|Robbers on High Street
by Ashley Graham
A few knocks to the drums, a few strokes on the keyboard, the soft voice of lead singer Ben Trokan, and the endearing line “Do you remember when it all began? Before the fit ever hit the shan.” This is just the beginning of the debut full-length album, Tree City, from Robbers on High Street that is bound to leave your head spinning.
Most of the time it doesn’t even matter what Trokan is singing. The album is so melodic and powerful that it carries itself independent of its lyrical content, which upon careful listening is actually quite simple; sometimes full of attitude and other times ripe with sarcasm and wit. The individual pieces, guitarist Steve Mercado, drummer Tomer Danan, bassist Jeremy Phillips and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Trokan, come together and the distinct unity of their parts is the whole of Robbers on High Street’s sound.
There are influences representative of decades on this album. You could hear The Strokes, while the guy next to you could hear Ben Folds, while the guy next to him could hear The Beatles. This careful blend is what makes this band unique. It’s not the mediocrity encompassed in bands like The Killers, and it’s not the over-ambitious perk of the Franz Ferdinands, it’s the simplicity of keyboards and guitars and bass and drums and sweet vocals coming together to sound fun, spunky, relaxing, and most importantly original. And it’s the best album from a new band that has been heard in such a long time.
Their debut EP Fine Lines was an amazing entry into the music world, but Tree City solidifies that they have something to offer over the rest. Non-stop touring through 2004 and into 2005 has made Robbers a stronger band and it becomes apparent on this album. The songs are more finely tuned and melodic than those on Fine Lines, and the sound becomes more their own.
For those that caught Robbers on their whirlwind touring, a few of these songs will sound familiar. The seductive “The Price & Style” has been on their setlist for the last couple of stints, as well as songs like “Spanish Teeth” and “Beneath the Trees.” But even these songs have a new freshness and sharpness that has come from being refined in the studio. And the album has other gems that aren’t quite as recognizable. “Japanese Girls” boasts the lyric “I know what I want, if I know I could get it” with a fun beat and carefree attitude. “Descender” and “Dig the Lightning” mark the more subdued moments on the album while “Love Underground” is a bright spot positioned between them in the tracklisting. Tree City is a great balance of all that Robbers is capable of, and it not only rises to the occasion, it blows any expectations out of the water.
Robbers on High Street are one of the most important things coming out of New York right now, and not listening to them would be a mistake.
Tree City will be available February 22 on New Line Records. To hear Robbers on High Street head to their MySpace page and for more information on the band see their official website as well as The Wig’s interview with Ben Trokan, review of Fine Lines and reviews and photos of their past Seattle shows:
Taking it to the Streets – August 2004
Robbers on High Street - Fine Lines
Robbers on High Street – December 5, 2004 – review – photos
Robbers on High Street – September 24, 2004 – review
Robbers on High Street – August 8, 2004 – review – photos