First, let’s clear something up: this is not about a mechanical bird, nor is it about an athlete’s celebration, nor a cosmetic operation…no, Crobot is simply a name made up by the band when, as Brandon Yeagley explained during an interview with the Moshville Times, “We love Crowbar (the 90s New Orleans metal band) and Chris Bishop does a lot of robotic effects with the guitar so our buddy Dave was like “how about Crobot?” As good a way of naming a band as any, I guess. Crobot and their take on heavy rock has been in the ascendancy since their 2012 debut and the acclaimed 2016 release, Welcome To Fat City. Their next onslaught is now available and is mysteriously called Motherbrain and continues the heavy, funky, psychedelic rock, but with an edgier, darker feel to the whole thing. Pleasingly, the roots of rock (the blues) are also in evidence as they pile on the riffs, the hooks and even throw in some of the catchiest songs you’re likely to hear this year.
It opens in a no-nonsense way with Burn…no, not a cover; it’s a vocal foot drum lead up to the riff that is heavy with a capital heave! It does actually remind me of Purple but not that one; it has the blues touch of Mistreated but way heavier. A bend and hammer full phased solo that leads to a tempo and riff change that adds to a damn good start. Keep Me Down is a heavy take on blues with a southern tinge but has light and shade with phased vocals here and there and a short solo that takes pitch to a new level. This isn’t as immediate for me and has a bit of “let’s write a single’ feel but it is still a good one. Drown, if possible, takes the weight up and uses a Priest mixed with Metallica kind of riff and then surprise when the band quieten for a very melodic and well-sung vocals. This is a song that grows with repeated listens as the riff at first generates a ‘yeah, so?’ response but when it gets under your skin (and it will) it becomes a powerful and very good track. Low Life lulls with a neat funky bass line over a clever drum pattern and then the vocal joins to deliver a measured melody and the guitar is picked chords before an intermittent riff joins and, yet again, puts weight into the music…in fact it the ingenious guitar behind everything else that makes this for me with its understated, brilliant backing. Alpha Dawg is apparently inspired by Teen Wolf and, over another blues-driven riff, tells the story of “a funky werewolf mofo” to use Brandon’s own words. The guitar plays a fascinating riff behind the initially very low register vocals and through the harmonised chorus. It is a lot of fun and you will be joining with the “I’m the Alpha Dog, whoo hoo” especially toward the fade. Stoning The Devil has a riff that begs the ‘where have I heard that before?’ question. It took me a little while to realise it reminds me of one of their earlier pieces, Cloud Spiller, mixed with Dio era Sabbath…and that is a very good thing. They keep dark and light shining throughout with quieter phrases between the main riff and the only thing lacking is the solo that was crying out to break free after the screaming vocal bridge. Gasoline is next and an echoed, picked chord and drum pattern behind the vocal soon bursts into another heavy riff that could owe its structure to Bad Company, believe it or not. Brandon’s vocals are at their best as he moves effortlessly from true melody to the more raucous and, praise be, the solo with its manic effects and overdubs is excellent…but too short. Destroyer is riff led, but leans back for the vocals to shine and then join together to bring us the best song called Destroyer to date! The middle section has a brief but neat bass ‘solo’ before the memorable chorus cuts back in…that solo could have lasted a bit longer as could the guitar solo toward the fade. Blackout is not a cover either…it moves a bit too much toward grungy for me, but is still impeccably played and it’s rescued by the subtle guitar solo that suddenly increases the pace and enlivens the riff for the bridge. After Life has a great drum and bass (no! not that kind; proper drum and proper bass) intro and they carry the rest of the track as the catchy chorus takes permanent root in your mind. After the bridge (“I will make you a believer”) we are treated to a (too short) solo that relies less on effects than some of its predecessors and is rather good. The final track, The Hive, just buzzes (sorry) with creativity as it moves from psych to heavy to melodic and back again. It does lack a solo that I would have liked to hear illuminate a damn good song…maybe even some fret buzz to keep it apt!
In summary, then, this is a high-quality slice of modern heavy rock without the pretentions that so many of their peers bring. It is honest, blues-based rock that will appeal to the so-called Classic Rock generation, of which I am a fully signed up member, as well as the lovers of the aforementioned pretentious rock. It could have done with a few more solos for me and my guitar geek/freak nature, but it will still be a regular on my playlists.
(A serendipitous misclick by my fumbling fingers meant that I treated myself to some blues from 1935 before I listened to Crobot again…Cripple Clarence Lofton presaged Crobot’s heavy blues with a gorgeous slice of piano and washboard blues called Strut That Thing. It just highlighted how beholden we all are to the blues and it also seemed the title suited the blast of Motherbrain.)
The Hive finishes us off nicely with a wicked battering, with yet more commentary on society and our worth as individuals if we define ourselves on how much we can give away to fit in. it’s a bold song to end on, a solid rock anthem to rebel against the system to.
CROBOT has always managed to write music that packs a distinct punch while conjuring a world in their lyrics for you to fall into. In this heavier, but no less psychedelic, bluesy-groove filled album, the focus is less on the surreal imagination of the band, but on the real-life topics that matter in the present.
NINEdoodle paws out of TEN …Motherbrain out August 23rd via Mascot Records/Mascot Label Group.
- Keep Me Down
- Low Life
- Alpha Dawg
- Stoning The Devil
- After Life
- The Hive
Brandon Yeagley – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chris Bishop – Guitar, Vocals
Eddie Collins – Bass (Touring)
James Lascu – Bass (Touring)
Dan Ryan – Drums
Produced byCorey Lowrey in Marietta, Georgia, near Atlanta, U.S.A.