Me and All of My Friends (EP)
Review by Kent Manthie
After a busy 2013, having collaborated on three albums with three different projects, Rob Crooks started 2014 out taking it easy. His first release since his previous solo work is this short work, entitled Me and All of My Friends (EP), which is really a CD-single, complete with a “b-side” whatever that means anymore, as well as two remixes of the title track and one remix of the so-called “b-side” (“Saturday”).
The other song is called “Saturday”, which has a seven minute “Medicine Remix” as the last cut. So, what is really a 2-song CD-single has been magically sneaked into a 5 tune EP, thanks to remixes. The variety of the remixes, though, provide both a kind of continuity and a lack of sameness. I still don’t know who, exactly, it is that is singing the vocals, unless it’s a woman with the name “Rob”.
What I can write, i.e., what I’ve learned, is that, after having collaborated, in 2013, with Birdapres, Sugar Pill Gang and Magnum KI, Rob Crooks has released his first solo outing since 2012’s Hearts. Me and All of My Friends is an extension of Rob’s fascination with “post-rap” and indie-pop. The two sub-genres manifest themselves as an amalgamation, both danceable and heartfelt and existential. The title track is an ode to Rob’s peers, who, just like him, are starting to reach that age where fear and doubt start to set in, first in small pieces, here and there, almost like a dream. Trust me, though, you 30 year olds or 31-33 y/os – in 5-10 years you’ll be saying to yourselves “where the hell did all the time go? It feels like I was just at the club dancing the night away, now I’ve (either) ‘got a family to support and for whom I have to work to earn money to pay the bills and feed them and myself too as well as buying the kids stuff, like toys, video games, and, you know how kids like to “keep up with the Bobby’s and the Stevies” in their schools, so you’re constantly hounded to get the coolest toys or games or hoodies or toy Uzis, etc.
Actually, I’m actually kind of happy that someone finally decided to do some introspective work, not just personal, solipsistic-leaning introspection, but, rather, generational introspection. I’m sure there are plenty of books (most of them cheap, pulpy crap you’d find at the checkout counter at Safeway or Target or Rite-Aid’s “Literature” department, aka “books, etc. department. Then there are the more scholarly things one could locate by checking out Google searches for university press websites. Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, which both have rather good reputations for publishing quality material. There are plenty of other types of publishing arms. The point is, you can read pointy-headed authors pontificating on the preponderance of adults, especially in the US, who are in their 40s now, some in their 50s and they don’t seem “old” anymore, the way 50 year olds did, back in the 50s or 60s or 70s (or even 80s). Now that “Baby Boomers” are beginning to get into the “golden years” – aka, 60s, 70s, etc, they’re kids are about to hit middle age, which means that the “second named” generation – “Generation X” is now becoming middle aged! With Kids! Families! Houses that have mortgages (unless they inherited them from mom & dad, who, having paid it off, moved to Florida and gave the house to you & your wife or girlfriend, lover or whatever it is.
Anyway, it’s no longer 9-5 Monday through Friday and party hearty Thursday through Monday anymore. Now it has to slow down. Just the weekend, thank you very much. Leave Sunday nights and the weeknights to college age kids (now known as “the millenials” – a stupid, stupid name that I never liked from the first time I heard it!).
Getting back to the record – the other song featured, “Saturday” is also about the same generation of people that the title track sings about – To Crooks, “Saturday” is kind of an “anthem” for a generation whose “weekends are vanishing in one way or another”. It’s open to interpretation, but the idea is common more and more these days: the harder economy is forcing more people to work longer hours and sometimes take on a second job to help make ends meet and pay down credit card debt. This signals that what everyone’s familiar with as a “weekend” is more of an “ideal” than a reality. Also, for some lucky bastards, every day is a Saturday-like day. Early retirees, disabled people – and there’s a wide gamut of the definition of “disabled” before you start pointing fingers. The messages are poignant, spirited, brought about in a slick, post-modern sound sense.
The fourth cut on this EP, the second remix of “Me and All of My Friends” (the third, overall, including the original) is also a “cover” of the song, by folksy outfit Nomad. Following Nomad’s cover version, we get a remix of “Saturday”. The first, original tune is only two and a half minutes long, but the remix, as I read somewhere, clocking in at 7:18, is in a style that would be great at your local Danceteria. If only, right?
That is the whole point. But, somewhere in this whole argument, I detect a flaw. Just because a certain segment of people are reaching a particular age-bracket, does not mean they have to automatically conform to society’s snapshot of what they should be. Are YOU 40-something? Are YOU married and have a kid (or two or five)? NO? Me neither. And not everyone else is either. That means that there are still plenty of people who are willing and able to “get down” as the song says and stay in “the game” – you don’t have to go around hitting on 21 year old chicks still – that’s kind of creepy – to them. If they were in high school still, they’d probably be into the whole “older guy” thing, but once you get out into the real world, you realize that “older” is a very relative term when you’re only 15-16 years old. But, of course, the dilemma – they’re children; jailbait. You don’t want to go there and you shouldn’t. It’s just wrong. But then, a long time ago, in ages past, child brides were quite common – men who happened to be in their 40s or 50s at least, sometimes got hooked up with, basically, children. They got married, had kids and lived as any other family would. Seems odd now, but it wasn’t even blinked at in the Victorian era, but neither was the fact that 5 year olds were working at factories and shipyards and steel refineries, etc.
Well, this whole thing really does bring up a real “can of worms” as it were. Quite a conversation starter. A great thing to have at your next get-together, next time you have a dinner party or just a few friends over for coffee and whatever. Plus, the remixes are a real kick and make great dancing fodder. -KM