Dead on the Inside? Smile Anyways
Rob Crow’s Gloomy Place creates a heavy yet effervescent blend in recent disc You’re Doomed. Be Nice. The weighty rhythms are contrasted with airy guitar and vocals to create a sense of artificial happiness or false hope, depending on your take. It’s the soundtrack to a fake smile; a slow-motion runner in an endless maze. The overall composition arrives in a realm of Nirvana-era grunge meets intricate math rock.
The band name is a play on Eeyore’s Gloomy Place of Winnie the Pooh fame, and this album takes us into the heart of Eeyore-level loneliness and sadness, but with a fitting punk-angst take. Rob Crow of ‘99 Pinback and ‘94 Heavy Vegetable prowess is instrumental in creating not only a hooky first song but a fully connected 13-track album.
An easy push and pull is created in opening track “Oh, the Sadmakers,” with cyclical but moving guitar and harmonizing, floating vocals. The sonic texture stays interesting with some hardcore-influenced drumming and bass lines, particularly near the end when a breakdown segment ensues. “This Distance” then enters with a minor key guitar riff that progresses into an uneasy melody. “Daylight taken for granted” is sung in the tune of loss, with the follow-up expansion, “I still find time to miss you.”
In “Paper Doll Parts,” Crow continues the doom and gloom lyrically, while the math rock backdrop keeps things sonically upbeat. “Don’t look at the sky, you can burn your face. You can lose your voice if you name this place.” It’s an unnerving warning to stay in the status quo or else, feeding off a deep-rooted anxiety and low self-esteem. One-and-a-half-minute “Light On” serves as a quick and psychedelic flicker, with complex guitar arriving at electric blasts before fading into dark strums. Then, “Quit Being Dicks” comes in, letting the title speak for itself. Sad lyrics later arise with, “I’m always depressed…I only have nothing.”
“Rest Your Soul” jumps out with quick-tempo guitar electricity, light-tap drumbeats, and a killer guitar intro to two mini noise explosions. The vocals remain steady until a zig-zag moment that pops out before reverting to angled instrumentals. “Autumnal Palette” conveys a muted color palette on a foggy day. “When the mist rolls in from the ocean, everything is hidden.” Unique imagery is created with certain lines like, “Disengage my mouth from my laugh,” creating an eerie sense that resolves and resumes throughout the track.
“Unreliable Narrator” has staccato white space to create a heavier sonic display. A powerful punch comes with the combined vocal, guitar, bass, and drum hits, before fading into a symphonic build. Last track “What We’ve Been Up To While You’ve Been Away” is like the “Fuck you” at the end of a bad relationship. We’re left alone at the end feeling our insecurities more deeply and wanting to cover them up even more than before, maybe because this glimpse into the shittiness of humanity isn’t quite what we were hoping for. The ultimate sentiment arrives here: Put on your fake smile and be nice even though you’re dead on the inside.