Robbers on High Street sound exactly like Spoon; it is impossible for me to listen to the album without thinking this non-stop. When listening to Spoon, of course, it would be non-sensical to be distracted by how much they sound like Spoon. But because Robbers on High Street aren’t supposed to sound exactly like another band, it becomes an issue. With other derivative bands, like Interpol, I am casually and infrequently interrupted with the notion that they sound a lot like Joy Division. When I listen to Muse, I wax nostalgically on a blonde-haired lazy-eyed Thom Yorke for about 30 seconds before overdosing on Muse’s spacey melodrama. Most other times, when I hear a band being derivative, it’s vague and comforting: “This sounds like the Beatles” or “That harmony sounds like the Beach Boys”. It’s a not unpleasant, fleeting sensation.
Robbers on High Street, however, sound exactly like Spoon, and the feeling is unsettling and constant. The voice, the minor keys, the song structures, even the lyrics make me think about one of my favorite bands, Spoon. Remember the band Phantom Planet? They had that one song about California where in the chorus it goes “California, California, here I come.” But whatever, my point is that Jason Schwartzman was the drummer for the band at the time, and all I could think about when I listened to them (not that I proactively seek them out; they were getting lots of various airplay at the time) was that Max Fischer from Rushmore was their drummer. The idea was pervading and totally undermined by ability to enjoy the music. Let there be no uncertainly: I would not have liked Phantom Planet in any scenario. At best, I might have not hated them. But Schwartzman’s drumming prevented me from not hating them by making me think about Rushmore all the time. And I really love Rushmore.
Because Robbers on High Street sound exactly like Spoon I can’t hate them. Do I like them? Who knows. Their internet-only (plus some promo hardcopies, apparently) EP The Fatalist and Friends is 4 songs worth of minor, uptempo, electric guitar rock songs. It is equally as minor, uptempo, and electric guitar rock songy as their 2004 EP Fine Lines and their 2005 LP Tree City. I’d describe the band’s progression as ‘sort of sounding like Spoon’ to ‘sounding exactly like Spoon’.
At the end of the day, I think that if I feel like listening to Spoon I will listen to Spoon, and not Robbers on High Street. If you haven’t heard much Spoon, I recommend you grab the just re-released Telephono/Soft Effects CD. Every Spoon release is worth recommending, but I figure their first album is a fine place to start. As for me, I will not actively seek out Robbers on High Street. But should I be sitting in a coffee shop reading and a Robbers on High Street song comes on, I will most likely stop what I’m doing and think about how much the song sounds exactly like Spoon. And I might think about Max Fisher and Phantom Planet. And now I might think about this review.
– Scott Roots