Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound Engineering by Patrick Stolley
Accustomed as we are to our daily lives full of the here and now, there's very little room for the there and then that makes the most sense and has the most alluring scent. New York's Robbers On High Street help suspend the belief that the breezy past has all become history pages and interlocking threads of indisputable facts and conclusions. It's not a hipster's take on the bygone that the Robbers roll out either, it's more the one that gets someone labeled an old soul.
Just the name they go by reeks of the combination of words one might hear bandied about in a speakeasy of the Prohibition Era in American history, a gang that moved about the alleys and the dark corners in classy suits and ties (not saggy pants and T-shirts that hang puzzlingly down to the ankles) shaking the kickbacks out of the pockets of store owners and bartenders. These were men - cold-blooded killers and nasty people all of them, yes - who at least acted with an admirable sense of Americanized chivalric duty, if you were good to them, they treated you okay.
In no way does that really apply to the Robbers On High Street or their new album, Grand Animals, but there's a goodly amount of moonshine polishing up the creaky, old-tempered numbers of unguarded identity, or the theft of it as the missing elements of a person seem to be flapping through the air, transparent and bound for afterlives. Lead singer and songwriter Ben Trokan deserves special, opening night screening tickets to Wes Anderson's upcoming new film, "The Darjeeling Limited":http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thedarjeelinglimited/ as the two share a similarly modernistic way of telling stories that are significant reflections of that which has already gone by and been long forgotten. He seems to write about reputable lives that have strayed into odd corridors and been turned into vapor. There are protagonists haunted by phantoms (never a great thing for protagonists) and there are countless references to mothers and fathers, a tip-off that none of the main characters in these songs ever feel confidently in charge.
There is a lot of insignificance and inconsequentiality being battled with in these songs. People aren't sure if they're here or they're not - most just given that feeling from the other grand animals out there on the streets, who look out for the No. 1 and all else becomes myopic. They're ignored and looked past, just another blurry face and splotchy mess of moving colors and heat - nothing to really bother with. Trokan hooks his lyrics of searching and disappointment onto a fine art vernacular and pieces of mood music that could pass for 60 years old or barely old enough to drink.