Robbers on High Street

Robbers on High Street

Tree City

New Line

According to, the word “captain obvious” translates to “a slow-witted individual, usually one who states the most obvious thing.” Statements that could potentially distinguish a fellow human as a Mister or Missus Captain Obvious might include: “Anything Legolas ever says,” “The weather is nice today,” and “Robbers on High Street sound like Spoon!”

I present you with the giant elephant in the room, Texas-based Spoon. Luckily, New Yorkers Robbers on High Street give us a chance to look past this (although flattering) common comparison. Once you look past the giant elephant, to quote Ashlee Simpson’s co-writer John Shanks, “Nobody’s really seen [Robbers on High Street’s] million subtleties.” We’re somewhat ignoring the smaller baby elephants of The Strokes, The Walkmen and Interpol, too.

Instead, follow us to the lonely, sun-streaked, and romantic world of Tree City, Robbers on High Street’s casually effortless debut album that suggests images of the band just hanging out at sunset in Central Park with all their friends. Tough, edgy, but at the same time, shy and lonely, and positively bursting with melodic sound, Robbers on High Street are still trying to get comfortable in the sophisticated New York sound, while not straying too far from their suburban Poughkeepsie beginnings. This tug of idioms partly explains the somewhat schizophrenic, modern-experimental sound of the album, whereas the production by Peter Katis of Interpol explains the smooth flatness of the album on the initial listen. After listening to the album, what we’re left with is simply the explanation from Robbers themselves. Their lyrics are clever, and their piano melodies loose and jangly. When they want to be, they’re infectiously catchy and tight; their songs executed cleaner than Marie Antoinette and the sharpest of guillotines.

The quartet is at its best with the dark bounce of “Beneath the Trees,” a tune dealing with the harsh realities of break-ups, “Above the moon way up above the sky/there’s a bullet and a little white light,” reminisces Ben Trokan. Robbers are equally talented at producing some of the best dance rock to date this year, even though the rough cut of the album was far less conventional “rock” than the current version. In a compromise with the label, they put two “more accessible” songs on the album. For instance, the shockingly contagious “Japanese Girls” thrums with the vibrations of interlocking guitars and drums, Trokan crooning, “Believe me, you’re going to leave me when you learn the truth.” It’s doubtful that we would leave anytime soon. The similarly memorable opener, “Spanish Teeth,” explodes with a swaggering cacophony of horns and piano and dances along to a soundtrack of rhythmic guitar and an overall sound that pays homage to greats like Elvis Costello. No instrument takes center stage; each band member comes in gallantly under a spotlight of invigorating rock. Somehow, Robbers get it together and meld their two conflicting demographics and musical tastes together.

Robbers on High Street will be opening for Cake on April 20 at Foellinger Auditorium, loaded with an arsenal of talent and intricate individuality, all elephants aside.

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