Reviews:: Robbers on High Street Grand Animals

Robbers on High Street often get a bit of a bum rap. They constantly get compared to a certain band (that will remain nameless) and as a result, people seem to dismiss them without giving a proper listen. They game out with the Fatalist and Friends EP (read our quick review here), and the four songs were pretty solid. The title track had a killer bassline and the McCartney cover was a nice touch.

Well, flash forward to now and we are getting our first tastes of the Grand Animals LP. I think the constant comparisons really affected how the band approached this record. I think this record is really their attempt to form their own unique sound, and adding producer Daniele Luppi (known for his contributions to the Gnarls Barkley and John Legend records) definitely added a new wrinkle. Unlike the EP, the band mixes tempos and focused on arrangements and tweaking their song writing. In fact, the only two tracks that really make you want to jump and dance are the two carryovers from the EP (The Fatalist and Married Young).

From the opening moments, you can hear Luppi’s influence. Across Your Knee is a well-constructed song, but around three minute mark the band adds an orchestral mix of keys, delicate strings, and horns. It works well with the Beatles falsetto. The strong finish shows the band is capable of more than just throwing in some crunched out guitars. The same can be said about the single, Crown Victoria. It starts with a few simple strums of an electric and a catchy acoustic riff, but the band continues to add elements to beef up the mix. The mooged out keys, bass line and drums all come in at the right time. When the band oh’s and ah’s its way to the end of the song, you are left smiling.

I know they didn’t make this record for me, but I think the band is better when they keep the pace moving. The slowed down piano/accordion ballads (for example, the Ramp) just leave me wanting a change in pace. Luckily, they quickly pick it back up and follow most slow numbers with tracks like Kick 'Em In The Shins. The snap of the drums and Ben Trokan’s falsetto work well together. I found myself enjoying the hammering piano riff of You Don't Stand A Chance, which could easily be picked up by Jarvis Cocker or Elvis Costello (I must say, the subtle horns add a little something you don’t normally hear from a young NYC band).

Overall, the band has taken the time to buff out the rough edges and it’s going to attract a different audience. They try a whole lot of things on the album, like the sea shanty, pirate Guard the Heel, the smooth flow, reggae tinges of Nasty Numbers or the piano balladry of the album closer Keys to the Century (that could have found it’s way on a Brit pop record from about 1996), but never really settle into a rhythm. At times it feels unfocused, but some of the songs are so strong, I feel like that judgment might be shortsighted. I can honestly say there are moments for everyone on this record, but after the promise and style of the EP, maybe just not enough of the same type of moments to satisfy this specific listener.

MP3:: Married Young (album version)
web site :: myspace :: more tracks

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