. Instead, they sound more like a modern grunge band, rather than one from Seattle in the early 90s and a few current bands could take pointers from this track. But it’s perhaps “Dance With the Dead” that becomes the highlight after a single listen. Sandwiched between the high-octane numbers of “Into the Fire” and “Holy Ghost”, it’s the furthest thing from a Crobot song yet still firmly a track you’d expect from the Pensylvania quartet. With tongues firmly planted in their cheeks and a chorus you’ll pick up quicker than Donald Trump would pick up his phone to fire flurries of unhinged tweets before he was banned. It’s pinned to a funky melody which is just begging for a “Thriller” style video, complete with perfectly choreographed undead dancers to create something so flamboyant, there’s likely to be a rather peeved Papa Emeritus IV he didn’t come up with this for Ghost.

This is an album where every song deserves to be discussed at length. Albums like this are rare in the modern era – where every track holds significance and there’s not an ounce of fat. Where the phrase “all killer, no filler” may have become cliché, it’s an incredibly apt one in this instance. Bolstered by a more solid rhythm section and recording the bulk of the album live in a short space of time, there’s an urgency and momentum that, only when present, do you realise it’s been missing from the last couple of releases. Much like Clutch in that they don’t release bad albums per se; some just happen to be better than others, Crobot also fall into this category. Continually challenging what their own sound can be, the evolution is a welcome one, presenting a cleaner, wiser band whilst paying homage to their roots.

Feel This is out now

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