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Robbers on High Street “Fine Lines” EP
by Scott Stetson (MaxPower324)

Newcomers to the “neo-garage-proto-punk-whatever-they’re-calling-it-these-days” movement, Robbers on High Street, like many of their contemporaries draw heavily from early New York and Detroit punk bands like Television and MC5.  The new trend in this style of music is to also incorporate elements of new-wave and dance.  There are some Clash-sounding elements in their songs as well.

The “Fine Lines” EP (New Line Records) is the first major label release from the Robbers on High Street.  Their strong point is definitely in their hooks.  The first two songs, also the most stand-out tracks on the EP, “Hot Sluts (Say I Love You)” and “A Night at Star Castle” both exemplify their ability to write a catchy rock song.

The weakness of the EP is that even though the songs are only between three and four minutes long, they all seem to drag on near the end.  This is probably just because they repeat the same riffs over and over again.  The Robbers need to spice up their songs with some variations, tasteful (but small) guitar solos, bass scales, more keyboards, vocal harmonies, different time signatures, ANYTHING to break to monotony.  

The lyrics are, for the most part, generic and impersonal.  Lyrics don’t have to be earth-shattering to be good, but common and over-used phrases should be avoided.  They should take a cue from The Jesus & Mary Chain or The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who both prove that lyrics don’t necessarily have to be personal or even make that much sense to be interesting.

And is anyone else tired of this “garage throwback” stuff?  Too many bands out there, even underground ones, are relying on gimmicky trends to sell records.  The Robbers do an alright job of adapting this style, but at the end of the day, the New Pornographers out pop-them, Interpol out-new-waves them and Hot Hot Heat out-dances them.  They simply don’t have the edge that makes those bands stand out from the now massive and ever-growing crowd of neo-garage bands.  Since the Robbers have at least proven with “Fine Lines” that they can pen a catchy, straight-forward rock tune, maybe they should avoid the gimmicks and stick to what they are best at.  The Robbers on High Street don’t have to be a bargain-bin Strokes.  Turning in the direction of early Phantom Planet or Eels might not be a bad idea because it would showcase the Robber’s strengths better than just following the crowd does. 

It is hard to pin down the Robbers because this is their first release, and it is only twenty-two minutes long.  They have a pop-sensibility to them, and hopefully they can learn from their mistakes and build on the strengths of their debut when they release their first full-length album next year.

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Official Website - learn more about the band

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